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Patriots 38, Jets 3: 10 quick thoughts as New England clinches first-round bye for 9th straight season

Ryan Hannable
December 30, 2018 - 3:58 pm

FOXBORO — Although it was against the Jets, it was how the Patriots wanted to enter the postseason.

Tom Brady and the Patriots offense looked as good as it has in weeks and the defense played extremely well in New England’s 38-3 win over the Jets. The win gives the Patriots a first-round bye in the upcoming playoffs for the ninth straight season, extending their NFL record.

The Jets seemed pretty disinterested from the start, but it doesn’t discount how well the Patriots played, and they now have a number of players going into the postseason on a high note. The first-string offense remained on the field deep into the fourth quarter, a sign the unit wanted to make sure they did everything it could to ensure it is entering the playoffs at its best.

Here are 10 quick thoughts on the contest.

1. Brady looked very impressive, especially after one of the worst statistical games of his career last week against the Bills. The 41-year-old was 24-for-33 with 250 yards and four touchdowns. He did a nice job spreading the ball around, as seven different players recorded catches. It was worth noting all his his throws were of the "short" variety, there were very few completions down field. The quarterback completed his 6,000th career pass in the fourth quarter, good for fourth-most all-time.

2. It was a nice way for Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett to go into the playoffs, as they both had their best games in quite some time. Hogan had six receptions for 64 yards, while Dorsett had five catches for 34 yards. For Hogan, his 11 targets tied a career-high in the regular season, and were one shy of his career-high overall. Meanwhile, dating back to Week 5, Dorsett has caught the last 16 passes thrown his way.

3. Although Rob Gronkowski only had two catches for 24 yards, he looked better than we've seen of late. On the first play of the second half, Gronkowski had a big catch and run where he carried a defender a few yards, looking the most Gronk-like in a while, but it was called back due to a tough offensive pass interference call on Dwayne Allen.

4. The short-yardage running game continues to issue for the offense as it struggled once again. James White and Sony Michel both had plays stuffed on third and fourth-and-short. The offense doesn’t have anyone who can get it done right now, so it’s worth wondering why James Develin hasn’t been given a shot at the role, especially given his success this year at the goal-line.

5. Trey Flowers was a monster once again, as he has been one of the Patriots’ best defensive players all season. With his sack in the third quarter he set a career-high with 7.5. This will certainly benefit him as he is a free agent after the season and could be in line for a big pay day. 

6. Flowers wasn’t the only member of the Patriots defense to have a big day as the unit had a defensive touchdown in the third quarter. Adam Butler sacked Sam Darnold and stripped the ball lose. Kyle Van Noy then picked up the loose ball and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown. It was the Patriots’ first fumble return for a touchdown since Jamie Collins against the Jets on Dec. 27, 2015.

7. New England did a good job getting pressure on Darnold. The Patriots finished with four sacks as a team and had pressure all game long. The majority of it came from their defensive line as they did not blitz very much. This is something the unit will look to continue doing in the playoffs.

8. It wasn’t all good for the Patriots defense. The unit had some lapses where it lost focus and gave up the edge leading to some big plays for the Jets on the ground. Also, rookie cornerback J.C. Jackson, who has been impressive of late, took a step back as Darnold had quite a bit of success throwing his way. On the other hand, Stephon Gilmore had another terrific game.

9. Devin McCourty left the game in the second half with a head injury, likely a concussion. The bye week will certainly help him get back for the divisional round, but it is very early and it’s impossible to know the recovery time for a concussion. With Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung behind him, the defense could survive, but he’s still one of the biggest leaders on the entire unit and the team would like to have him on the field whenever possible.

10. The Patriots will now be off next week on wild card weekend and then host a divisional round game either Jan. 12 or 13. The schedule will likely be released Sunday night, but odds are they will be playing on Saturday since that has typically been the case.

The Patriots have scored 400 or more points in 12 straight seasons, extending their all-time NFL record. The Saints are the next closest with eight.

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