FOXBOROUGH — This is what you can call an ugly win for the Patriots.
The team didn’t get any lucky bounces. Instead, the defense earned the win after momentum halting sack shared by Rob Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham in overtime.
The 29-26 victory over the New York Jets was an anomaly compared to the Patriots’ other three wins, which were marked by mostly one thing: A 100-yard rusher. Stevan Ridley finished with 65 yards on 17 carries. With Shane Vereen’s 49 yards and Danny Woodhead’s 17, the team totaled 131.
Here are some thoughts from Sunday’s game:
1) Mark Sanchez had a good game — Or did the Patriots secondary have another poor outing? With Devin McCourty playing safety for Patrick Chung, Tavon Wilson in for the injured Steve Gregory, Alfonzo Dennard starting at corner in place of McCourty, and Ras-I Dowling seeing renewed playing time in sub packages, the secondary was more garbage pail than lunch pail as usual. Sanchez tallied 328 yards on 28 of 41 passing, throwing only one spectacularly ugly ball, a gimme interception for Dennard. But he also had a key drive where he was a cool 9 of 10 passing before hitting Dustin Keller for a 7-yard touchdown. The Patriots gave up six pass plays of 20 yards or more, good for 39 in the NFL. That’s the most in the league. It’s tough to give Sanchez the credit for his seventh career 300-yard game (53 starts) when he was facing one of the worst secondaries in the NFL.
2) Jermaine Cunningham is becoming an every-down player — This is Cunningham’s year. He has the speed and now it appears he has the strength to deal with tackles on a regular basis. His overtime sack with Ninkovich was just a matter of who got to the quarterback first. In this instance, it was Cunningham. He was providing pressure all game and has shown that he’s tough to handle for opposing tackles. He’s certainly come a long way from last season’s healthy nine-game appearance in which he recorded a total of one tackle.
“Jermaine worked hard, he had a good offseason, he was one of our offseason award winners,” said Bill Belichick. “I think that’s indicative of his work ethic. We’ve played him at several different positions this year, both outside and inside, both ends, both tackles. He’s been a versatile guy for us, as well as some plays in the kicking game. He’s been productive for us. We’ve asked him to do a lot of different things and he’s done a good job.”
For more of this post, visit the original on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.