Five Takeaways: Flowers looks like a man possessed


FOXBORO -- Here are five quick-hitting thoughts from what transpired between the Patriots and Jets in the regular-season finale at Gillette Stadium on Sunday . . . 


Nothing to be learned? Nothing to be learned from this game, you thought? Tom Brady taught us that he's still Tom Brady in the first half. After looking tentative, unhealthy, and not at all confident in the weapons around him over the course of the last two weeks, he looked to be in complete command against the Jets. He threw for 165 yards and three scores in the first 30 minutes, but it was how he did it that was most impressive. He was accurate when he had time. When he didn't, he still stood tall in the pocket, not fading away even when pressure got close. He extended plays occasionally, hitting Phillip Dorsett for a touchdown on a play where he was flushed to his right. Those are all good signs for the Patriots offense as they get ready for their second season. 


Trey Flowers finished his contract-year regular season strong, ruining drives for the Jets on a regular basis. On the Jets second series of the day, Flowers had a pair of run-stuffs. On their subsequent drive, on the first play, Flowers forced a fumble that was scooped up by Devin McCourty to give the Patriots tremendous field position. Then to start the second half, he had a pressure on first down and a sack on third down. That's 7.5 sacks on the season for Flowers. 


The Patriots front seven was all over the run for a second consecutive week. Through 50 minutes, the Patriots had recorded 12 run-stuffs (runs of two yards or fewer). Now, one was a tackle made on Elijah McGuire when it was clear he was attempting a pass. But the Patriots also had another run-stuff wiped off the board due to a Jets holding call. Either way, the point is they were dominant up front. Flowers, Lawrence Guy, Elandon Roberts, Malcom Brown, Danny Shelton and Dont'a Hightower were all among the Patriots defenders smothering Jets runs. 


Derek Rivers picked up his first-career sack at the end of the first half, looping in from the left edge on a stunt that gave him a wide-open lane right into Sam Darnold's lap. After missing his entire rookie season with a torn ACL, Rivers has impressed coaches with his diligence, but he hasn't seen much playing time. He's been a healthy scratch on 10 different occasions this season. But with Adrian Clayborn made a healthy scratch himself for the second straight week, that opened up a game-day roster spot for the second-year end. Clayborn's on the first year of a two-year deal and has been the team's designated sub-rusher for the majority of the season. That he's ceding snaps to Rivers at this point in the season is a testament to how that signing is working out, but it's also a sign that Rivers has showed enough in practices to earn time. 


The Patriots had a 28-3 lead with about 10 minutes remaining in the game when they did anything but run out the clock. They actually turned to their hurry-up offense in Jets territory, and Brady completed three straight passes to Chris Hogan. (Sunday was far cry from what happened in terms of Hogan targets the week prior.) Because of Jets turnovers, giving the Patriots offense good field position, and because of Kyle Van Noy's scoop-and-score, the Patriots didn't have the ball all that much in the second half. With 8:32 remaining, the Patriots were actually down in the time-of-possession battle, 26:27 to 25:01.

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