It was a rainy night in Foxboro Town. It was almost a history-making night in Jets Nation. But in the end it was another hard-fought, tough-to-take Jets loss to the Patriots, our fifth straight in the rivalry.
QB Geno Smith and the offense fought valiantly but struggled when it counted with turnovers and dropped passes. And a gritty defensive effort held Tom Brady and company in check most of the night, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Patriots from holding on for a 13-10 triumph.
"I think we came into it and had a great plan," Smith said. "We knew their defense plays well as they always do and it seems like every week I'm standing here saying if I don't turn the ball over, we win games, and ultimately that's what it comes down to. In this league, no matter the yards you get, no matter the time of possession, it's about the turnover battle and I cost us the game."
Ryan agreed to a degree.
"I don't know how many drops, but the young man had his moments today," the coach said. "And obviously we wish we had a few back."
The frustration spilled over after CB Aqib Talib's second interception of the fourth quarter locked things up with 38 seconds on the clock. Nick Mangold received a personal foul for hitting Talib out of bounds, and Willie Colon and D'Brickashaw Ferguson were both ejected during the melee that ensued.
The Jets were fighting mightily to post the first road victory after falling behind by 10 points in this 54-year-old original AFL rivalry. They also were fighting to move ahead of New England in the AFC East standings for only the sixth week in the last five seasons.
Instead it is the Patriots in their customary first-place perch in the division at 2-0 with the Jets a game down at 1-1.
We outgained New England by 86 yards (318-232), the largest yardage margin in the series since 2002. They held the Patriots to 54 rushing yards, the second-lowest total since 2001. Brady completed less than 50% of his passes for only the second time in 24 starts against the Jets. The last time he had six three-and-out series in any NFL game before tonight was in the Super Bowl win over Philadelphia at the end of the 2004 season.
Fine statistics. But the Pats won another numbers battle they often prevail in: takeaways. We were minus-4 in this game, four giveaways, no takeaways.
"Hey, man, that's an outstanding football team," an obviously frustrated Ryan said. "Turn the ball over four times against the Patriots, there's no way you're going to win that."
In fact, two gaffes enabled them to open a 10-0 lead just 5:43 into the game. A blown coverage enabled rookie WR Aaron Dobson to sneak out uncovered not only for his first pro reception but for his first pro TD, a 39-yard catch-and-run.
Then Stephen Hill had a nifty 33-yard reception down the middle — until Talib kicked the ball loose from Hill's grasp and Devin McCourty returned the fumble 44 yards to the Jets 8. The defense held and Stephen Gostkowski hit from 21 yards out for the 10-point edge.
But the offense responded with a 61-yard drive that they almost concluded with a Smith-to-Clyde Gates TD hookup (reversed by the booth into an incompletion) but instead were forced to settle for a Folk 37-yard field goal to make it 10-3.
Brady was 6-for-15 passing before hitting another rookie WR Kenbrell Thompkins, for 38 yards seemingly against another coverage mistake. That set up Gostkowski's second field goal, from 30 yards for a 13-3 edge.
But a Brady "touchdown" pass to Thompkins was reversed to an incompletion. Then Gostkowski came on for what normally is a piece-of-cake 43-yard field goal try to end the half, but he mis-hit the kick short and the door was open for a Jets rebound.
Raining on Patriots' Parade
The rain began to pour at the end of halftime ceremonies honoring Pats LB Tedy Bruschi and broadcaster Gil Santos, then tapered to light but steady the rest of the game. But that at first didn't put a damper on Smith, who drove the offense 58 yards on nine plays to Bilal Powell's 3-yard burst up the middle, the fifth TD of Powell's career. Suddenly we were down by a field goal.
But 13-10 is where it stayed the rest of the night. While the Patriots were being shut out on their six second-half possessions, they were slowly but surely keeping control of the field position battle. And when Geno and the Jets did move the ball near or across midfield in the fourth quarter, the Pats came up with picks.
The first interception was a Smith throw slightly across his body for Santonio Holmes that was popped in the air by Kyle Arrington's PD into the hands of Talib at the Pats 11. The second theft was by Alfonzo Dennard jumping on a longball intended for Clyde Gates at the NE-31. The Pats took over after that pick with 4:23 to go.
Then Ryan Allen punted for the sixth time in the second half and the 11th time all game and the Jets got one last chance with the ball — at their 29 with 56 seconds left on the clock and no timeouts left in the bank.
Smith threw one incompletion, then his third INT of the game, an underthrown ball for Stephen Hill snapped up by Talib.
"I thought it was a good tackle and apparently it was not," Mangold said, "and it started a little ruckus. Obviously it's an intense game and an intense rivalry and tempers flare."