EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – A rule’s a rule.
Bill Belichick may not like it. The fans may not have known it existed. But for Rex Ryan and the New York Jets, a controversial call may have just saved their season.
Winless in their last five games against New England, the Jets managed to claw their way into a 30-27 overtime victory at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, thanks in part to a bounce-back game from rookie Geno Smith, a timely pick-6 and a new NFL rule regarding field goals.
Rule 188.8.131.52, to be exact.
It’s a rule, brand new to the NFL in 2013, that states: “Players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation” and it came into effect on the game’s deciding play.
After failing to convert on a crucial overtime third down at the New England 38-yard line, the Jets elected to send Nick Folk out for a would-be game winning, 58-yard field goal.
“We had ‘Folk Hero’ and we thought maybe we could pop one on them,” said Ryan after the game.
Instead, it went wide left, setting up Tom Brady with a second chance and a short field, needing only a field goal to cap off the victory.
Then the flags flew.
The call on the field was unsportsmanlike conduct, a 15-yard penalty, on Patriot’s defensive tackle Chris Jones for pushing his teammate into the formation. The Jets retained possession, ran the ball three more times and Folk kicked a much more manageable 42-yarder for the win.
Belichick was irate on the sideline, fans in the stadium were on their feet and the press box was abuzz with people saying, “What in the world just happened?”
“We have probably talked about it before,” said Jones. “It slipped my mind at the time. Now I know it. I just have to keep that in mind during the up coming games so I don’t make that mistake again.”
The real kicker (pun intended) is that this was the first case ever of the rule actually being enforced.
“We’ll take it,” said Ryan, head coach of the now second place, 4-3, New York Jets, a team that many people wrote off as one of the worst in the league before the season started.
“We don’t care how people look at us as long as the fans know that this team right here is going to compete every single day,” said Ryan. “We’re certainly much better than what people thought. I guess that’s not hard to be, we were picked 32nd, I think. But I think we’re better than that.”
Geno Smith went 17 for 33 for 233 passing yards, 32 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown.
The rookie’s only mistake came on a forced pass to David Nelson in the first quarter that resulted in a 79-yard pick-6 by Logan Ryan.
“I think this one means a little bit more to us,” said Smith. “You could just get that feeling in the locker room and around the community. Everyone knows about this rivalry.”
Running back Chris Ivory was a work horse grinding out 104 yards on the ground and Jeremy Kerley was money on third down, going for 97-yards and a touchdown pass. David Nelson added four catches for 80 yards.
Antonio Allen played great in coverage against star tight end Rob Gronkowski, deflecting two passes and returning an interception for a touchdown early in the second half.
“We knew we needed a turnover,” said Allen. “We were trying to get one … We knew we had to force a turnover in order to win the game.”
The Jets travel to Cincinnati next week to face the 5-2 Bengals, starting a stretch that also includes the New Orleans Saints and division rival Bills and could very well ignite or extinguish New York’s playoff hopes.
“It’s a big push. That is a division team,” said Kerley of the Patriots. “We definitely want to get up in the division but a win like that against an opponent like that is a big motivation and hopefully a drive for the next some odd games.”