There was magic in Joe Flacco's arm and victory in the New York Jets' sight. Alas, a winless campaign and a losing streak against the New England Patriots would not end on this Monday night for the Jets. Cam Newton drove the Patriots down and Nick Folk made good on a game-winning kick to keep the Patriots afloat and maintain the Jets' arduous season as New England won, 30-27.
1) These are not the Patriots we were accustomed to over so many seasons, that much was perhaps never more evident than in an evening of uncharacteristic troubles against a winless foe. But at the very least, New England's mastery of New York has maintained, as the Patriots won their ninth in a row over the Jets. Gripping the ball for roughly two-thirds of the second half, Bill Belichick's Patriots ran off the game's last 13 points to rally past the Jets, 30-27. Cam Newton looked shaky at times but clutch in the end, and Nick Folk was true on all six of his kicks, three of them field goals, including the game-winning 51-yarder with no time remaining to send his former squad, the Jets, to 0-9 and the Patriots to 3-5. This was a tough game for the Patriots to win and no doubt even tougher to lose for the Jets. But if there's anything to gather from what remains of the Patriots, it is that they are not going softly into the remainder of the season. Belichick remains and through losses in free agency, opt-outs, COVID and injuries, these Patriots will compete and fight and win any way they can.
2) On at least this lone Monday night in the fall of 2020, it looked as if the Jets would rejoice. Winless no more, conquered no longer by their Bostonian nemesis, the Jets would have their first victory and would snap a streak of struggles against their hated rival. Nope. New York is still the only winless team in the NFL, but this one felt different. For a good portion of Monday, the Jets played inspired ball and made a game nobody expected much from an entertaining and dramatic affair. They fought. And they still came up empty. Week after week, the Jets were closer to a comedy act than a team just coming up short. But this one hurt. There are no easy answers and little consolation on this night. In the fourth quarter, the Jets had the ball for just one minute and 24 seconds, and they had only 78 yards of offense in the second half. The Jets' best showing of the season came and went in the first half on Monday night, a 20-10 lead slipping away into a three-point loss as time ran out. In a season of distress, this might've been the toughest defeat to stomach yet, because it was the closest to victory.
3) With the score tied at 27, the Patriots needed Newton to come through. And he did. A revelation and a thrilling comeback story at the season's onset, Newton morphed quickly into a much-maligned figure. Thus, upon this Monday, Newton needed a win just as badly as anyone on the field and he got it. In a game in which he made tough runs, was woeful on downfield throws and was precise everywhere else, Newton made his biggest and best completion to his top target, Jakobi Meyers, on the final drive of the game. Newton hit Meyers for a 20-yard gain that brought Folk within range and set up the victory. On the night, Newton had a pair of touchdowns on the ground and 274 yards through the air on 27-of-34 passing, but missed on myriad big gains when he came up off-target deep. He was good more than he was bad and the Patriots prevailed. Going forward and looking back, that might well be the story of the Patriots' fortunes.
4) There are myriad position groups depleted for the Patriots. One of them is wide receiver, so what better time than in prime time for Meyers to turn in the best performance of his career? With career-highs across the board, Meyers became Newton's go-to guy and then some, hauling in 12 catches (on 14 targets) for 169 yards, including the aforementioned 20-yard gain that set up Folk's game-winning kick. For Newton to truly settle in, with Julian Edelman and N'Keal Harry dealing with injuries, he'll need an option he can trust. Meyers showed up in a big way, and who knows what's next? While, as aforementioned, there are plenty of depleted position groups on the Pats, a dearth of consistent production at wideout has been a problem in New England dating back prior to this season. If nothing more, Meyers provided a breath of fresh hope.
5) The long arm of Joe Flacco ignited the Jets offense. Yes, that happened. For at least an autumn evening, Flacco found his prime form of yesteryear, exposed a depleted Patriots secondary and breathed life into the very real notion that promise lies within a healthy Jets WR corps. Making the most of the rare sighting of Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims and Breshad Perriman being healthy at the same time, Flacco -- 18 for 25, 262 yards, three TDs, one very big interception -- and New York lit off some fireworks and played some entertaining football. This is a rebuilding franchise and plenty of questions surround who will be the Jets' QB of the future, but it certainly isn't going to be Flacco in a starting capacity. Nonetheless, nights like these are the reason Flacco can still be a backup in the NFL and a pretty good one. He still has plenty of life along with oomph left in his arm and most of the time on Monday looked sensational. There's really no reason to prognosticate a Jets surge down the stretch, but if Sam Darnold is out any longer, Flacco showed at the very least he can make things interesting, if not even a little fun.
6) Crowder, Mims and Perriman have each missed multiple games this season. Together on Monday (and yes, with the Patriots minus Stephon Gilmore) they looked marvelous. Perriman had 101 yards and a pair of scores as he provided a huge deep threat, Crowder added a TD and Mims flashed promise for tomorrow with 62 yards on four grabs. When healthy, the Jets have some talent at wideout.
7) Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson is turning in a terrific season and has played well. Monday night was not the best example of that, though, as Jackson gave up plenty of big catches throughout much of the game. However, in many ways emblematic of the Patriots' outing, though he struggled for a good deal of the night, he came up huge late, securing a bad Flacco deep ball for an interception with six minutes left and the Pats trailing by seven. It was the only turnover of the game and it turned into a game-tying New England score. The Jets came out firing, but the Patriots finished on top as they have for quite some time in the rivalry.