If you noticed it under a flurry of penalty flags, the New England Patriots beat the New York Jets yesterday, moving to 8-3 on the season.
Sometimes there’s small moments that occur in a game that end up making or breaking an entire season, a moment where a team either finds its way, or completely loses it. It may end up being inconsequential, but to me, the Patriots found themselves yesterday.
When it happened
(fast-forward to 5:23)
With 4 minutes remaining in the third quarter, the game was tied 13-13. The Jets had just kicked a field goal to tie the game, and New England was getting the ball back for their second possession of the second half. In a game where penalties were setting New England back as much as a failure to execute, suddenly, New England put together 4 solid plays.
As described via ESPN:
Play 1: 1st & 10 at NE 25
- (4:00 – 3rd) T.Brady pass deep middle to C.Hogan to NYJ 48 for 27 yards (M.Claiborne).Play 2: 1st & 10 at NYJ 48
- (3:17 – 3rd) (Shotgun) J.White right tackle pushed ob at NYJ 21 for 27 yards (J.Adams).Play 3: 1st & 10 at NYJ 21
- (2:33 – 3rd) (Shotgun) J.White right tackle to NYJ 21 for no gain (H.Anderson).Play 4: 2nd & 10 at NYJ 21
- (1:52 – 3rd) Julian Edelman 21 Yd pass from Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick)A 4-play 75-yard drive, all in the span of two minutes and 8 seconds, and the Patriots took a 20-13 lead. Brady found Chris Hogan wide open to start, something he has not done enough since the second week of the season. Then James White (as Sony Michel was injured at the time) broke out a huge rush. After a short gain the following play, Brady found Julian Edelman on 2 & 10, where Jules ran and fought his way into the end zone in classic Julian Edelman form.
Three 20+ yard plays, a complete 180 from how New England looked against Tennessee. It was at this point I knew the Patriots were going to win the game, and that for the first since MAYBE the Chiefs game, I felt confident about the Patriots ability to execute when it mattered.
The Fab Five
Tom Brady’s top 5 weapons are Gronk, Edelman, Josh Gordon, James White, and Sony Michel.
Including this past game, these five have only played in three games together. When they have, the Patriots are 3-0, and are averaging 36 PPG. In these games, Tom Brady is 78 for 110 (70.9%), with 964 passing yards, 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Brady has had his best two games in terms of passer rating in games that all five have played.
Simply put, when Brady has this talent base around him, he can still create some magic, and he can lead New England to victories.
The Patriots now have 5 games left this season. This victory against the Jets could be the start of a late season run the Patriots have made quite often. Since 2001 (and excluding 2008), Tom Brady has led the Patriots to at least 4 wins in their final six games 14 times. There are only two anomalies on that list, and they are 2009 and 2015. In 2009, after starting 7-3, the Patriots finished the season 10-6, going 3-3 in their final six games. In 2015, after starting 10-0, the Patriots finished the season 12-4, going 2-4 in their final six games.
The Patriots have averaged 4.875 wins in their final 6 games of the regular season in years Brady is the starter (78-18 overall).
In years New England has won the Super Bowl, they averaged 5.4 wins in their final 6 games of the regular season (27-3 overall).
In years New England has appeared in the Super Bowl, they average 5.5 wins in their final 6 games of the regular season (44-4 overall).
I like numbers, and each season is different, but only one time since Brady became the starter has he not won at least half of the final 6 games of a regular season (2015; and that year was due to an absurd amount of injuries).
If history is to repeat itself, the Patriots should expect to win 11-12 games this season, and at least 3 of their now 5 remaining games.
Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1) vs. New England Patriots (8-3) (12/2)
New England Patriots (8-3) vs. Miami Dolphins (5-6) (12/9)
New England Patriots (8-3) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1) (12/16)
Buffalo Bills (4-7) vs. New England Patriots (8-3) (12/23)
New York Jets (3-8) vs. New England Patriots (8-3) (12/30)
The next three weeks are crucial for the Patriots, especially their game against the Steelers. Pittsburgh (7-3-1) is currently leading their division. If New England can beat the Steelers (and handle their business against their other opponents), it would be huge for their seeding prospects.
As I have alluded to before, New England has beaten Kansas City (9-2) and Houston (7-3), the other current division leaders in the AFC. A win versus the Steelers would mean the Patriots have the tiebreaker against the three teams most likely to win their respective divisions (although the 8-3 Chargers still have a shot of winning the AFC West).
A win in Miami during Week 14 (Brady is 1-4 in his last 5 games at Miami) would all but win the division for New England (the only scenario it does not if if the Bills go 5-0 the rest of the season, and this win in Miami is the only game the Patriots win from here on out).
The path to a top two seed is still alive and well, and if yesterday was any indicator, New England may finally have found that feeling that will scare the rest of the league.
Follow Nick on Twitter (@Nick_Collins14)