On the (injured) back of Nick Folk, the Patriots were able to stave off an upset at the hands of the (now) 0-9 Jets to win 30-27 at the horn.
At times, in what appeared to be in the running for the ‘Tank Bowl,’ Monday Night Football churned out an entertaining game between these two basement-dwellers of the AFC East. The Patriots were unsuccessful in getting within one game of the No. 1 pick but kept their playoff hopes alive.
Who shined? Who did not? That’s what we’ll look at here––giving three guys whose stock climbed and three whose stock went downhill.
In victory, it’s always good to start with the positives.
Star No. 1: Jakobi Meyers – 12 receptions (14 targets), 169 yards
With injuries to N’Keal Harry and Julian Edelman, the second-year receiver has gotten an opportunity to prove his worth.
He did that and then some on Monday, bringing in 12 receptions on 14 targets, totaling 169 yards on the night. As a result, the NC State product had his third consecutive game with at least four receptions and 58 yards––proving why he was worth being brought in as an undrafted free agent before last season.
Next week will be a big test for Meyers, as the Ravens present a significant challenge with a stout secondary. While Marlon Humphrey’s status could be in question, Jimmy Smith is the third-ranked cornerback in football, according to Pro Football Focus; Marcus Peters is still more than serviceable.
Star No. 2: Cam Newton – 27-for-35 for 274 yards, two rushing touchdowns, no turnovers
What has plagued Cam Newton’s performance in recent weeks has been his carelessness with the football. Since his Week 2 performance against the Seahawks, the former MVP entered Monday with three total touchdowns, six interceptions, and three fumbles (one lost). His performance improved against Buffalo, but it was a late-game fumble that resulted in a New England defeat.
Newton was running out of time. Not just this season as the Patriots’ quarterback, but debatably his entire career. He’d been talking the talk, saying all of the right things. However, it was time for the former Panther to walk the walk and lead this team to a victory.
He put the offense on his back en route to a come-from-behind victory in Primetime.
Newton wasn’t the dominant force he typically is as a runner, even with his two scores. However, his arm was more than productive––completing 77.1 percent of his throws and threatening the 300-yard mark for just the second time this season.
Can he build off of this? Even with Calais Campbell out, the Ravens front seven still features Yannick Ngakoue and Patrick Queen, both gifted pass-rushers.
Star No. 3: Damiere Byrd – five receptions (nine targets), 65 yards (long of 31)
Damiere Byrd has quietly been solid all season. However, headlining a struggling receiving corps, he often gets put down somewhat unfairly.
He was instrumental in the team’s comeback victory on Monday night, especially on his 31-yard catch-and-run that set up Cam Newton’s game-tying touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
The South Carolina product has logged three receptions in six of his eight games this season, and this is his third game of at least 65 yards. He’s been more than serviceable and might earn himself another year in New England if he keeps this play up.
Honorable Mention: Nick Folk – 6-for-6 on kicks (3-for-3 on field goals)
He hit the game-winner from 51 yards and had a perfect night despite spending the week on the injury report with a back injury.
It would be unfair to leave him off the list tonight, despite him not being one of the three best players.
However, with every stud comes a dud. Who were three players that struggled the most on Monday Night Football?
Dud No. 1: Gunner Olszewski – one reception for negative one yard, three rushes for 16 yards, 54.8 offensive grade (worst among receivers)
There was a lot of excitement surrounding Olszewski during camp, as many days saw him making outstanding catches and looking like the best receiver on the field.
However, he’s been one of the worst wide receivers on the roster since he got activated off of the injured reserve. One of his receptions came off of what would’ve been a Julian Edelman drop. Instead it netted the second-year receiver a gain of 11 yards. Other than that, he has had five touches for 21 yards in five games.
He was expected to be used in the slot and, with Julian Edelman out, it seemed like a prime opportunity to showcase his ability. Not only has that not happened, but he’s fallen further behind Jakobi Meyers, who wasn’t even playing when Olszewski was activated.
Not to mention that he refuses to accept a touchback and immediately sets the Patriots offense behind the 8-ball by trying to make something happen on a return. Take the knee, start at the 25. Nobody is going to ridicule you for that.
Dud No. 2: J.C. Jackson – INT, Flacco was 4-for-9 for 94 yards and two touchdowns when targeting him, 47.1 defensive grade
The one thing keeping him from being the No. 1 dud is his interception that set up the game-tying drive. Other than that, Jackson was borderline unplayable.
With the presumptive inevitable that Stephon Gilmore won’t be a Patriot in 2021, a lot of eyes were fixed on how J.C. Jackson and how he’d play in his absence. Yes, he has an interception in both games. However, his coverage has completely tanked.
He’s set to get a pretty hefty extension himself, but if he’s nothing more than a No. 2 corner, then he’s going to take a financial hit––though he made Gilmore some money last night.
Dud No. 3: Jason McCourty – 4-for-5 for 69 yards in coverage, 30.4 coverage grade (worst on the team)
Simply put, he wasn’t very productive. The reason he’s only getting hit with the third dud and not a higher one is that he’s not asked to do a whole lot.
Everyone knew he was limited when he came over to New England a few years back, so providing him with safety help over the top was already necessary. He isn’t expected to do as much from a performance standpoint as Jackson or Jonathan Jones.
However, Monday was inexcusable. There were many instances where McCourty was either out of position, blew his assignment, or couldn’t make a play when he needed to. It didn’t cost the team in the end, but a handful of technical mistakes need to be shored up before their Week 10 bout with the Ravens.