Patriots-Jets takeaways: Run game makes strides in first win of 2023

Patriots-Jets takeaways: Run game makes strides in first win of 2023 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots held on to defeat the New York Jets on a rainy Sunday at MetLife Stadium for their first victory of the 2023 NFL season, 15-10.

It wasn't the prettiest performance from either side, but the Patriots had the clear edge against quarterback Zach Wilson and the hapless Jets offense. Wilson completed 18 of 36 pass attempts for 157 yards and no touchdowns as New York couldn't get anything going on that side of the ball with the exception of one scoring drive in the fourth quarter.

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As for Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, the third-year signal-caller went 15-for-29 with 201 yards and one touchdown, a 58-yarder to tight end Pharaoh Brown. Brown's first TD since 2020 capped off a dominant four-play, 78-yard drive for Jones and the Pats offense.

New England now has 15 consecutive wins against its AFC East rival. That ties the Patriots' team record for longest win streak against one opponent.

Next, the Patriots will travel to Dallas for a tough matchup next Sunday against the Cowboys. Before we turn the page to Week 4, here are our takeaways from Sunday's much-needed win over New York.

Zach Wilson's woes vs. Patriots continue

The Patriots have made life miserable for Wilson since the BYU product entered the league in 2021. With this loss, Wilson is now 0-5 in his career against Bill Belichick's group.

He entered Sunday's action with seven interceptions in four games against New England. While he succeeded in not turning the ball over this time around, it was still a dismal performance that should leave Jets coach Robert Saleh reconsidering his "Zach is our quarterback" statement.

Wilson's woes led to the Jets having to punt eight times. Their offense woke up and made things interesting late in the fourth quarter, but a last-second hail mary off the hands off veteran Randall Cobb sealed the Patriots' win.

Jets can't capitalize on Patriots' errors

Self-inflicted wounds haunted the Patriots through the first two weeks of the campaign and played a major role in both losses. They did a nice job of preventing turnovers in Sunday's win, but they still made some mistakes that could have been costly had the Jets been able to capitalize.

The first notable New England mishap came in the first quarter, when running back Rhamondre Stevenson dropped a third-down pass with plenty of room to run. Fortunately for the Patriots, the drop didn't come back to bite them as the Jets didn't score on the ensuing drive.

The second quarter started with a near-disaster for Jones and Co. Jones had what likely would have been a pick-six bounce off the hands of Jets safety Jordan Whitehead. It was another missed opportunity for a New York team that needed all the help it could get for its anemic offense.

The Patriots' ugliest offensive drive of the day came in the third quarter. They committed penalties on three consecutive plays within their own territory: an illegal blindside block by JuJu Smith-Schuster and false starts by Trent Brown and Mike Onwenu. Again, the Jets failed to score despite ideal field position.

New York's inability to take advantage of those key moments proved to be the difference in a game that came down to the wire.

Run game finally breaks through

The Patriots' running back tandem of Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott didn't make much of an impact against Philadelphia or Miami. Some of the blame could be placed on the glaring issues with the offensive line, but New England needed its run game to step up in rainy conditions against a fearsome Jets defense.

Although their numbers won't jump off the page, Stevenson and Elliott made encouraging progress in Week 3. They combined for 139 yards on 35 carries (3.9 YPC) with Elliott accounting for 80 of those yards. Most importantly, they were able to make their play-action game a factor and that resulted in their lone touchdown of the day.

The Pats backfield will hope to carry its momentum into next Sunday's game against Elliott's former team, the Dallas Cowboys.

Bill Belichick shows trust in rookie kicker

We saw plenty of Patriots rookie fourth-round kicker Chad Ryland in this one. The former Maryland standout opened the scoring with a field goal that marked New England's first points scored in the first quarter this season. He finished 2-for-4 with his longest of the day coming from 51 yards out.

Ryland's two misses came after high snaps, as our Phil Perry pointed out:

While it was a mixed bag, Ryland's active day showed he earned the trust of Bill Belichick. Ryland had two attempts from 48 yards, one from 51, and another from 57.