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What we learned from Patriots' victory over Jets

*This was a game ... for a drive. The New England Patriots (7-0) mauled Sam Darnold and the New York Jets (1-5), forcing four interceptions and two fumbles en route to an even-worse-than-it-looks-in-the-box-score 33-0 rout on "Monday Night Football." Here's what we learned: *

  1. We're running out of ways to describe how outstanding the Patriots defense has played this season. We've ascribed adjectives, employed adverbs and invented nicknames to help describe their all-consuming dominance through seven games. But sometimes only numbers can tell the whole story. So here goes... New England's four interceptions of Sam Darnold on Monday night boosted its season total to 18 and its six takeaways increased that sum to 22. The Patriots allowed just 2.9 yards per play against New York, 154 total yards in total, and gave up just 12 first downs, four of which came via penalty. New England's shutout of the Jets was its second on the season. They've allowed 48 points through seven games (a suffocating 6.9 PPG clip). Their point differential (plus-175) is a team's most through seven contests since 1920. In 92 drives, New England has given up but three touchdowns. The Patriots are 7-0, and though their seven opponents own a combined record of 12-32, the fact remains: New England owns seven wins and zero losses and is one of just two teams left in the league without a defeat. In the Patriots' next six games, they play four opponents with records above .500. If New England makes it out of that slate with zero losses, then a 16-win regular season is not a probability but a likelihood.
  1. Halloween is 10 days away, but Sam Darnold is already spooked. In his second game back from a bout with mononucleosis, the Jets quarterback succumbed to peerless Patriots pressure early and set back Gang Green with mind-numbing throws all night long. Darnold threw two interceptions and lost a fumble on three of New York's first four drives. Those turnovers translated into 10 Patriots points and inspired a mic'd-up Darnold to muse on the sideline, "I'm seeing ghosts." The Boogeymen defense will do that to you. Out of the half, following what one would assume would be a break's worth of adjustments, Darnold fell into the same frantic habits, tossing up a gimme interception to a wide-open Stephon Gilmore after another Patriots blitz blew past Gang Green's seven-man protection. When New York pulled back with a pick of its own, Darnold handed one right back to New England in the red zone, launching a soft parabola off his back foot into the waiting arms of Terrence Brooks. Those around the Jets have oft been encouraged by Darnold's ability to make big-time throws from unconventional platforms, but those risk-reward propositions didn't pay out against New England, and Darnold went dead-broke trying to make them work. The red-bearded QB finished red in the face, with 11 completions in 32 attempts, 86 passing yards, a 3.7 passer rating and one unfortunate catchphrase. Monday night was a reminder that Darnold is no savior, but a 22-year-old quarterback still liable to make mistakes, have bad days and in some cases enjoy miserable nights.
  1. No Josh Gordon, no Rex Burkhead, no Matt LaCosse, no Ryan Izzo... You thought there'd be a problem? Down half of his starting skill-position players, the grand chessmasters Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady just plugged in a few new pieces. Tight ends Benjamin Watson and Eric Tomlinson started their first games as Patriots in 2019 and were immediately featured in a ground game that paved the way for three Sony Michel scores. Jakobi Meyers and Brandon Bolden stepped up with Gordon and Burkhead out, with each contributing at least three grabs. Even Elandon Roberts, a fourth-year linebacker, filled in as a goal-line fullback, after New England lost James Develin and Jakob Johnson to injuries. On Monday night, six players caught at least three passes, and four caught grabs of 20-plus yards. It shouldn't be surprising, really, how seamlessly the Patriots peel and replace players with supposedly lesser players and still reap the same results. They've been doing it for eons now. And yet the operation remains a marvel. An impenetrable, unceasing, ruthless machine.
  1. The return of C.J. Mosley did absolutely nothing to improve a Jets defense that surrendered a soul-crushing 16-play, near-nine-minute touchdown drive on New England's first march of the game. Mosley didn't appear fully healed from the groin injury that kept him out for five games, and Gregg Williams' unit was worse for it. New York surrendered 24 points on its first four defensive drives; the defense wasn't helped by Darnold and the offense who set them up with two short fields, but New England still picked up 13 first downs on its first four drives regardless of field position. After shutting down the Cowboys for much of last week's surprise victory, New York was a shadow of that self in prime time. Defensive captain Jamal Adams called his team's effort "embarrassing" and said his team "didn't come to play." We couldn't have said it better ourselves.
  1. Where does New York go from here? Monday evening was a massive letdown after the Jets beat the Cowboys in thrilling fashion last week in Darnold's return. Now 1-5, the season isn't over, especially with a weaker schedule upcoming, starting next week with the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4). But changes need to be made. Among those that could/should be attempted: parting ways with members of the offensive coaching staff and trading away former first-round pick Leonard Williams (whose QB hit Monday doesn't negate seasons' worth of inactivity) before the deadline.
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