Week 12 Risers and Fallers: Patriots Give Thanks to Jets’ Mistakes in Thanksgiving Route

If there's one person New England Patriots fans should be thankful for, it's Mark Sanchez. 

The Jets' inept quarterback had a holiday that he'd like to forget, as the former fifth overall pick bumbled his way around in a laughably bad performance that had Jets fans clamoring for Tebow Time. 

Unfortunately (or fortunately) for Jets fans, Tebow never saw the field, and Sanchez and the pathetic Jets offense mustered just 19 points, including a garbage-time touchdown with just 2:21 left on the clock. 

While the Jets' own mistakes did them in, the Patriots operated like a well-oiled machine in Bill Belichick's 200th career win. 

Tom Brady completed 66 percent of his passes, including three touchdowns, in the team's first game without Rob Gronkowski. 

The running game churned out 152 yards and got big plays from its two sophomore backs—Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley—as the offense executed an efficient performance. 

And in another encouraging sign, the Patriots forced five turnovers in the 49-19 route. 

Let's take a look at this week's risers and fallers. 

 

Risers 

1. Vince Wilfork, DT: Big Vince played like his whole Thanksgiving dinner was on the line against the Jets. New England's robust defensive tackle thoroughly dominated Brandon Moore and the interior of the Jets offensive line, beating countless double teams to make plays in the backfield. No play epitomized Wilfork's dominance (or the Jets' ineptitude) like throwing Moore into a scrambling Mark Sanchez, who ran straight into his right guard's ass and fumbled the ball away. 

2. Steve Gregory, S: Speaking of Gregory, the Patriots' starting strong safety returned to the lineup with a bang on Thanksgiving. The former San Diego Charger had been somewhat of a disappointment this year, but was a ballhawk in Thursday's blowout. Besides chipping in six tackles, Gregory returned Sanchez's fumble 32 yards for a score and also recorded his second interception of the season. 

3. Tom Brady, QB: Tom missed some throws, but if a three-touchdown day is considered just a good performance, I'll take it. Brady averaged 11.5 yards per completion and posted a season-high quarterback rating of 139.5 in another vintage performance. Over his last five games, Brady has posted a ridiculous 14:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The Patriots are 5-0 in those games. 

4. Shane Vereen, RB: After a lost rookie season, the former second-round pick is finally coming into his own. Although he'll probably never overtake Stevan Ridley as the featured back, Vereen appears to be carving out a considerable role as a change-of-pace back and featured receiver out of the backfield. The former Cal star showcased his trademark speed on a wheel route, taking it 83 yards to the house. If he continues to make big plays, this offense will only be infinitely more difficult to defend. 

5. Attitude/Toughness: This award goes to the defense as a whole. From Jermaine Cunningham to Brandon Spikes to Alfonzo Dennard, the Patriots defense laid out huge hits in the 30-point win. Spikes' back-to-back plays on the goal line to prevent a Jets touchdown were epic, and Dennard's feisty play only reinforced why he was once considered a first- or second-round talent. Once Chandler Jones is back in the lineup, this defense will be on the verge of taking a huge step forward. 

 

Fallers 

1. Pass Rush: Outside of Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, the Patriots have had almost zero productivity in the pass rush department from their defensive line. That trend continued Thursday as the d-line produced zero sacks and just one quarterback hit. Backups Trevor Scott, Jermaine Cunningham and Justin Francis didn't register much pressure and will have to improve if the Pats hope to have any success in the playoffs. 

2. Brandon Lloyd, WR: He wasn't a big part of the game plan, but that doesn't excuse the fact that New England's biggest offseason addition managed just three receptions for 26 yards on a day where Brady threw for 331. Lloyd just hasn't been the featured receiver that many expected him to be, and his work after the catch has been abysmal. He certainly isn't a Chad Ochocinco bust, but he hasn't been a Randy Moss circa 2007 success. It would be nice to see the veteran make some more big plays. 

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