When it came down to crunch time, the Patriots' defense snuffed the Jets and QB Zach Wilson and the late fourth-quarter stop turned a low-scoring slugfest on its head.
When it came time for one big play to determine the game, it was New England that managed to get it -- an 84-yard punt return by New England rookie returner Marcus Jones for the game's only touchdown with 5 seconds left in regulation on Sunday at cold and blustery Gillette Stadium -- late November football in the Northeast..
Patriots 10, Jets 3.
Instead of vaulting into first place in the red-hot AFC East, the Jets (6-4) find themselves looking up at the first-place Dolphins (7-3), the Bills (7-3), and behind the Pats (6-4) on a tiebreaker. But there are seven games to play.
Wilson played a clean game, but the Jets offense was unable to solve the Patriots' defense, especially in the second half when the Jets had 2 first downs and were 1-of-8 on third downs. In four quarters, the Jets were limited to 6 first downs, 103 yards and converted 3-of-14 on third downs.
The Jets' final drive of the game began with a first-and-10 from the 20 with 1:52 left in the fourth quarter, needing approximately 50 yards for Greg Zuerlein to attempt a field goal in the swirling gusts.
Facing a third-and-1 at the 34 with 32 seconds to play, Wilson completed a checkdown pass in the right flat to Michael Carter, but he could not pick up the first down and was brought down behind the line of scrimmage. New England called time out with 26 seconds left.
"We called the play for the guy in the boundary," Wilson said. "They gave us the coverage where I couldn't work the play that we called -- I was trying to work it -- I was trying to get the ball to Conk [TE Tyler Conklin]. Pretty much they double teamed him. So, I just tried to go across the board and just trying to try to find an outlet for somebody to make a play."
Braden Mann punted for the 10th time and Jones made sure there was no overtime.
The Jets' rushing attack, which has been one of the team's strengths through nine games this season, produced 59 yards on the ground -- 26 by a scrambling Wilson, all in the first half. Going to the air in the blustery conditions was a challenge, with Wilson 9 of 22 for 77 yards, no TDs and no INTs.
"We were unable to move the chains," Wilson said. "They were doing a good job making it hard to see easy ones in the pass game and we couldn't establish the run game very well. I had some I want back."
He added: "I think you got to put into account it's windy as hell out there. There's times where you can't just completely try and take the shots down the field, and you can see how much it's [the ball] moving out there. We're trying to establish the run game, same with what the Patriots. They're not going out there and chucking 30-40-yard throws down the field either. We got to find a way -- I got to find a way to make the easy ones on the sideline and try and let my guys get on the outside and run. It really just comes down to execution."
Saleh said he expected the offense to hold the ball for the remainder of regulation and go to overtime if need be.
"If we tried to run [on third-and-1] they stuff you," Saleh said. "In our mind, we had 30 seconds on clock and I wanted to be aggressive, maybe get a chunk play and get in field-goal range. I wanted to finish the game with the ball. In a perfect situation, we get a field goal and win it.
"It didn't work out that way. Make one mistake and you're done."