Pats-Jets: The Hammer is Not Quite Ready to Break Up With the Nail

Fred Jackson up the middle for 27 yards. CJ Spiller, off the left end, for seven yards. Fred Jackson up the middle for two yards. Fred Jackson back up the middle for ten yards. CJ Spiller, out of the gun, up the middle for seven yards. Fred Jackson up the middle for six yards.

Those were the six plays that Buffalo opened up with against New England on December 26. Six runs to get things started ….. of which five were successful and two were flat out gouges. In bad weather, the Pats knew what was coming and they had almost no success stopping it. And that was with a 320-pound Ron Brace on the field. If you were to ask me what my biggest concern is today it is the above sequence repeating itself over and over.

On two occasions in this space, I have defended New England’s pass defense, arguing the “numbers” have misled the public into thinking the Pats are particularly vulnerable to the forward pass. But neither piece makes mention of my belief that the real problem in New England’s defense is its ability to stop the run. And when the Pats have run into trouble this year, it is usually because the defense has great trouble winning plays that begin with a handoff.

Whether it was Peyton Hillis or Brandon Jackson or Fred Jackson, the Pats have struggled to force “second and nines.” Instead, teams have often been able to win first down and put the Pats in difficult spots. And this is what I fear today. That the Jets will enjoy some early success running the ball, they get some stops so they have the luxury of sticking with the run, and the Pats are stuck defending “second and four” all afternoon. In a nutshell, “Green Bay” all over again.

This is the formula that could beat the Pats today, or at least keep the game close. And I don’t have a ton of confidence that New England has what it takes to stop the Jets’ running game short of making commitments that open things up for Mark Sanchez. Rest assured, neither I or the Jets have ANY confidence in Sanchez, but I don’t see how he can fail if he gets free shots at Kyle Arrington or Darius Butler all afternoon. That said, I don’t see New England losing this game. And they better not as the thought of Rex Ryan and his crew screaming “I TOLD YOU SO” is pretty horrifying. That seems like a perfect segue to digress for a moment and discuss this past week.

Not much needs to be said about all the sophomoric barbs that fellated the NY/CT media this week. Child’s play, if you ask me. I wish there was a little more accountability that goes with all the talk because as it stands, there is none and players don’t risk anything by running their mouths. If the culprit is on the winning side, he becomes known as a confident free-spirit. And if he losses? Well, he faces a tough post-game presser and all is forgotten by next August. Perhaps things would be different if players knew they would be forever mocked in THE MEDIA for writing bounced checks. And perhaps we could avoid some of this stuff in the futre if a guy like Rex is made to understand that his resume gets dipped in shit if he doesn’t deliver on his ramblings. Dare to dream.

Anyway, back to this afternoon.

In all honesty, I am a bit unsettled by this game. It’s not that I think the Jets will win. I don’t. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t win. And if they do prevail, my gut tells me the post-game landscape for the New England fan will be apocalyptic. That is because “hammer-and-nail” relationships don’t end well for the hammer as the nail is NEVER modest and nuanced. Throw in a heavy dose of “Staten Island” and “Vinnie from Bayonne” and the recipe says I will need to pick up four bottles of Excedrin on my way home if the Pats lose today. This hardly equals the end of Yankees-Red Sox for the Yankee fan but given the fact that Rex will be involved, it won’t be far behind.

I’m not ignorant to the fact that this thing isn’t going to last forever. Someday, the Jets will beat the Pats in a big spot and Jets fans all over Long Island will go hoarse with their J-E-T-S chants. But I don’t think that day is today. Not against a coach and a quarterback who are both at the absolute top of their games. Yeah, the Pats ability to win “first down” makes me nervous but at the end of the day, Brady should be able to overcome even my worst fears.

Pats 31 Jets 23

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