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Patriots Notebook: Team finally gets some takeaways vs. Jets

November 28, 2016

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Patriots desperately have tried to force more turnovers in recent weeks, and they finally cracked through yesterday.

The Pats had two takeaways and a blocked field goal during their 22-17 victory against the Jets at MetLife Stadium. It ended a drought of three consecutive games without a turnover, which tied the longest stretch of Bill Belichick’s tenure (2005). They hadn’t recorded multiple takeaways in a game since their Week 3 win against the Texans.

“Those turnovers pay off,” said Malcolm Butler, who forced and recovered a Robby Anderson fumble in the second quarter. “They help.”

The Pats have 11 takeaways this season and are on pace for 16, which would still be the fewest of the Belichick era (18 in 2005). But they’d like to believe this two-takeaway game will propel them to more success, especially since they thought they were close to some turnovers last week against the 49ers.

“We’ve been having a hard time getting the turnovers, but we finally got a couple today,” said Alan Branch, who blocked a field goal in the second quarter. “Hopefully a snowball effect will happen and we can start going on a roll, getting some balls off some teams.”

Butler got it going with the punch-out, and the Patriots turned it into a touchdown to tie the game, 10-10. Chris Long locked up the victory by recording the Pats’ first sack of the day, as he stripped Ryan Fitzpatrick two plays after the Patriots took the 22-17 lead.

Last week, Belichick took exception to the idea that luck can play into some of the fumbles the Patriots haven’t been able to recover. He harped on the notion that players have to swarm to the football to give them a greater opportunity to come away with it.

So it wasn’t a coincidence when Devin McCourty made a similar point yesterday. McCourty, after all, held Anderson while Butler knocked out the ball and got the Patriots moving in the right direction.

“Just a scramble and everybody rallying to the ball,” McCourty said. “We’ve talked about turnovers will come if we all just run to the ball.”

Branch still performing

Branch has been the Patriots’ most consistent defensive lineman, and they needed him against the Jets. Branch is appealing a four-game suspension for a positive marijuana test, and he said he didn’t know why he failed it.

“That’s why I’m appealing it,” Branch said in his first comments since the failed test. “We’ll see what happens from there.”

There is no timetable for the league to hear Branch’s appeal; it could take weeks. Since the Patriots only have five regular-season games remaining, he was asked if he’d consider dropping his appeal to avoid missing time in the playoffs.

“Honestly, I’m just trying to go day by day and make sure I can help my team while I can, and hopefully the appeal process goes well,” Branch said.

Branch wasn’t aware of the status of his appeal.

“I have no clue. I just know the appeal is in process,” Branch said. “I’m just waiting to see what happens from there.”

Learning curve

Butler was beaten for two touchdowns for the first time in his career. Surprising, considering he had surrendered only two scores in his previous 13 games.

Tough day?

“My standards are very high, so I’d say so,” Butler said. “I don’t want to give up a touchdown. I don’t want to give up long balls, but hey, it’s going to happen. The biggest thing, we got the win. So just got to learn from it, be pissed off about it and put it into next week. That’s all I can do.”

Butler yielded a 1-yard touchdown to Brandon Marshall and a 22-yarder to Quincy Enunwa, who beat him earlier in the game for 40 yards.

“I almost had it, but almost doesn’t count,” Butler said of the Enunwa grab which was verified through video review. “My standards are high. The standards are high here. Just got to take that L and keep moving. I’m just glad we got the win.”

Butler also matched up with Marshall extensively for the first time.

“Size and experience,” Butler said of Marshall’s attributes. “I’m still learning as I go and still competing also, so I’ll learn from that, take my loss and keep on playing.”

Bennett feels fine

Martellus Bennett missed a handful of plays when he aggravated the ankle that has bothered him since Week 5, but he wasn’t favoring it after the game.

“You can never count me out,” Bennett said. “That’s just who I am. I’m just a blue-collar individual. I like to work hard and try to do everything I can. There’s a difference between being hut and injured. Everyone in the NFL this time of year is hurting. Just got to find a way to fight through it and make plays.”

Bennett also had the best quote of the night when discussing Tom Brady’s 200th victory, even if it lacked factually.

“I wasn’t really thinking about that,” Bennett said. “It’s just a milestone for me. I’ve never won nine games in a season before. I was just excited, ‘Oh, we’re 9-2. Hell yeah, let’s go.’ He has 200 wins. I’m like, (expletive), I haven’t even won 200 games in my whole life.”

Bennett won nine games with the Cowboys in 2008, 11 with the Cowboys in 2009 and nine with the Giants in 2012.