Third Down Incompetence Dooms Patriots
So, how exactly do you blow a 21-10 halftime lead over a hated division rival?
Penalties, especially one particularly, shall we say, borderline call hurt. Getting doubled up in time of possession 46:13 to 23:40 certainly didn't help as well.
However, nothing killed the Patriots more than third down. The Patriots offense went a cringe-worthy 1-12 on third down, good for a paltry 8%, while the Wilfork/Mayo/Talib-less defense allowed the Jets to convert 11 of their 21 third downs (52%).
Defensively, the Patriots simply couldn't cover Jeremy Kerley when it counted. The Jets receiver converted 6 third downs in the game, including five of the Jets first six chances. Those conversions came on 3rd and 10, 3rd and 6, 3rd and 7 (for a touchdown), 3rd and 21, 3rd and 5, and 3rd and 6, each time negating solid defensive work on early downs. The Jets also got some tough running from Chris Ivory, who churned out two crucial third-and-one situations late in the game.
Offensively, the Patriots struggled regardless of the distance to go. Third and short was a nightmare, resulting in two carries for no gain, two incomplete passes to Rob Gronkowski and a fumble-producing sack that could have been (more) disastrous if Sebastian Vollmer hadn't made a heads up play to fall on the loose ball.
More often than not, poor play on early downs left the Patriots in undesirable third-and-longs. Five of the Patriots third downs were 3rd and 10 or longer, including the final three 3rd and 10's that doomed the comeback effort.
In the end, that kind of third down performance will almost always doom an offense. The Jets defense is excellent and deserves a good deal of credit for the ugly numbers, particularly on third and short, but there is no excusing 1-12 on third downs. The performance spoiled a solid return from Gronkowski (8 catches for 114 yards) and dropped New England to 5-2, with another divisional game coming next week against the Dolphins.