A possible statement game instead became a missed opportunity for the Jets, who lost 13-10 to the Patriots on Thursday night.
The Jets will be left wondering what could have been from a gutsy effort as their offense was plagued with untimely drops from their wide receivers. The frustration included a Stephen Hill fumble in the first quarter, which the Patriots turned into a field goal and a 10-0 lead.
But the story of the game for the Jets was a defense that did its part to limit the Patriots offense and keep the up-tempo Patriots in check throughout the night, limiting the Patriots to 232 yards of total offense and just 26 minutes of overall possession.
Despite a rough first half where penalties and mistakes killed drives, rookie quarterback Geno Smith and the offense had some confidence-building moments in the second half. In the third quarter, he led the Jets on a nine-play, 58-yard touchdown drive where the Patriots defense played on its heels.
But four turnovers killed the Jets' chances of a road win that could have potentially set this team up for a 2-0 start. Instead, mistakes leave the Jets with nothing but a moral victory.
What we learned ...
1. Geno stands (relatively) tall
It wasn’t perfect, but Smith wasn’t helped in this game with numerous drops from his wide receivers. In his NFL debut last week, Smith completed 24-of-38 passes for 256 yards with a touchdown and an interception as well as his much ballyhooed final drive that set up Nick Folk’s game-winning field goal. The Patriots game doesn’t represent his full potential as he still took too many sacks and looked uncomfortable in the face of pressure. There were also three bad interceptions in the fourth quarter where he threw to the wrong side of his target, allowing the Patriots to make plays on the ball. But while his 15-of-34 for 234 with three interceptions isn’t inspiring stuff, there are some positives from his play including the ability to scramble for a handful of nice downfield throws. There are some building blocks here.
2. Not Brady as usual
In the 2010 playoffs, the Jets emerged from Gillette Stadium with a win as their defensive line orchestrated constant pressure on Tom Brady in the pocket. The Jets were helped in this quest on Thursday night with injuries depleting the Patriots offense of its playmakers — a fact that clearly frustrated Brady all game long. But the defense did a tremendous job of mixing coverage along with smart blitzes that generated a pass rush with minimal players being sent. Brady finished the night 19-of-39 for 185 yards and a touchdown — far from his usual flourish.
3. Finally, the ground game
It was quiet in preseason and ghastly last week against the Buccaneers, but the ground game took a step forward in New England. The running game topped 100 yards, paced by Chris Ivory with 52 yards on 12 carries and Bilal Powell, who added 48 yards along with a touchdown. With a rookie quarterback, it will be important for the Jets to find a regular rhythm for their running backs to help move the chains.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.