The Jets had high hopes of doing damage in the final game of the season on New Year's Eve, two days after head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan signed contract extensions. A sixth win would mark improvement over 2016, while a loss by New England would possibly damage the Patriots' plans for homefield advantage through the playoffs. Beating the Pats is always sweet, and on the road even sweeter.
That season-ending win was not in the cards. The Patriots moved methodically on three first-half touchdown drives while the Jets offense continued to its late-season struggles, especially on third down. The result was a 26-6 loss at Gillette Stadium this afternoon that ended the Jets' season at 5-11 and advanced the Patriots to 13-3 and on to that No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Here are nine chronological takeaways from today's final game of the 2017 season in the icebox conditions (15 degrees, minus-4 wind chill) at Gillette:
1. Pats Start Fast
New England won the opening toss and, in a changeup, chose to receive the opening kickoff. Then the Patriots proceeded to move 75 yards on 13 plays to Dion Lewis' 3-yard touchdown run. Brady was 6-of-7 for 50 yards on the opening foray with WR Danny Amendola grabbing four for 43 yards. Five-and-a-half minutes in, the Pats led, 7-0. Then the Patriots moved across midfield again on their second series, but this time two incompletions and LB David Bass' third-down sack of Brady forced a punt. It was the Jets' first sack of Brady this year, their first sack in three games, and Bass improved to 3.5 sacks for the year.
2. Jets Answer
Petty and the Jets offense ran three times on their first drive. On Drive 2 they opened with three long plays — Petty-to-Kearse for 24 yards, Bilal Powell for 22 yards around an open left end, and Petty-to-Neal Sterling for 15 yards. Then the "O" bogged down so Chandler Catanzaro was called to kick a semi-frozen pigskin 48 yards. He did and it was 7-3. And Catman improved to 9-for-9 in road field goal tries in attempting to equal Nick Lowery ('94) as only Jets kickers to go perfect in road FGAs in a season.
3. Cat's First Road Miss
The Jets got a chunk of yardage on their third series when Petty threaded the needle with his nicest pass this season to Sterling for 35 yards, plus 15 more for DL Malcom Brown's low hit on Petty after the throw to put the ball at the NE-36. A few more plays and Catanzaro came on for a 40-yarder. But the 20-mph wind, plus Lachlan Edwards' shaky hold, forced Cat's kick wide left. His quest for road perfection was over and the Pats' lead held at 7-3.
4. Cooks Heats Up
The Jets defense came up big on drives 2-4 but their DBs were having some yellow-flag issues: Buster Skrine and Juston Burris were caught for holds. Then on a longball from Brady to Brandin Cooks, S Marcus Maye caught Cooks' arm as he tried to catch up and was nailed for a 39-yard interference call, the longest against the Jets since Doug Middleton's 47-yard interference call against Malcolm Mitchell at New England a year ago. That set up the Patriots for a Brady-to-Cooks 5-yard dart and a 14-3 edge
5. Second-Quarter Curse
The Patriots' second quarter has been a 15-minute plot where many opponents' hopes went to get buried this year. They had outscored opponents 165-98 in the first 15 games, with the 168 points the most scored by any NFL team in any quarter this season. And with another patented two-minute drive, plus another defensive holding on Burris on third down, the hosts moved 58 yards on nine plays to Brady's flick to Lewis ahead of Demario Davis' coverage for a 5-yard score, a 14-0 margin in the period, and a 21-3 lead at the half. The Jets trailed by 18 points or more in 56 games in their history and hadn't won one. They would need a historic effort on the road in the final 30 minutes of their season to produce the win they wanted against the Patriots.
Top Photos from the Regular Season Finale at Gillette Stadium
6. Special ... Not Special
Special teams coordinator Brant Boyer's units came into this game having committed 10 penalties, second-fewest in the NFL. Opponents, meanwhile, had 23 ST penalties marked off against them, and they had two on the same punt return early in the second half, which gave them their worst starting field position of the game at their 9. After a 3-and-out, the Jets had their best starting FP at their 40. But Petty & Co. also went 3-and-out and punted back.
Then the Pats went 3-and-out again. As did the Jets. A golden third-quarter field position opportunity went for naught.
7. Lewis Shall Lead Them
And the home team finally got started again with Lewis carrying six times for 36 yards as the Patriots moved inside the Jets 5. But the Jets held, with Brady missing Cooks just wide in the end zone, so on came Stephen Gostkowski for his first field goal try, from 21 yards out. It was good as Gostkowski improved his career accuracy vs. the Green & White to 47-of-54 and the Pats opened a 24-3 lead.
8. Offensive Strike
After Robby Anderson went to the locker room following CB Stephon Gilmore's personal foul for hitting a defenseless receiver, Petty continued his longest drive of the game by finding a WR for a big gain, and this one was rookie ArDarius Stewart, whose 46-yard reception was his longest catch of the season. That got the visitors to the NE-35 and they got into the red zone at the 17 but the third-down bug bit them again as Petty's incompletion made them 0-for-10 for the game. Catanzaro's 35-yard field goal sliced the lead to 24-6 with 10:28 left.
9. A Safety on Top
The Jets suffered one more reversal when New England special teams whiz Matthew Slater downing a second consecutive punt at the Jets 4, then three plays later Petty was sacked on third down in his own end zone by LB Eric Lee to make the score 26-6 with 6:04 to go. Then the Patriots' Ryan Allen punted and for the third straight drive the Jets started inside their 5.
Petty got a little momentum going, failed to convert another third down as the Jets went to 0-for-12 for the game (their first third-down oh-fer since 0-for-8 in 1996 vs. the Eagles), but then converted the fourth down with a 12-yarder to Sterling. But it was too little too late as the Jets fought but fell to the Patriots.