— As 11 point underdogs the Jets met the Pats at a sloppy Gillette Stadium on Sunday where rookie head coach Eric Mangini gave a beating to his mentor Bill Bellichick, as Gang Green topped New England 17-14. It was the first time the Pats have lost consecutive games since 2002.
“I was so proud of the way that our guys fought,” Mangini said of his team. “I was just really pleased with the complete team effort.”
The Patriots opened the scoring with a 31-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter. The field goal capped off a nine play, 77-yard drive that was highlighted by a 50-yard run by Corey Dillon, his longest as a Patriot. For much of the drive, the Patriots game seemed running game looked unstoppable. The Dillon run was followed by runs of 10 yards and six yards by rookie Laurence Maroney. The Jets defense buckled down on second and 1 from the four-yard line as defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson chased down Maroney for a one-yard loss and then defensive lineman Kimo von Oelhoffen sacked quarterback Tom Brady as he was swallowed up by a Jets front that had collapsed the pocket.
After the two sides exchanged turnovers, the Jets fired back with a 16-play drive of their own. The drive appeared to be over when Gang Green was stopped on third down at the 22-yard line, leaving them with fourth and inches. The field goal unit started out onto the field but quickly returned to the sideline as head coach Eric Mangini decided to go for it on fourth down. Quarterback Chad Pennington called his own number and got the first down with a three yard sneak. Running back Kevan Barlow then pounded away at the New England defense and ultimately found pay dirt with a two-yard touchdown run to give the Jets a 7-3 lead with just under five minutes left in the first half.
“The guys did a great job of blocking,” Barlow said of his supporting cast. “They made my job easier for me.”
It appeared the Jets had snatched the momentum and were ready to open up a bigger half time lead as rookie Drew Coleman intercepted a pass. However, the play was called back on a questionable roughing the passer call against Jets linebacker Victor Hobson, who had clearly hit Brady before he released the ball. The Patriots seized on the opportunity as they drove down for a 21-yard field goal to cut the deficit to one at halftime.
“They said I hit him too hard,” Hobson joked after the game. “Nah, they said I drove him into the ground. I don’t know.”
After a 34-yard field goal by kicker Mike Nugent gave the Jets a 10-6 lead, the Patriots were driving until it was their turn to be hurt by a big penalty. Brady completed a long pass to wide receiver Reche Caldwell inside the Jets 20 only to have the play called back because of an illegal formation penalty when the Patriots had too many men on the line of scrimmage. The drive ultimately stalled out after two consecutive sacks by defensive end Bryan Thomas and Robertson left the Patriots with fourth and 23 on the Jets 44-yard line.
The Jets sealed the deal with a phenomenal touchdown reception by Jerricho Cotchery in front of cornerback Ellis Hobbs after safety Erik Coleman had intercepted Brady at the 35 yard line. The 22-yard touchdown pass made the score 17-6.
The Patriots made it close though, as they fired back with a touchdown pass of their own within 30 seconds to trim the lead back to three. The Jets sustained a small drive that ended with a punt that gave the Patriots the ball at the 12-yard line with 1:08 left in the game. Mangini did not hide the fact that he was concerned.
“He’s Tom Brady,” Mangini said of the Pats quarterback. “You just never know.”
While the coach was glowing and clearly satisfied with the win, he did not want to overstate the significance of the victory other than to say it was a road win against a divisional opponent and that now the Jets were moving on to next week’s game with Chicago. Still Hobson seemed to think it was a pretty big deal.
“If you want to get to the top, you have to beat the teams at the top,” the linebacker said of the Jets victory over the first place Patriots.
The Jets now find themselves just a game behind New England in the division.
-Pennington was called on to punt for the first time in his NFL career. On fourth and five from the Patriots 33-yard line, the Jets ran a pooch punt with Pennington out of the shotgun. The ball went 29 yards and was downed at the four-yard line.
-Wide receiver Laveranues Coles had a rough day as he only caught five passes for just 29 yards. Barlow was there to pick up the slack, though, having his biggest day as a Jet thus far. He ended up with 75 yards on 17 carries to lead the way for the Jets running game.
-This is the first time the Patriots have lost back-to-back games since 2002. The win also snapped a seven-game losing streak against New England for the Jets.
-Belichick blew off Mangini after their post-game handshake for the second time this season. Mangini declined to comment on the situation.
The Jets return to Hempstead tonight and Head Coach Eric Mangini will address the media tomorrow at 2:30. Be sure to check back to JI for all the details!