Patriots Win After Summer Turmoil
Patriots to Host New York Jets in Home Opener Tonight
Published: Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 23:09
It was without a doubt one of the more interesting off-seasons that the New England Patriots have seen. The Aaron Hernandez scandal was quick to overshadow any on-the-field, football-related coverage during the week of Aug. 22 when he was indicted on murder charges, and Tebow-Mania struck Foxboro for a few short weeks as it appeared that one of the nation’s most recognizable and controversial players would find a place on the Patriots roster.
The offseason, however, is over. Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots released Hernandez as evidence against him emerged, and Tebow was cut on Aug. 31 when the Pats were required to reduce their roster to 53. With the drama of the summer behind them, Belichick, Tom Brady, and the rest of the Patriots have nearly a whole season ahead of them to drown out the controversy.
The Patriots opened their season last Sunday in Buffalo against the Bills. While they came away with a 23-21 win, the Patriots displayed some concerning characteristics, some of which could be attributed to early season jitters, others of which are going to have to be focal points as New England improves down the road.
Turnovers were the story of the game, both of the Pat’s touchdowns in the first half coming off of recovered fumbles by the Bills. They quickly returned the favor, however, and ended up racking up three turnovers—two fumbles and an interception—by the end of play.
Strong performances by Shane Vereen, Danny Amendola, and Julien Edelman with some help from Brady kept the Patriots in the game. Vereen rushed for 101 yards on 14 carries and had seven receptions for 58 yards. Amendola and Edelmen both averaged over 10 yards per reception—Amendola catching 10 passes from Brady for 104 yards and Edelmen snagging seven for 79 yards. Brady had two touchdown passes, both to Edelman.
It was Stephen Gostkowski, however, who sealed the deal for the Patriots.
With 4:31 remaining after forcing a punt from the Bills, the Patriots offense started its final drive of the game that included 12 plays over the course of four minutes and 26 seconds.
Do some quick math and that shows you that Gostkowski lined up behind the ball for the game-winning field goal with five seconds remaining. Thirty-five yards later, the Patriots had won it.
Tonight, the Patriots host the New York Jets in their home opener. Coming off of a short week, both teams will have had less time to prepare for their new opponent than is preferable. Belichick did note that there will be some similarities between the Bills’ and the Jets’ play, as the Bills’ head coach is a recent transfer from the Jets.
“There is certainly some familiarity and some carryover between the two schemes but at the same time, both those schemes are predicated on game planning and matchups and trying to create schemes and matchups that are favorable and that is going to change from week to week, no matter who they play,” he said, according to a press release transcript. “Obviously with different personnel involved, that’s another factor in it too. There’s still a big degree of unknown there.”
Once past the early season jitters and mistakes, the Patriots will be defined by performances from their top players such as Brady, Amendola, and Vereen, but also by whether or not they are able to diversify their offense and use all of their receivers and running backs.
Down the road, the Patriots face a tough home schedule that starts tonight and continues with visits from the Saints, Steelers, and Broncos, among others. Week seven will feature a rematch of tonight’s game, this time at the Jets’ home Metlife Stadium, and New England will also be tested on the road as it visits Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons, Houston, Miami, and more. Another game to watch will be in the week of Dec. 22 when the Patriots head to Baltimore seeking redemption for their elimination at last season’s AFC Championship game.