Six Million Ways and One Ways to Lose
“Six million ways to die, so I choose/ made it six million and one with your eyes closed.” (c) Reggie Noble
There’s six million ways to lose a football game and yesterday it seemed as Jets relied on almost all six million of those ways to lose to the Patriots.
Allowing a kickoff return for touchdown, terrible passes, terrible drops, head scratching play calls, soft coverage when it mattered most, putting Demario Davis on Welker coverage for two big plays in overtime, Gronkowski and Hernandez being Gronkowski and Hernandez, botched handoff turned into a safety, poor blocking at the most inopportune times, Sanchez returning to claim the crown of check-down king, pumping the breaks on being aggressive and being too cautious and yet not only did this game go into overtime, the Jets should have won it in regulation.
The Jets did a lot to ensure that they would lose, but it’s not like they were alone. The Patriots were doing all they could to lose and fail to close their fourth game of the season, but the Jets weren’t having it. The Patriots failed to close again, but then the Jets failed to close themselves and made it easier for the Patriots to shut the door on yesterday’s game for good.
With 12:42 left in regulation the Patriots held a 23-13 lead before allowed the Jets to drive 91 yards in 6:58 to trim the Patriots lead to three. On the next possession Brandon Lloyd got called for pushing off Kyle Wilson setting the Patriots up with first-and-20. On the next play Brady threw a pass that was every bit as bad as Sanchez’s underthrown interception earlier in the game, but Antonio Cromartie dropped the easy pick that would’ve given the Jets the ball on the Patriots 45. Still after that the Patriots were forced to punt after a three-and-out giving the Jets the ball back down only three with 4:19 left and the ball on the Jets 35.
After driving 40 yards down field the Jets were in position to keep the clock running and put the game away with a touchdown and on third-and-four Sanchez delivered a perfect strike to a wide open Stephen Hill on the Patriots 14 yard line, but Hill took his eyes off the ball to scan the field for defenders, who were all outside of a five yard radius from him, and Hill dropped the easy catch forcing the Jets to settle for field goal and the tie. But the Patriots weren’t done trying to lose the game as Devin McCourty fumbled the kickoff return after Lex Hilliard made a great play to pop the ball out and Antonio Allen pounced on the loose ball.
Tie ball game, 2:01 left in regulation, Jets ball, first down on the Patriots 18 and it seemed like the Jets were going to escape with a mistake riddled, but hard fought victory. But after being so aggressive last week the Jets got conservative in New England and nothing will get you beat faster in the NFL than taking your foot of the pedal.
With just over two minutes and the ball at the 18 Rex Ryan shouldn’t have been as concerned about milking the clock as much as he should have made sure he picked up just one first down. The Patriots had all three timeouts, running the ball and not getting a first down does zero good. No first down means too much time for Brady.
The Patriots loaded up, ready for the run and that’s the perfect time to draw up a play-action to move the chains, a touchdown wasn’t necessary just a first down to force the Patriots to use the timeouts and still milk the clock and on the first play of the drive the clock was going to stop automatically after the play because of the two minute warning, so why not attempt a pass play? Or why not on second down? Again without a first down milking the clock was pointless. Instead the Jets ran it twice and were forced to throw on third and the Patriots knew it, Sanchez rolled out but no one was open and pressure was flying at him so he smartly took the sack. It looked bad to take the sack, but with a defender with his arms up in his face and no one open Sanchez made the right play by not forcing a mistake, problem was the play never had a chance.
We know hindsight is 20/20 and all that, but it was obvious the Patriots were playing run for the first two downs and pass on the third, hindsight isn’t needed to know that. Maybe a pass play wouldn’t have worked, maybe a mistake would’ve been made costing the Jets the game earlier than overtime, but you have to play to win, not play not to lose.
So the Jets went conservative and the Patriots were ready for it all, Jets settled for the field goal and three point lead but they left Brady with 1:37 and a timeout, only taking 24 seconds of the clock. Just one first down and the Jets could have most likely sealed the game, but they played it safe and got burnt.
Conservative on offense led to conservative on defense as the Jets went into soft coverage and made it too easy for Brady. Brady has made a career out of late game tying/winning drives, but this one looked like child’s play for him. Gronkowski middle for 15 into tight coverage, wide open Gronkowski underneath for 12 and Woodhead underneath with Antonio Allen over playing him inside as Woodhead cut outside and scampered for 20 easy yards to set up the tying field goal.
Overtime was much of the same, the Patriots were able to drive down and kick a field goal in 12 plays, but it was only three plays that made the difference. Twice Demario Davis ended up with one-on-one coverage on Wes Welker and as soon as everyone at home noticed the mismatch they had to know Brady did as well. On the first play Welker was stacked behind Lloyd, Cromartie had coverage on Lloyd and Davis had Welker in the slot. No possible way Davis can cover Welker one-on-one and Welker hit a quick simple slant route and took it for 13, the next one again Davis had Welker in the slot and Welker ran a short three yard out, caught the ball and quickly beat Davis around the edge for 12 to the Jets 34. In between those plays there was a critical pass interference call on Wilson, on third-and-eight Brady tried to hit Hernandez on the sidelines but the throw was too far outside and not far enough downfield, yet Wilson grabbed Hernandez’s arms making it the right call by the refs but a silly and unnecessary penalty that gave the Patriots a new set of downs instead of giving the ball back to the Jets.
It was all right there for the taking, but the Jets just couldn’t clutch on to the win. They overcame the early kickoff return for a touchdown, the botched handoff turned into a safety and the terrible interception from Sanchez with the Jets in field goal range, they persevered through all that just to pump the bakes and hand the game back to the Patriots.
It was another hard loss for this fan base to swallow, sure there were positives to take from the game; Kerley once again proved he is becoming an extremely reliable receiver who will command the attention of opposing defenses, Lex Hilliard continues to be a revelation at fullback, Keller’s return has helped the offense immensely maybe most of all with his blocking, McKnight looked like a dangerous running back, Quinton Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson continue to make strides, the Jets offense actually outscored the Patriots offense 23-17 (Patriots got two points on the safety and seven from the kickoff return, Jets got three points back from the fumbled kickoff) and out gained the Patriots 403-381, but none of that matters when it all equals up to a loss.
Jets fans have seen there beloved franchise lose six million different ways, maybe soon they’ll choose six million and one and watch it with their eyes closed.