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Patriots Start Strong, Hold Off Jets for First Win

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New England Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon (9) reacts after sacking New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) in the end zone for a safety during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The New England Patriots entered their third game of the season knowing they needed to avoid another slow start. They also knew they needed to walk away with a win. On Sunday against the New York Jets, the Patriots accomplished both.

After falling behind by double-digit leads in each of their first two games, the Patriots (1-2) finally started strong. This week it was New England’s turn to get out to a double digit lead, before managing to hold off a comeback attempt from the Jets (1-2).

The 15-10 final score gave the New England Patriots their first victory of the 2023 season.

The Jets received the opening kickoff, but the Patriots defense sent Zach Wilson and the New York offense back to the sidelines on a three-and-out possession. The sloppy field conditions were on display early. Jets WR Garrett Wilson fell to the turf on the first offensive snap of the game.

A Mac Jones-to-Mike Gesicki third down conversion got the Patriots moving downfield on their opening  drive. After progress stalled, rookie placekicker Chad Ryland knocked in a 48-yard field goal attempt to give New England a 3-0 advantage. It gave the New England Patriots their first lead of season.

New York’s second offensive possession was another win for the New England defense. Despite allowing one first down, a solid run defense mixed in with a sack gave the ball back to the Patriots. Noteworthy on that Patriots punt return was a replacement in the return game. WR/PR Demario Douglas had been benched on offense after a fumble against the Dolphins last week. This game, after bobbling a fair catch on the Jets first punt of the game, he was replaced as the Patriots punt returner by Jabrill Peppers. Peppers responded nicely, with an 18-yard return.

After a nice run by Ezekiel Elliott on first down, New England was able to advance the ball no further. Byrce Barringer’s punt pinned the New York deep in their own territory. They next play was almost a game-changer.

Jets running back Breece Hall took the first down handoff but was met in the backfield by a contingency of defenders led by Keion White. Daniel Ekuale knocked the ball loose, though Hall was able to recover his own fumble under the ensuing scrum. Once again, the New England Patriots defense had proven impenetrable. Through three offensive possessions, the New York Jets had amassed only 11 total yards.

The Patriots got the ball back in good field position at their own 43-yard line. New England picked up large chunks of yardage on a run by Rhamondre Stevenson (10 yards) and a completion to Kendrick Bourne (17 yards). The drive was halted on a 10-yard penalty after Cole Strange was called for holding. After failing to pick up a first down, Ryland was brought on her his second field goal attempt of the game. Ryland missed wide right however, his first NFL missed field goal attempt.

Fortunately for New England, the New York offense was unable to make them pay for the miss. Now in the second quarter, the Jets next offensive possession was no better than any of their first quarter drives. Not only did the possession another three-and-out, but they also lost 12 yards in the process, courtesy of a Christian Barmore sack of Wilson. After New York’s fourth punt in as many possessions, the home fans began loudly expressing displeasure with the Jets offense. After the Patriots got the ball back, Jets fans would soon find themselves unhappy with the entire team.

New England began the drive on their only 22-yard line, soon found their way into the end zone. The Patriots needed only four plays to travel 78 yards for their first touchdown of the afternoon. Following a pair of Ezekiel Elliott runs for five yards, Mac Jones completed a 15-yard pass to Demario Douglas to keep the chains moving. The next play Jones found tight end Pharoah Brown down the right seem, and Brown took it the distance for a 58-yard touchdown.

Prior to that play, Pharoah Brown had been used exclusively as blocker with the Patriots. The Jets appeared to be unaware that throwing the football to the big tight end was even option. Entering the game Brown had 51 career receiving yards over 56 career games as a member of the Raiders, Browns, Texans, and Patriots. He more than doubled that career total on one play.

Finally, it was the New England Patriots with a double-digit lead, 10-0.

After the teams traded punts, New York finally worked the ball into New England territory. The Jets picked up a pair of first downs and advanced to the Patriots 34-yard line. Despite not reaching the red zone, the drive gave the Jets an opportunity to finally score. Greg Zuerlein’s 52-yard field goal attempt split the uprights with 1:25 remaining in the first half, cutting the Patriots lead to 10-3.

The Patriots got the ball in position to attempt a 57-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, but Chad Ryland’s effort missed badly. The snap from Joe Cardona was high once again, as it had been on Ryland’s first miss, though holder Bryce Baringer did a nice job getting the ball down for the attempt.

The 10-3 halftime score had to feel better for the New York Jets, who had done next to nothing on offense but trailed by only a single score. The New England Patriots had reason to feel good themselves. They had their best start to a game, their first lead of the season, and had been the better team in nearly all aspects during the first half. They would also be starting the second half with possession.

The Patriots opened the third quarter by putting up points. Despite their drive (which was highlighted by another Pharoah Brown reception) resulting in only a field goal, it was important for New England on multiple fronts. The running game, led by Rhamondre Stevenson, looked better than it has all season. Chad Ryland, after missing consecutive field goal attempts, got his confidence back by drilling one from 51 yards out. And the New England Patriots extended their lead to two scores.

The two teams traded punts, but the Jets were able to flip the field in the process. On the Patriots possession, the were called for three costly penalties. First JuJu Smith-Schuster was called for an illegal block in the back on a completion to Gesicki. That was followed back-to-back false start penalties on Trent Brown and Mike Onwenu. Following Bryce Baringer’s punt, the Jets took over at midfield.

New England’s defensive continued to be too much for the New York’s offense, however. The punt exchange continued for the remainder of the third quarter and into the fourth. Following the Patriots field goal to open the second half, the next six drives (three for each team) ended in punts. The Patriots offense was failing to put the game out of reach, but their defense was preventing the Jets from capitalizing.

Then, with just under 11 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Jets offense finally found their stride. Beginning at their own 18-yard line, Jets QB Zach Wilson had easily his best drive of the game. New York drove 82 yards before finding paydirt in the New England endzone. The extra point made the score 13-10 with 5:24 to play in regulation.

The scoring drive for New York featured Wilson going 6-for-9 passing for 79 yards. Following a pass interference call against New England CB Myles Bryant in the end zone, Nick Bawden took a handoff on the next play from one yard out into the end zone. The Patriots’ lead was down to three points.

In many ways, what was unfolding with this game was the exact opposite of what had happened in each of the first two weeks for the New England Patriots. This time it had been the New York Jets falling behind early, with New England trying to hold off the home team, who had managed to keep it close.

Following the long drive scoring drive from the Jets, the Patriots offense could have helped their defensive brethren with a sustained drive of their own. Instead, New England went three-and-out. For the fourth consecutive possession, Bryce Baringer came on to punt. The rookie punter did his job, forcing New York to begin with possession at their own 10-yard line.

After a pair of incomplete passes and an offensive holding penalty, the Jets offense faced third and 15 from their own five-yard line. The Patriots defense then came up with their biggest play of the game. Matthew Judon sacked Zach Wilson in the Jets end zone resulting in a safety. It was the second sack of the game for Judon and the third for New England’s defense.

The two points extended the Patriots lead to 15-10. There was only 2:27 remaining in regulation with the Patriots about to get the ball back.

An incredible freekick by New York punter Thomas Morstead travelled 75 yards through the air. Following consecutive running plays and an incomplete pass by New England, the New York Jets got the ball again.

Once more New England’s defense held. This week it was their opponent failing to convert on a fourth down attempt late in the fourth quarter.. The Patriots regained possession, needing only to pick up a first down to seal the win. But they were unable to do so.

After another three-and-out for the offense, Bryce Baringer punted the ball out of bounds at the Jets 17-yard line with 16 seconds still to play.

Zach Wilson found Garrett Wilson open upfield for a 29-yard gain. The game clock then appeared to stop with one second remaining, before New York was able to get to the line and spike the ball. However, the spike would give New York one final attempt at a game-winning Hail Mary.

Wilson’s throw was strong enough to reach the end zone, and the deflected pass bounced off the left hand of Jets receiver Randall Cobb. But Cobb was unable to corral the potential game winner, and it the football landed on the turf, incomplete.

Nearly everything went the opposite of the first two games for the New England Patriots this week. This time they were the team that jumped out to a double-digit lead. They were the team that allowed their opponent to stay within sniffing distance of an improbable win. They were the team that turned their big plays into points. And ultimately, much like their opponents in each of the first two games, the New England Patriots were the team to walk away with a victory.

Award-winning blogger, Dan's work has also been featured on Fox Sports, Boston Metro, Barstool Sports, MLB.com, and many other outlets.