FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP)Three games, three victories and three dominant performances by the New England Patriots’ defense.
The New York Jets became the latest opponent to fail to score an offensive touchdown against New England on Sunday in the Patriots’ 30-14 victory , making New England the first team in the Super Bowl era that hasn’t allowed a rushing or passing TD in its first three games.
New York also had just 105 yards. Including the playoffs, that’s the fewest yards allowed during Bill Belichick’s 347 games as Patriots coach.
Not surprisingly, it’s put New England’s defense at the top of several key categories.
Entering Monday, the Patriots were allowing an NFL-low 5.7 points per game. They also led the league in total defense (199 yards per game) and were allowing the fewest passing yards (162.3) and rushing yards (36.7) per game.
Those numbers are a bit inflated considering New England’s wins are against three teams (Pittsburgh, Miami and New York) that are a combined 0-9 on the season.
Still, the veteran-led group insists there is still plenty of room for improvement.
”We’re pushing ourselves,” safety Duron Harmon said. ”The good thing about this defense is – obviously we’re going to get coached – but we know what we want to do. We know how we want to play. We know what we want the tape to look like.
”And we’re pushing each other to do it rather than the coaches pushing us week by week.”
A lot of that leadership comes from linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who in his eighth season is tied for third on the team in tackles. He and fellow veteran Jamie Collins (team-high 19 tackles) are also two of the main reasons why teams have had so much trouble running the ball against the Patriots
That stability could take a hit this week after Hightower left Sunday’s win in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury. That was after defensive lineman Adam Butler left in the third quarter with a leg injury after combining on a sack with Hightower.
Hightower’s injury is particularly worrisome considering he was limited to just five games in 2017 before having season-ending shoulder surgery.
The offense didn’t skip a beat after the team released receiver Antonio Brown on Friday. Tom Brady continued to spread the ball around despite the offense playing without running back James White and fullback James Develin.
On the season New England’s offense is averaging 35.3 points per game, which is second in the NFL behind only the Ravens (36.7).
WHAT NEEDS HELP
It seems there are still a few issues to iron out in the kicking game. Stephen Gostkowski missed his third extra point of 2019. It’s just the second time in his career he’s missed three extra points in a season.
Fullback Jakob Johnson had a solid debut after being elevated from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Saturday.
Johnson, who is originally from Germany and played his college ball at Tennessee, signed with New England as a free agent in April as part of the NFL’s International Pathway Program. He played two snaps on offense and six on special teams against New York.
”He was not on our radar. I don’t think we ever would have signed him,” Belichick said Monday.
Belichick said after some research and consultation with Butch Jones, who coached Johnson at Tennessee, Jones recommended him to Belichick.
”What he’s done has been remarkable and in a relatively short period of time,” Belichick said.
Rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham had a debut he’d like to have back. After beating out Brian Hoyer in the preseason to be Brady’s backup, Stidham saw his first action of the season with the Patriots cruising 30-7 with just under nine minutes to play in the game.
Stidham completed his first two passes before having his third intercepted by Jamal Adams and returned 61 yards for a touchdown. Brady re-entered on the next series and played the remainder of the game.
In addition to Hightower and Butler, receiver Julian Edelman left the game late in the second quarter on Sunday with a chest injury after making a reception and being sandwiched by a pair of Jets players. The Super Bowl MVP was favoring his ribs as he walked off the field. And on Monday, the Patriots placed Develin on injured reserve with a neck injury.
Receiver Phillip Dorsett said if Edelman does have to miss any games, he has confidence the younger players will be ready to step in.
”They need to be ready. And they were ready,” Dorsett said.
210. That’s how many victories Brady has been a part of with the Patriots, breaking a tie with Hall of Famer George Blanda for second most in NFL history. Only kicker Adam Vinatieri has more with 217.
The Patriots stay in the division for a third consecutive week. This time could be a tougher challenge as they visit the 3-0 Bills.
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