Special Teams Review: Jets-Patriots
We've been breaking down this week's game against the Patriots. We wrap up today's analysis with a look at the special teams.
Let's review the key contributions...
Kicking game - International Mann of Mystery
Kicker Greg Zuerlein had a costly missed field goal for the Jets, although - as noted in our officiating review - this arguably should've been wiped off for a penalty on New England. Zuerlein's kick could have tied the score at 13 in the third. He otherwise made two extra points and a short field goal.
On that miss, it was Tyler Conklin who allowed the pressure off the edge, with a player to the inside of the one who pressured the kick knocking him off balance so he couldn't get a clean contact on his man.
Punter Braden Mann had a couple of inexplicably bad plays. He opened the game with a 22-yard shank, which we wrote about in depth during this morning's nuggets. Perhaps even weirder though was his kickoff at the start of the second half which was squibbed to the 22 and returned to the 40. That set up the decisive go-ahead touchdown and didn't look to be by design as Mann kind of stumbled.
On the rest of his punts, Mann had one with a long return and one that went for a touchback, although the latter was a 57-yard net when you factor in a New England penalty. His other punt was a good one; 51 yards and immediately blown up.
Mann did have two touchbacks on kickoffs but his attempted Rabona-style onside kick was a fail because it didn't even travel 10 yards so a Patriots player would have had to muff it to the Jets for them to be able to gain possession.
Patriots punter Jake Bailey, who entered the game right near the bottom of the league for gross and net yardage, inexplicably had a great game for New England, although his final numbers were wrecked when his coverage units screwed up a chance to down a punt at the goal line.
Kick coverage - Justin Hearty
Justin Hardee once again stood out on special teams as he blew up one return with a big hit and drew an illegal block in the back penalty by getting downfield well on the punt that ended up as a touchback. Hardee would likely have downed that inside the five, so the penalty worked out quite well for New England. On the downside, Hardee got lit up on one punt, which led directly to a long return.
Brandin Echols almost got downfield fast enough to down that punt near the one-yard line, but didn't quite get there.
On the long return, a 32-yarder, Thomas Hennessy got sealed on the inside and Jeremy Ruckert was blocked to the ground on the outside. Credit a hustling Micheal Clemons with saving the touchdown.
Finally, Will Parks was credited with the tackle on the squib kick that was returned out to the 40-yard line.
Return game - Brax Smacked
New England entered the game giving up over 20 yards per punt return so of course they gave up nothing against the Jets' all-pro return man Braxton Berrios. On punts, he was forced to take a fair catch three times as Echols was beaten twice. The other one was punted from midfield, with the Jets - as usual - keeping the starting defense on the field in such situations and making little effort to set a return up.
On kickoffs, Berrios ran two out and got blown up at his 15-yard line each time. These were probably bad decisions on each occasion by Berrios but the likes of Conklin, Parks and Ty Johnson were all also at fault for missed blocks.
That wraps up today's analysis from the game, but we'll be back with more over the next few days...