New York Jets over New England Patriots, 34-31 (OT)
For much of this game both offenses pretty much moved the ball at will against the opposing team’s defense (third quarter excepted). The key difference in the game was superior special teams play on kickoff returns by the Jets, poor red zone offense by the Patriots, and three miscues on offense by the Patriots in the third quarter that cost them scoring opportunities. Even though the Patriots got down 24-6 late in the first half, they didn’t lay down and made a real game of it. But in the end, the Patriots, as they did against the Colts, lost a game they could have, and should have won. It is very unusual to see the Patriots beat themselves. For Patriots fans used to better, it’s also disheartening.
The first half of the game was a disaster defensively for the Patriots. The Jets scored on every single drive they started: two touchdowns, a field goal, and a kickoff return for a touchdown. Meanwhile the Patriots were in the red zone twice and traded field goals for touchdowns with the Jets until a nice last minute drive to close the half with a touchdown to close the gap 24-13. Matt Cassel seems to have a lot of trouble in the red zone, and in fact has the lowest percentage in the NFL for red zone touchdown passes. He threw a terrible pass to Randy Moss in the end zone that forced us to settle for three instead of six. Cassel had a decent first half but he was often inaccurate with his throws toward the sideline.
The third quarter was one of the most frustrating quarters of football I have watched. The Patriots defense finally stepped up and stopped the Jets and the offense was moving the ball well. But miscues by the Patriots offense turned a quarter that could have been a sterling come back into an embarrassing and uncharacteristic series of mistakes. First, during a nice drive Ben Watson fumbled the ball and he wasn’t even hit! Missed scoring opportunity. On the next drive Dan Koppen snaps the ball in shotgun formation when Cassel wasn’t ready resulting in a 23 yard loss and eventual punt. Missed scoring opportunity. Then, on another nice drive, on third and short, Jabbar Gaffney (maybe he should shorten his name to just GAFF), drops a nicely thrown pass that would have resulted in a first down. Missed scoring opportunity. There are a lot of reasons the Jets won the game, but those three plays really cost us a good chance to pull out a win. We finally scored a touchdown late in the third quarter and a two point conversion turned it into a 24-21 Jets lead. Game on!
The fourth quarter reverted back to pretty much what the first half looked like. The Patriots were able to tie the game at 24-24, but lousy kickoff coverage on a short kick gave the Jets good field position and the defense once again let the Jets march down the field on a long scoring drive that ate up the clock and left us in a 31-24 hole. And what do we do on our possession? End up taking a sack and having to the punt the ball. But miracles of miracles we stopped the Jets and Matt Cassel lead a desperation drive with no timeouts with less than two minutes to go which resulted in an amazing touchdown catch by Randy Moss. After the extra point the game was tied 31-31. OVERTIME.
I knew going into overtime that whoever won the coin toss would win the game barring a turnover. So it was a 50-50 chance. Too bad. The Jets got the toss, ran the ball down our throats, and won on a short field goal. A friend and fellow Patriots fanatic who I was watching the game with suggested we should go for a two point conversion at the end of the game to win it instead of taking the 50-50 chance on the coin toss (we both agreed whoever won the coin toss would win the game). Given the results and the way our offense was playing, I wonder. I wouldn’t have gone for the two-point conversion but what do you think:
Other Observations about the Game
Jets Fans: My “friends” – and I’ll use that term loosely this week – who happen to be Jets fans, were unusually obnoxious leading up to this game. I guess because it has been a long time since they have had something to cheer for. I dread to hear their gloating this week and their praise of Eric “Traitor” Manweenie and Brett Farve, who has made a joke out of his career with the Packers with his actions this year.
Holding Penalty on Mike Vrabel on Jets Last Touchdown Drive: On third and short for the Jets in the fourth quarter the Patriots appeared to stop the Jets and force them to settle for a short field goal. Instead they got first and goal from point blank range. I am not suggesting bad officiating costs us the game, well maybe I am. I saw the replay several times and that was an egregiously horrible call that all but gave the Jets a touchdown instead of a field goal. That could have been the deciding factor in the game. I saw the replay several times and if that was defensive holding then the NFL should just fold and disband all the teams because you would have to call holding on almost every single short passing play. I am sick of seeing refs make such stupid bad calls in critical situations.
Matt Cassel: Matt Cassel has demonstratively improved as the season has progressed and played an excellent ball game for the most part. He did struggle with accuracy at times, especially on sideline passes. And his deep balls were way off target and that really takes away from our advantages on offense with Randy Moss in the mix. He clearly has an NFL caliber arm as his deep balls are mostly overthrown not underthrown. It’s the timing and accuracy that are off. His red zone passes are also a bit problematic and an area the team needs to improve on. Cassel still has a way to go in these areas, but overall I am very impressed with his improvement over the year. He showed a great deal of leadership in the second half and his last touchdown drive was, well, Brady like.
Game Plan: This game, unlike the Colts game, isn’t on Belichick or his coaching staff. They abandoned the running game when they got behind and had a game plan that allowed us to move the ball up and down on the field with ease for much of the game. It was the aforementioned mistakes by players that nixed us in this game.
Defense: If our defense could play like they did in the third quarter all the time we would really have something going. But for the most part they were just eaten up by the Jets offense. I don’t know if it is injuries, our weak defensive backfield, or something else, but we have to do better than we did against the Jets! Jerrod Mayo, our rookie linebacker out of Tennessee was phenomenal. I read an article that said he was overrated. That is laughable. This guy may turn out to be a dominant defense player barring injury.
Special Teams Play: Our kickoff coverage was horrible all game long and constantly gave the Jets good field position and handed them one touchdown. This late in the season I just don’t understand that. That was the one key area were we clearly lost this game. Thus I give you the MVP of the game.
MVP: Leon Washington, KR/RB, New York Jets
ONE MORE NOTE: LAST NIGHT WAS TROY BROWN NIGHT, ONE OF THE ALL TIME GREAT PATRIOTS. You can read my tribute to Troy Brown here: