The New England Patriots ended their disappointing season on a high note Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium, taking down the New York Jets 28-14 to finish the season 7-9. Cam Newton threw for three touchdowns and caught another in the win, while Sam Darnold threw for 266 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in what was likely his final game with the Jets.
While the Jets were able to jump out to a 14-7 lead after scoring on the opening drive of the second half, the Patriots took control of the game from there. For the first game in a while, it felt like Newton was under control when he threw the ball, as he completed 70% of his passes. In the end, the Patriots controlled most of the game with their offense and the defense was able to slam the door with two interceptions.
It all came together for the Patriots in their last game of the season, as they ended the Jets win streak at two games. Newton threw for 242 yards, his most since week 11, and three touchdowns. Prior to today, he had not thrown for more than one touchdown in any game this season, so his performance today was certainly an outlier. He also set a Patriots record with his 49-yard run in the first quarter, which is now the longest by a quarterback in team history.
However, his biggest play of the day came on the receiving end of a ball. Just as we saw in the Patriots game against the Baltimore Ravens, Jakobi Meyers is capable of changing a game not only by catching the ball, but also by throwing. This time, the former high school and college quarterback found Newton for a 19-yard touchdown to tie the game late in the third quarter.
While relying on trick plays to score is never a healthy balance, the Patriots have shown many times that having a wide receiver that can throw can lead to game, or even championship, winning plays.
Several Patriots reached milestones in this game, starting with Newton. In addition to setting the record for longest run by a quarterback, he broke the record for most rush yards in a season by a Pats QB on that same run. After today’s game, Newton finishes the season with 592 rush yards, breaking the previous record of 539 set by Steve Grogan in 1978. On his receiving touchdown, he became the first Patriots quarterback to ever catch a touchdown pass.
Sony Michel also finished the season strong with 76 rushing yards. Although he struggled with some injuries and getting jumped by Damien Harris on the depth chart, Michel played well down the stretch, and finished the season with 79 carries for 449 yards, a very strong 5.7 yards per carry average. In this game, he secured his first receiving touchdown in the NFL. For Michel, this had to feel good, as he was constantly criticized in his first two years for not being a threat in the passing game.
Rookie tight end Devin Asiasi made his first impact of the year against the Jets defense. He finished with two catches for 39 yards, the first two catches of his NFL career. His second catch turned into his first career touchdown, as he made a nice grab and ran the rest of the way to the endzone.
With how the Patriots have struggled to get any production from their tight ends since Rob Gronkowski left, this game provided hope that next season, with better health, Asiasi could start to fill that void in the offense.
Finally, JC Jackson finished off his impressive campaign with yet another strong game. He was solid in coverage and reeled in his ninth interception of the season. He’ll finish the season second in the league in INT’s, which certainly is not bad for a player who went undrafted just three years ago. On a team that disappointed at several key positions, Jackson was one of the few bright spots. His 11 takeaways on the year are the most in a single season by any player while Bill Belichick has been the coach, and the second most of any season in team history.
Overall, this game was a happy ending to what was a pretty disappointing season. Coming in with a new quarterback, expectations were lower than normal, but still relatively high because Cam Newton was seen as the best replacement the Patriots could have found in free agency. And while he didn’t have a good season, he managed to end with a great performance. While the win may drop the Patriots a spot or two in the draft, it was well worth it to see players enjoy themselves, achieve some career firsts, and break a few records.
With the season now behind us, it’s time to look forward to the offseason, the draft, and the 2021 season. There are many changes that need to happen for this roster to become competitive, so it’s sure to be a busy offseason in Foxboro.