The Jets playoff hopes are still alive and well, largely thanks to an unconventional decision by the Patriots at the start of overtime.
Bill Belichick elected to have his team kick off after winning the overtime coin toss, and the Jets (10-5) took advantage of the opportunity immediately, driving down the field 80 yards for the game-winning touchdown to cap a 26-20 win over the Patriots (12-3).
Ryan Fitzpatrick found receiver Eric Decker in the back corner of the end zone for the six-yard touchdown strike just 2:37 into the overtime frame, finishing off a strong overall day for the quarterback. The Harvard product threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns, including a pair to his favorite target, Brandon Marshall, in the Jets’ fifth straight win.
Tom Brady (231 passing yards, one touchdown) was without a number of receiving weapons (Damon Amendola, Julian Edelman) due to injury, which limited the effectiveness of a Patriots’ offense that managed to muster only 13 points and 284 yards of total offense on the afternoon.
Despite their offensive woes, the visitors made an admirable comeback in the second half, rallying to tie the game after facing a 14-point deficit. Jamie Collins returned a fumble by Fitzpatrick for a touchdown in the third quarter, and Brady led a 66-yard drive in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter to tie the game up at 20.
Third Down Woes Plague Pats
The Patriots played without their top two receivers, preventing them from sustaining drives all afternoon. The visitors converted just one of their 10 third downs, setting the table for an offense that scored on just three drives in the loss. Rob Gronkowski (four catches, team-high 86 yards) did manage to come up big on the team’s game-tying drive with a pair of clutch fourth down conversions, but the lack of early game production helped put New England into a hole of which it couldn't dig out.
Secondary has no answers for Marshall, Jets receivers
One week after allowing 113 yards to a big receiver in Dorial Green-Beckham, the Patriots’ secondary ran into trouble yet again with a big target in Brandon Marshall. The 6-foot-4 veteran finished with a game-high eight receptions for 115 yards and a pair of touchdowns against a back line that was without safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty.
Questionable choices by Belichick prove costly
Belichick’s controversial decision to kick the ball to the Jets at the start of overtime will get the headlines from this defeat, but it wasn’t the only debatable choice by the Patriots head coach. Despite trailing by seven points at the end of the second quarter, New England elected to play conservatively and run out the clock in the final two minutes before halftime, instead of running their usual two-minute offense. Belichick’s lack of trust in his offense may have been prompted by Brady's weaker-than- usual supporting cast, but it’s still worth debating whether or not more conventional choices would have given the Patriots a better chance to escape with the victory.