Jets fly past Patriots, 30-27 in OT
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Gronk is back. But that alone might not be enough to cure what currently ails the New England Patriots.
Missing the heart of their defense Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the New York Jets - with Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo out for the season, and Aqib Talib inactive with an injury - the Patriots defense was supremely challenged, and perhaps out-smarted a little as well...and the Jets gained a measure of revenge in a 30-27 overtime victory Sunday in East Rutherford, NJ.
With their first possession of the game, the Jets let the Patriots know they were in for a fight. Behind tough running from Chris Ivory and pinpoint passing from rookie Geno Smith (three completions to Jeremy Kerley), New York moved the ball swiftly into the Pats' red zone at the 15 yard line. Three plays later, Smith found Kerley wide open in the end zone from 12 yards out, and the Jets scored their first TD in 15 offensive possessions (80 yards, 12 plays) for a 7-0 lead, and 9:43 to play in the 1st quarter.
An inauspicious start, to say the least, for the walking wounded from New England.
For the record, Rob Gronkowski's first reception of the season came on Tom Brady's first target to him of the day, good for 12 yards and a first down at the NE 48. He took a helmet hit directly on his surgically repaired forearm, seemingly no worse for wear after the play. Two plays later, Brady found Gronk again over the deep middle for 30 yards to the Jets one, where a 3rd offsides penalty on the NY defense during the drive set up a short TD run from Brandon Bolden. It was 7-7, with 5:58 to play in the period.
But what a presence #87 had within the Patriots' offense. There was a fluidity to their play that simply had not existed in their previous six games. Welcome back, Gronk.
As mentioned, however, the problem initially did not lie with the offense. The Jets had several wrinkles in place that caught the NE defense flat-footed, if not by surprise...including a wildcat look from recently signed (five days ago) WR Josh Cribbs. With the offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage, NY continued its pressure on the defense, converting four straight 3rd down conversions in the opening period...until a big play from an unlikely playmaker. Rookie CB Logan Ryan stepped in front of a Smith pass intended for David Nelson and returned the interception 80 yards for a touchdown. It's the 34th straight game for the Pats' defense to earn a takeaway, and this mistake certainly took away from a Jets offense that had been rolling early.
With a sack of Smith from DE Chandler Jones to end the quarter, it appeared that slowly, the Patriots were adjusting to New York's game plan. But the Jets again converted on 3rd down (this time, with 20 yards to go)...and another on 3rd and five (to Kerley) to reach the NE 25. Six straight 3rd down conversions - until a stop (on an incompletion) finally forced Nick Folk into a 37 yard field goal for a 14-10 game, with 11:11 to go in the first half.
Following the first NY punt of the game (after 200+ yards in offense to this point), a scintillating 38-yard punt return from Julian Edelman set the Pats up at the Jets' 28 yard line. A successful 4th down pick up by Stevan Ridley at the 17, and a holding penalty on Antonio Allen against Gronkowski (again, welcome back big fella) gave Ridley a wide open 17-yard run into the end zone with 5:15 remaining before halftime for a 21-10 advantage.
With an 11-point lead and the ball to open the 3rd quarter, the chance was there to put the Jets away early. But it was a missed chance, as Allen - victimized earlier with a hold on Gronkowski - picked Brady off at the Patriots' 23 yard line, and ran it in for the score to pull NY within 21-17. On their next offensive series, NY saw a strip sack fumble by Chandler Jones and a Chris Jones sack of Smith on back-to-back plays to turn aside a scoring threat.
Defense settled in on both sides, with the Jets sacking Brady at his own three leading to a New England punt. WR David Nelson made a great grab over a falling Logan Ryan on a 3rd down play to give NYJ a 1st down at the Patriots' 20. Then, Devin McCourty saved a certain TD to TE Jeff Cumberland, stripping the ball from his hands...but Smith made the defense pay with their backs turned on two huge runs - the final one from eight yards out to give NY the 24-21 lead with 4:33 to play in the period.
Muhammad Wilkerson led a hard-charging Jets' defense with a 4th sack of Brady...and the entire unit stifled the Pats' offense on a 3rd straight three-and-out, holding NE to minus-six yards of offense in the first 13 minutes of the period. Cribbs' punt return to the NE 38 set MetLife Stadium abuzz...but a safety blitz forced Smith into an incompletion on the drive, bringing Folk in to kick a 37-yard FG for a 27-21 Jets lead.
As the 4th quarter opened, the Patriots began to gain grudging yards against the Jets' defense, thanks in part to a couple of tough Ridley runs. But a misconnection between Brady and Gronkowski on a 3rd down attempt - which appeared to be open with Gronk looking into the sun - led to a Stephen Gostkowski 39-yard field goal to pull the Pats within 27-24, and 12:58 still to play. After a defensive stop made by both sides, the Jets picked up a huge 3rd down just before the 5:00 mark on a completion from Smith to Kerley...and again with 3:39 to play on a bulldozing run by Ivory. The repeated pounding of the Patriots' middle "D" pretty much paid off.
By the time Brady and the offense got the ball back, they were 92 yards away with 2:10 to play, and three time outs left. An eternity, usually, for Brady. And also as usual, he found his favorite target in Gronkowski for two big gains, then hit Edelman for 19 more to reach the NYJ 26. Three misfires (including a near-highlight reel catch from Gronk) led to Gostkowski's 44-yarder for the 27-27 tie, and eventual overtime.
Gaining the first possession after winning the coin flip, the NE offense gained one first down - and then was shut down by a pretty good Jets' defense. The opportunity to win would not come again. Methodically, the NY offense again pounded away at the Pats with Ivory's running (104 yards on 34 carries) setting up a career-best 56-yard FG attempt by Folk - which he missed - but an almost unbelievable 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty called against Chris Jones for pushing his own player upfield gave the Jets a first down at the 23. Folk came on to hit a 42-yarder with 5:07 left for the win.
A bitter pill to swallow, for certain...after a tough time with an even tougher foe, and playing with less than a full deck on hand.
Post Game Notes
Going into the game, Brady was tied for first in the NFL with 24 official "dropped" passes (the receivers had two more Sunday)...the two teams surpassed their total points scored from Game One (13-10 Patriots win September 12th in Foxboro) before the midway point in the second quarter Sunday...rookie DT Chris Jones picked up his first of two sacks on Smith late in the 2nd quarter, setting up a Jets punt. He finished with 10 total tackles (5 unassisted) and the two sacks...Allen's interception of Brady in the 3rd quarter was just the second of the season for the Jets' defense, and the first time in more than two years (since September 25, 2011) that Brady threw a pick-six...Gronkowski finished with eight catches for 114 yards, his 10th career 100-yard game (a team record for TE's)...the Jets defense entered the game ranked 2nd in the NFL in rush yards allowed per game, giving up just 75.7 on the ground. The Patriots ran for 90 on the day...the Jets rushed for 177 against the Pats defense...the NE offense also failed to convert on its first eight 3rd down attempts in the game, not gaining a first down on a 3rd down play until midway through the 4th quarter...New York had almost a 2-to-1 advantage in time of possession (37:25-22:35 in regulation) for the game...the loss snaps a 12-game NE winning streak against AFC East teams, and a 5-game winning streak against the Jets...the penalty called against Jones in overtime was the result of a new rule placement (a teammate cannot push another teammate into an opponents' formation) by the NFL this season, as a safety measure...Brady finished the game 22-46 for 228 yards, with no TD's and the one INT - the 3rd time he's been below 50% in completion percentage this year. That's a career high...Brady was also sacked four more times by the NYJ defense, the 3rd straight game with four or more sacks (13 total in three games) allowed by the offensive line...