This was a game built on momentum. And it couldn't have started off better for the New York Jets. First they stopped the New England Patriots on their opening drive. Then, they drove down the field and scored a touchdown to start. After that, however, the momentum switched for most of the game to the Patriots' side of the ball, after being sparked by a Devin McCourty kick return for a touchdown. Although the Jets were able to keep it close, it wasn't until the fourth quarter when New York recovered the momentum, starting with a 95-yard drive to bring the score to 23-20. A game-tying field goal by Nick Folk tied it after a fumble recovery on special teams, and then another kick gave the Jets the lead with a minute remaining, but Tom Brady was able to drive down the field against a defense in full prevent mode and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a game-tying field goal to send it into overtime. At that point, with a defense still in prevent mode, Brady drove down the field and the Patriots kicked a field goal. On the ensuing possession, Mark Sanchez was strip-sacked to end the game. With the loss, the Jets fall to 3-4 and the Patriots move to 4-3.
By all rights, the Jets should have won this game in regulation. There were so many points in this game that could have very easily gone the other way, with a high probability being the deciding factor. The kickoff return of a touchdown, the safety, the Patriots' non-fumble, Antonio Cromartie's dropped interception, Stephen Hill's dropped catch at the end, and the pass interference call on Kyle Wilson. All of which could have possibly won us the game. And that doesn't even begin to broach the coaching mistakes in this game, including the conservative goal-line calls and the prevent defense at the end of the game.
There are a lot of things to cover about this game, more than is typical, so I apologize in advance if I don't get to everything. Here are some of the positives to take from the game.
I firmly believe this was Jeremy Kerley's breakout game, as he caught seven passes for 120 yards. He looked absolutely phenomenal catching the ball in tight spaces, especially near the sideline.
Joe McKnight is a beast. Playing with a high ankle sprain, McKnight was electric on kick returns as well as when he started getting the ball more frequently after Shonn Greene was temporarily removed from the game due to concussion concerns.
Nick Folk continues to be automatic. He's making a strong case for the Pro Bowl based on his 100% success rate at 11/11.
Robert Malone continues to punt these incredible bombs. It's pretty insane, considering we had never heard of this guy the week before the season began.
Dustin Keller had a great game and returned to form as Mark Sanchez's security blanket. He drew a clutch pass interference call and had some great first down catches throughout the game. It's great to have him back.
Shonn Greene kept going where he left off last week, looking very good before leaving for concussion checks, although he returned to the game towards the end.
Until the defense went into prevent mode at the end of the game (STUPID), the secondary in particular was outstanding. Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson looked pretty great. Yes, Kyle Wilson. He had some tough match ups and, on the whole, looked very good. Rex Ryan made a bold call by sticking unproven Isaiah Trufant on Wes Welker, and it paid off. Welker was held to only a few catches, and Trufant looked unbelievably good covering the Alll-Pro.
Here's where it gets controversial. I believe that Mark Sanchez looked great, on the whole. He had a few "Sanchez-esque" plays, including the interception. But when your quarterback goes 28/41 with 68% completion for 328 yards, and leads a 95-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, you cannot blame him for the loss. Had Stephen Hill caught the ball towards the end, nobody would even think to blame Sanchez.
If you're looking for a scapegoat, look at a defense which gave up a field goal with less than a minute remaining. They were great through the game, but when Rex Ryan had them go into prevent defense, they lost us the game.
The pass protection had some serious issues. At several points, Austin Howard looked pretty bad, and there were too many plays that D'Brickashaw Ferguson was getting manhandled by Chandler Jones.
Chaz Schilens is banned from ever running a slant ever again.
Matt Slauson is terrible. Vlad Ducasse is such an incredible improvement on him, that there is zero reason why he shouldn't be the starter over him.
I don't want to blame this loss on one play or series, because there were so many opportunities to win, but if you have to, as I mentioned above, look to the prevent defense we played at the end of the game. As great as Tom Brady is, he should not have been allowed to drive down the field so easily with only a minute remaining to tie the game, and then do the same thing as soon as overtime started. The defense was just letting him walk down the field, and I thought it had more to do with the play-calling than the execution.
For more on play-calling, there were way too many points in the game that the offensive play-calling became extremely conservative. Sanchez was gashing the defense deep, showing an incredible amount of touch on the deep ball (outside of the interception) and there was zero reason we couldn't go to it more.
That's such a painful loss, because we were in such a good spot to steal one in Foxboro. Next time we play the Patriots, it will be at home on Thanksgiving. All things considered though, this is approximately where we thought we'd be at the beginning of the season at 3-4, at this point. The next game against the Miami Dolphins is an absolute must win to head into the bye at 4-4 and not be in last place in the division. There's been a definite improvement each week since the debacle against the San Francisco 49ers, and we need the upward trend to continue. Cut out the small mistakes and by the time we get close to the playoffs, we'll have a team ready to make a run. A few weeks ago, I thought we were done. Now I realize, we're just getting started.