The New England Patriots had more punts than first downs on Thursday night. They were beset by drops and mistakes. The ever-aggressive Bill Belichick was forced to run the ball on third-and-long multiple times.
On a night that proved it's a whole new world in New England, the only thing familiar at the end of the game was the result: The Patriots won 13-10 over the New York Jets. Despite all their problems and an ugly fight to end the evening, the Patriots have won two AFC East games in two weeks.
This is going to be a different type of season in New England. In Belichick's dream world, it will look like his early-era Patriots teams that dominated on defense and with timely fourth-quarter play. For the second straight week, the defense -- not Tom Brady -- led the way.
Geno Smith actually threw for more yards than Brady (214 to 185) and led his team to more yards (318 to 232), but the Jets rookie was inaccurate too often. He threw three interceptions, including two in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots' defense had to make the big plays because Brady's offense was stuck in neutral. It got no push up front in the running game and barely could get a pass completed other than 5-yard tosses to Julian Edelman. (He had 13 catches for 78 yards.) Spurred on by a ton of dropped passes, the Patriots somehow had three points in their last 13 drives.
One trademark of Bill Belichick teams: They play better in December than early in the season. They tinker and figure things out as they go along. This Patriots' offense, more than any in recent years, has a lot of work to do.