How fast did your heart beat when 4 total field goals shot their way through the posts late into the fourth quarter and over time?
Patriot's cornerback/return man Devin McCourty fumbled on a late kick off, Jet's Nick Folk and Patriot's Stephen Gostkowski traded field goals and defensive end Rob Ninkovich, with assistance from linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, forced a game deciding fumble on Jet's quarterback Mark Sanchez.
The Patriots were minutes away from owning a paltry 3-4 overall record and a 1-1 divisional record. The Jets were close to taking the lead in the division. This was a crucial game for New England.
At the end of the third quarter, the Patriots led 23-13 and had ample time to score one more touchdown to better position themselves for a win. However, déjà vu hit—The Patriot's two 3 and outs in the fourth quarter helped the Jets crawl back. New York's offense subsequently marched 91 and 40 yards respectively to score 10 consecutive points and Devin McCourty’s costly fumble on a kickoff return with under 3 minutes to play in regulation allowed the Jets to jump head 26-23.
However, after the Patriots matched the Jets with a 54 yard drive of their own with 1:37 remaning in the fourth quarter, Gostkowski delivered a 43-yard game tying field goal. At the 11:62 mark in over time, the much troubled kicker of late showed again his previously failed two game-ending kicks—against the Cardinals and Ravens—could have been aberrations. He booted a 48 yard kick to help seal the win.
Final score: Patriots 29 Jets 26
New England began their first two drives of the game using their potent, no-huddle offense and scored once. Devin McCourty’s 104-yard punt return for a touchdown, something prominently vacant from New England’s special team's arsenal since they released receiver Brandon Tate in 2010, lofted the Patriots to a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Many times, however, New England’s offense struggled. Their next three drives in the second quarter resulted in punts. The Patriot’s lone score prior to the half came off a monstrous disruption by nose tackle Vince Wilfork who overwhelmed Jet’s guard Matt Slauson and forced a fumble. As the ball rolled into the end zone, quarterback Mark Sanchez wisely booted it for a safety.
New England 16 Jets 7.
After the Patriot's offense failed, once again, to take advantage off an opponent's mistake, the Jets capitalized and put another 3 points on the board after a 12 play, 60 yard march from their 5-yard line to decrease their deficit to 6.
By game's end, New England had and will continue to have a lot of questions to answer. Their mediocre first-half play allowed Sanchez to rack up a suprising 150 yards and 1 touchdown off 13 of 22 completions. He finished the game with a ridiculous 328 yards, 1 touchdown and 28 of 41 completions. A week ago many were calling for Sanchez to be replaced by back up quarterback Tim Tebow.
However, on the bright side, New England's defense did not surrender the back-breaking long passes like they did in last week's loss to Seattle when quarterback Russel Wilson played backyard football with his receivers.
A few notable take aways from this game: Receiver Wes Welker caught only 2 receptions in the first half and running back Steven Ridley was an almost non factor the entire game--neither player helped the offense establish consistent rhythm.
Coming into today’s game, many thought the aformentioned players would exploit New York's major weaknesses—Wes Welker’s match up with over matched Jet’s cornerback Kyle Wilson and the Patriot’s running game vs. the Jet’s 30th ranked run defense. New England had averaged 152 yards per carry this season and finished the day with 131 yards total (Steven Ridley pulled the load with 65 yards on 17 carries, Shane Vereen with 49 yards on 8 carries and Danny Woodhead with 17 yards on 6 carries).
This game displayed both the Patriots and Jet’s mental toughness, as well as their shortcomings. At many points, both teams had the chance to win this game. Both understood the game’s significance—they would propel themselves into first place in the AFC East division, as well as establish a more stable foothold on a distant playoff spot.
Their win was not perfect. Similar to their past couple of games, New England’s offense uncharacteristically stalled in crucial times and their secondary showed they are far from being on the upswing. But the Patriots are 4-3 and that is better than the 3-4 Jets.
New England travels to London next week to face the 3-4 St. Louis Rams in an “away” game. London loves the Patriots so this may be more of an "away" game with a "home" game kind of feel--if that makes any sense.