Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, center, and the offense can use a fast start Sunday against the Jets. Steven Senne/Associated Press

For the first time all season, the Patriots offense started fast last week.

Their 14 first-quarter points against Dallas were more than they had scored in their previous five opening quarters combined. But then, as the world knows, they fizzled for the fourth time this year.

Now at 2-4, the Pats must start fast again or risk taking a knockout blow from the Jets. Mac Jones only took four hits from New York back in Week 2, half of which were the fault of backup offensive tackle Yasir Durant. With the offensive line returning to health – up to four starters could play Sunday – the Patriots have a chance to build upon their best outing of the season last weekend with another bar-raising performance.

Here’s how they can do it:

1. Beef up with heavy personnel

The Patriots staked an early lead against the Cowboys by rolling out a previously unused 22 personnel grouping featuring two running backs and two tight ends.

They should dust it off and run it back against New York.

The Jets are allowing successful passing plays at a 67% rate against 22 personnel this season, a weakness the Patriots should exploit via play-action. They’re also allowing successful runs at a 65% rate against 21 personnel (two backs and one tight end). Success rate is determined by how often a play gains at least 40% of yards to go on first down, 60% of yards needed on second down and 100% of yards to go on third or fourth down.

Basically, it’s a superior measure than yards per play. Even there, a heavy personnel game plan checks out. Back in Week 2, the Pats averaged more than 7 yards per play when using packages with two or more tight ends.

2. Throw on first down

Speaking of Week 2, Jones averaged 8.5 yards per attempt on first-down passes that day. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels exploited an aggressive Jets defense with a variety of basic misdirection. Early-down throws and play-action passing were among his most effective means.

Jones went 9 of 10 for 78 yards on play-action throws. His one miscue was a strip sack, though the Patriots recovered what could have been a costly fumble. That was Jones’ last fumble until he got crushed last Sunday by Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory, but McDaniels is confident in Jones’ ability to bounce back.

“Rookies make mistakes every day,” McDaniels said this week. “Part of being a rookie is understanding those things are going to happen, and you can’t go in the tank, you can’t let that ruin the rest of the day at practice, or let that ruin the rest of the half in a game. You have to be able to pick yourself up, and move on and try to play better football as the game goes along, and I thought he did that.”

So, let him do it again. Jones’ yards per attempt and touchdown rate are both higher on first down than all other passing situations, and his interception rate gets cut in half. Let the kid loose early.

3. Play away from Franklin-Myers

Two weeks ago, the Jets made headlines by locking down defensive end John Franklin-Myers to a $55 million contract extension. He earned it.

Franklin-Myers rates as New York’s best run defender, per Pro Football Focus, and he was the only defensive lineman to sack Jones in the team’s last meeting. As a run defender, Franklin-Myers is followed closely by defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi. The Pats are better equipped to handle Fatukasi than his teammate on the edge because of their season-long question marks at offensive tackle.

Therefore, the Patriots should trust David Andrews and the rest of the offensive line to handle the middle while steering away from Franklin-Myers in key situations.

Bill Belichick detailed the challenge that the entire Jets defensive line poses on Wednesday.

“All those guys are high-motor guys. Myers has good power, good speed on the edge,” Belichick said. “They do a good job pushing the pocket with their inside guys, so that makes it sometimes difficult for the quarterback to step up, which brings the outside guys into the rush. Quarterback can’t move up in the pocket, and then that brings them closer to him. I’d say, again, good complementary rush, and their run (defense) is up there.”


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