For the second week in a row, the Patriots were forced to take the field without the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in tow.
But even without Stephon Gilmore patrolling the defensive backfield, a slumping New England club still had to feel awfully good about its chances on Monday night — especially given the listless opponent lining up against it at MetLife Stadium.
For as much as New England’s porous showing against the run played a major role in the Patriots' four-game losing skid entering Monday's matchup, the same can't be said for the team's secondary — with Bill Belichick's roster rarely relinquishing games by way of an aerial bombardment from the opposition.
And against the New York Jets and over-the-hill backup QB Joe Flacco, any semblance of passing barrage appeared unlikely, to say the least.
Sure, even at 35 years old, Flacco still has plenty of zip in that arm, but the winless Jets had so far put together a sordid showing on offense this year — scoring 29 total points over their last four games entering Monday night.
IF the Patriots were somehow going to falter against New York, it likely wasn't going to be through the air — not with a Patriots secondary that ranked seventh in the league in passing yards allowed per game (216.9) on the prowl.
But it didn't take very long for any preconceived narratives to fall to the wayside down in East Rutherford.
There were many telling statistics that painted the picture of what was a wild 30-27 win for New England against New York, but perhaps the most concerning were the 262 passing yards and three touchdowns Flacco and his hodgepodge arsenal managed to accrue against a usually stout Patriots secondary.
Yes, New York came in averaging 156 passing yards per game this season — the fewest in the league — but Flacco managed to rack up 194 yards and two scores by the end of the first half, giving the Jets a 20-10 lead against a Patriots club whose season appeared to be on life support.
The absence of Gilmore and some regulars in the front seven such as Lawrence Guy did loom large against a suddenly ... dare, I say, ELITE ... Flacco (I kid, I kid), but it was primarily New England's stalwarts in the secondary that served as the weakest links in what was a dreadful defensive showing for most of the evening.
“Defensively, we didn’t play well in the passing game," Bill Belichick said. "Just wasn’t one of our better performances. ... We gave up too many yards and too many points in the passing game.”
While J.C. Jackson's fourth-quarter interception helped spark New England's 13-point rally in the final 15 minutes of play, the talented young corner is still likely