The Jets had a big battle this past week with the red, white and blue elephants in the room, the losing streaks to the Patriots. But despite being reminded of them constantly from outside One Jets Drive, they were determined to continue their magical season in their annual trek up to Foxboro, MA, to play the Patriots.
The game was a strange one all the way through with wind gusts up to 40 mph affecting how each team played on offense, defense and special teams.
And it came down to one fatefully bad special teams play that did the Jets in against the Patriots once again. Braden Mann's last-minute punt was returned 84 yards by New England rookie returner Marcus Jones for the game's only touchdown with five seconds left in regulation. And the Patriots prevailed for the 14th straight time over the Jets, 10-3.
With the loss, the Jets slipped to 6-4, still very much in the thick of things for what they want to do this season. But once again they suffered a difficult one-score loss to the now 6-4 Patriots and fell from second place to fourth by a tiebreaker criterion or two behind the Patriots, who improved to 6-4.
Bitter Ending to a Breezy Day
Besides the special teams that yielded its first punt-return TD on the road since 2015, the Jets offense struggled the most. They managed 103 total yards and six first downs and Zach Wilson completed nine of 22 passes for 77 yards. He didn't turn the ball over but was sacked four times, all in the second half.
The Jets defense, meanwhile, sacked Mac Jones six more times to match their six takedowns of the Pats' second-year signal-caller three weeks ago at MetLife Stadium. New England gained 297 yards and were held to 13 first downs. But their 35:30 of possession time and increasingly better field position plus a little rookie return magic did the trick.
After a 3-3 first half, the third quarter was a contradiction. The Patriots led the Jets in total yards by 111 yards to 1 yard. But while Wilson and the Jets' rushing and passing games struggled to get anything moving, the Patriots continued to gain yards to a point, only to be stymied by the Green & White defense that had sacked Jones five times through three quarters and 11 times in the first seven quarters of the teams' two meetings this season.
And so the quarter remained scoreless (Nick Folk missed his second field goal toward Gillette Stadium's closed end zone in the period). And the teams headed into the final 15 minutes (barring overtime) tied at 3-3.
And traded some more punts. After 10 punts in the first three quarters, the two offenses split six punt series, four of them 3-and-outs.
And it came down to Wilson and the Jets taking over at their 20 with 1:52 to play and two timeouts left. All they had to do was move about 50 yards to get into Greg Zuerlein's field goal range toward the same swirling, windy end zone that coerced \ Folk into two misses. They never got that close as Braden Mann unleashed a long but low 52-yard punt that Jones fielded, started one way, then reversed course for the right sideline, and provided the gem of a play that gave turned this game in New England's favor once again.
See the best images from the Week 11 matchup between the Jets and Patriots.
Windy First Half, a TD-less Tie
The Jets began strong on defense, forcing a pair of 3-and-outs on the Patriots' first two series. The first possession featured a sack of Jones, split by Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Myers, on the game's first offensive play — the first time the Jets sacked a QB on the opponents' opening play since Jordan Jenkins took down the Bills' Tyrod Taylor in Game 9 of the 2017 season.
The second seemed to feature a reception, then forced fumble, recovery and return by Sauce Gardner ... only to have the call changed on the field to an incompletion. But at least Gardner added a pass defense to his league-leading total of 13 coming into the game.
The Jets got one first down on their first two drives, on a Wilson scramble, but had trouble gaining traction in the windy conditions of Foxboro, MA.
The Patriots struck first when they drove 74 yards to the Jets 6, lined up to go for it on fourth-and-1 on the first play of the second quarter, called a timeout, then sent out Folk, the former Jets kicker, for a 24-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
The Jets responded with a 51-yard drive to the NE-22 before stalling and on came Greg Zuerlein for a 40-yard field goal into the gusts of up to 40 mph. His kick was good ... but the Jets were flagged for delay of game. So Zuerlein did it again, from 45 yards out, played a vicious slice perfectly and converted from 45 yards out to tie the game at 3-3.
So New England moved right back 44 yards to within the rarely erring Folk's range. Except for the wind. And this time Folk, who had hit 20 of 22 tries this season and all 17 he tried against the Jets since leaving the Green & White in 2017, bounced a ball off the crossbar from 44 yards out. It was the first crossbar doink by a kicker in a Jets game since ... Folk caromed a 55-yarder off the LP Field crossbar for the Jets against the Titans in Tennessee in 2014.
Wilson got WR Elijah Moore involved with two consecutive completions, but it wasn't enough to move the Jets back into scoring range. And so the teams took a 3-3 tie into their respective Gillette locker rooms at the half. It was the 12th straight game at the Patriots that the Jets didn't lead at the half. A lot of other metrics were in the Pats' favor.
But the Jets defense held a 3-0 edge in sacks over the Patriots' D and they were set to receive the second-half kickoff when they returned for the final 30 minutes. Would that and the Jets' nearly patented second-half/fourth-quarter excellence win the windy day? That would be known in short order.