The New York Jets couldn't overcome a number of critical mistakes today as they suffered a home-opening 19-10 loss to the New England Patriots. Without QB Tom Brady, the Pats improved to 2-0 and won their eighth consecutive game over the Green & White at the Meadowlands while the Jets moved to 1-1.
The Jets committed the game's only turnover, they were penalized six times for 60 yards and they couldn't cash in on a number of first-half scoring opportunities.
Momentum was up in the air and DB Brandon Meriweather got his hands on it for the Patriots. Only one play after a dandy Favre completion had the crowd on its feet, he threw his first interception with his new team as Meriweather neatly stepped in front of TE Chris Baker for the game's first and only takeaway.
"I just underthrew him," Favre said of Bake. "I saw the guy. Maybe I got a little bit greedy and could have dumped it in the flat."
Six snaps later, RB Sammy Morris leaped into the end zone from a yard out and the Patriots grasped command at 13-3. Then before you blinked, the Jets went three-and-out, Kevin Faulk was returning a short line-drive punt for 24 yards and the Pats were in business at the Jets' 39. Stephen Gostkowski's third field goal, a 27-yarder, made it 16-3 heading into the final quarter.
"They're a tough team and they're a tough team when they have good field position," said Jets head coach Eric Mangini. "With any team, it becomes that much harder when you're dealing with a short field."
When the Jets traded for Favre, they acquired one of football's great improvisers. He displayed his brilliance on a 28-yard connection to Chansi Stuckey, converting a third-and-22. But Meriweather changed the complexion of this one and the Jets never recovered.
Favre and the Jets would continue the fight, though, as his 2-yard scoring pass to Stuckey ended a nice drive and cut the Jets' fourth-quarter deficit to 16-10. Favre was perfect on the 80-yard possession, completing all six of his passes for 51 yards.
"Stuckey is one of those guys who seems to be around the ball," said the Jets' signalcaller. "He's a small guy, but he's in and out of tight spaces pretty quick."
But the defense, which racked up three sacks of Matt Cassel, Brady's backup and now the starter, couldn't hold the Patriots down when they needed to get off the field. New England answered the Jets' only touchdown like a champion, bleeding five minutes off the clock and padding onto the late lead with Gostkowski's fourth and final field goal.
"They kept on moving the ball on us," said CB Darrelle Revis. "We tried to stop them with a couple things and they were able to get that yardage."
Former Jet LaMont Jordan was successful running the ball, getting a large chunk of his 62 yards in the second half.
In the opening half, only nine points were scored between the AFC East rivals. New England went into the break with a marginal 6-3 advantage but New York's AFC representative had the yardage edge, 158-120, and probably should have been ahead.
It had been quiet start, literally and figuratively, to the 2008 season for Jets wideout Laveranues Coles. But he made an emphatic second-quarter roar that got the crowd going. Down, 6-0, Favre danced left and then let go of a rope across the field to Coles and the veteran target made a nice stab and went to work down the right sideline for 54 yards.
That Coles explosion set up Jay Feely for a 21-yard field goal and cut the visitors' advantage in half at 6-3. The Jets actually had first-and-goal from the 3, but they couldn't punch it on three Thomas Jones rush attempts. The Pats showed their mettle inside defensively as the Jets O-line, which otherwise had a solid half, couldn't get a good push.
"As an offensive lineman, we want to be able to punch it in in that situation," said RT Damien Woody, a former Patriot. "We didn't do that. You have to give them credit for making plays in that situation, but I still feel good about our unit."
The Jets surrendered points on the Patriots' first two possessions, but the Green & White remained in striking distance because the defense didn't break and relinquished just a pair of Gostkowski field goals.
Cassel looked nothing like a first-time starter in the first quarter, completing six of seven passes for 74 yards. Veteran Wes Welker was the career backup's favorite target, hauling in four of those tosses for 57 yards. The Jets held tight inside their 10, though, forcing a 21-yard Gostkowski field goal, and New England carried its 3-0 advantage into Quarter 2.
"He played a hell of a game," said LB Eric Barton of Cassel, who finished 16-of-23 for 165 yards. "Everyone knows he's a capable quarterback and he made the plays out there. He didn't turn the ball over and he led his team to victory."
With a revved-up crowd behind them, the Jets won the coin toss and took the ball. Then they calmly marched down the field, deploying several substitution packages, using a good run/pass combo and getting effective play out of both Leon Washington and Jones. But after the drive halted down at the Pats' 13, Feely, filling in for banged-up regular Mike Nugent, misfired to the right on a 31-yard field goal attempt.
"We had some opportunities to make some plays, but in the end they stepped up and made those plays," said wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery who was held to just one reception.
It was that kind of day for the Jets. Things don't promise to get any easier next week as a Monday night date with the Chargers awaits the Green & White in San Diego. The 0-2 Chargers will be a desperate squad after starting out with a two-point loss to Carolina and a one-point defeat at Denver today.
"They just hang in there," Favre said of the Pats. "We should see as a team that there's a lot of room for improvement, but we're not far off. When we turn that corner, I have no idea."
The Jets held star receiver Randy Moss to two catches for 22 yards. On a number of occasions, Revis was left alone with the gifted playmaker.
"Randy Moss is a great receiver," Revis said. "The game plan was we had to focus on him and then Welker. Those are their two opposite threats."
The Pressure Continues
The Jets now have seven sacks on the season. Bryan Thomas, an OLB who led the team with eight tackles, topped his sack total of a year ago with his third. NT Kris Jenkins picked up his first of the season and corner David Barrett shared a Cassel takedown with Calvin Pace for Barrett's first sack in nine NFL seasons.
Keller Catches On
Rookie TE Dustin Keller, a Purdue product who was the 30th overall selection in the April draft, collected his first career reception — a 19-yarder to convert a third down — in the fourth quarter.