This really was one of the more deflating losses that I can remember in recent history. It wasn't a blowout or an embarrassment or even a game in which the Jets played especially poorly. It was a game in which both teams were evenly matched for 60 minutes and neither team played exceptionally well. The Patriots gave the Jets every opportunity to win by dropping several key passes and playing sloppily throughout. The Jets returned the favor, dropping two balls in the end zone and fumbling on the first possession of the game. In the end, the Patriots managed to pull away due to key mistakes by Brandon Marshall and Marcus Gilchrist. Before we get too down on the team, however, it's important to remember the circumstances. The Jets went on the road against a team that hasn't lost a regular season game at home in about a decade and is widely considered the best team in the league right now. We gave the Patriots everything they could handle until the tail end of the game. The Jets really looked like a top 10 team even in defeat. Considering where we were last year, I'm proud of how far we've come in just a few short months. All that said, it's hard to decide which players deserve recognition in a game in which very few players really stood out positively or negatively. Here are the three I picked:
Third Star - Calvin Pryor (6 tackles)
My inclusion of Calvin Pryor on this list has less to do with his statline during the game and more to do with what happened after his injury. Without Pryor, Gronkowski exploded and the Jets defense seemingly fell apart. Pryor diagnosed plays well against the Patriots, filling holes exceptionally well. Pryor may not be everything Jets fans hoped for when he was taken in the first round a year ago, but he has played some very solid football this year. After his injury, everything seemed to go wrong on the back end, with Gronkowski putting up record numbers and missed tackles killing the Jets' chances at stopping the Patriots' offense. The Jets clearly can't afford to lose Pryor against a quality opponent with an elite tight end.
Second Star - Eric Decker (6 receptions, 96 yards)
Decker bounced back nicely after a mistake-filled game against the Redskins. Decker was covered by a variety of players, including the Patriots' top corner Malcolm Butler, but was open on seemingly every play. All of my non-football-fan friends said that they thought Decker must be a real top 10 wideout. Well clearly they know about as much about football as my left shoe, but it still says something. Decker ended up being the Jets' best weapon in a game in which Chris Ivory was never 100% and Brandon Marshall struggled at times, leading the Jets in offensive yardage by almost 30 yards. Decker has had an up and down season, but week 7 was all up.
First Star - Nick Folk (2 for 2 on extra points, 3 for 3 on field goals, long of 55 yards, 1 for 1 on onside kicks)
I'm on record for stating that Nick Folk is a mediocre kicker getting paid like a top 5 player at his position. This week, he was anything but mediocre, playing an essentially perfect game. Folk hit all 5 of his attempts, including a whopping 55 yard attempt to keep the Jets in the game. Not only did Folk bring the Jets back within one score with a field goal just 1 yard short of his career long, but he also followed it up with a perfect onside kick that gave the Jets a chance to tie the game. Usually I wouldn't be one to give a kicker the top spot on this type of list, but there's literally nothing more that Folk could have done, and he deserves some recognition for his effort. Folk was clutch.
So after week 6, the scoreboard reads: