MARK SANCHEZ AND THE NEW YORK JETS FUMBLE A WIN & DIVISIONAL LEAD WITH OVERTIME LOSS AGAINST RIVALED PATRIOTS.
FOXBOROUGH, MASS. — The New York Jets let one slip away on Sunday night.
Mark Sanchez, with his 11 career fourth quarter comebacks, nearly made it a dozen after scoring a baker’s dozen in unanswered points during the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium. Unfortunately for the Jets, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots were looking for their 35th come-from-behind victory — and found it in overtime following Stephen Gostkowski’s 48-yard field goal.
“We knew it was going to be a dog fight. It stinks being on this end of it. The guys, they kept fighting. We just fell a little short today,” Rex Ryan said in his post-game press conference.
The Jets had a chance to respond, but couldn’t answer adversity’s call. Rob Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham combined on a 15-yard sack, with Ninkovich forcing and recovering the Sanchez fumble — giving the Patriots possession and ending the game with a 29-26 victory for New England (4-3).
Following a costly fumble by defensive back and return man Devin McCourty, who had already returned a kick 104 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, the Jets nearly won it in regulation. With two minutes remaining , Lex Hilliard made the strip on McCourty while rookie Antonio Allen recovered the ball for the Jets at the New England 18-yard line. Back-to-back plays of ineffective runs followed by a 10-yard sack by Dont’a Hightower forced the Jets to settle for a field goal — and the tie at 26 apiece.
The loss sucked the life out of a Jets (3-4) team that — despite offensive deficiencies in the middle quarters — found a rhythm late against the Patriots 26th ranked passing defense.
“I thought we had the momentum [at the end of the game]. I thought early we had a great drive and then we kind of lost a little bit of the momentum. And I think we got it back at the end and had some great drives,” Tim Tebow said after the game.
Sanchez (28-of-41/348 yards/ 1 TD/ 1 INT) was able to pick a part the defense with a 14-play 92-yard drive where seven minutes elapsed in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t anything spectacular, Sanchez completed check down and slant routes at a 5-yard clip before finding Dustin Keller (7 rec/93 yards/1 TD) on a 7-yard crossing route over the middle of the end zone. He went 9-of-10 on that drive. The touchdown cut New York’s deficit to three at 23-20.
After a first half in which it appeared that New England had taken control of the game — the 104-yard kick return for touchdown and a head’s up safety play — the Jets chipped away at the lead as their defense began to settle in against a potent Patriot offense. They converted on a pair of field goals from Folk (54 and 21 yards) on either end of half time to cut the Patriot’s lead to three, 16-13.
“It was a big kick. We needed it. We go out there and make it to put pressure on them,” Folk said.
Pressure situations, however, are where Brady made his name. He answered right back with a 15-play, 83-yard drive capped by Rob Gronkowski’s second touchdown of the day. Brady benefited from a call reversal by the officials after they found tight end Aaron Hernandez’s knee and elbow were down at the 2-yard line before fumbling the ball. Had the play been upheld, the Jets would have had the ball at their own 20-yard line.
“Going down the field they made some big plays against us [on that drive]. The call was turned over, so you’ve just got to get them stopped. It’s unfortunate,” Ryan said.
Unfortunately for the Jets, they again failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities.
With the Jets driving against the Patriots questionable secondary late in the first half after completions of 22 and 38 yards to Jeremy Kerley (7 rec, 120 yards) and Keller, Sanchez missed a wide open Stephen Hill for an easy touchdown. Hill beat cornerback Kyle Arrington on a double move on the right side of the field and was wide open for what seemed like an eternity. Sanchez, finding his rookie target late, lofted up an underthrown ball that Alfonzo Denard picked off at the 2-yard line.
“It was just a catch i should have caught, other than that, that is it. [My teammates] still have faith in me and I still have faith in them,” Hill said.
Backed up deep in their own territory at the 12-yard line with 13:10 remaining in the half, a botched hand-off to Greene led to a loose ball in the end zone. With Vince Wilfork in hot pursuit of the ball and Sanchez, the Jets quarterback kicked the ball out of bounds, giving the Patriots a safety – and effectively taking out the chance of a defensive touchdown in the process.
The Jets gained 71 of their 168 first half yards on their opening drive of the game – an 11 play drive that ate up six minutes. Mixing in a healthy amount of runs against the Patriots fourth-ranked rush defense, the Jets were effective passing out of the three tight end jumbo set. Greene capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run – his fourth in two games.
Brady extended his stretch of 38-straight games with a touchdown to 39 in the first quarter after finding Gronkowski on a 17-yard score on a corner fade route. LaRon Landry, who was burned by the Patriots All-Pro tight end on that drive, had the coverage with Gronkowski making a great play on the ball.
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