When it comes to penalties, the New York Jets are right up there with the best – or in this case, worst – of them.
But on Sunday, it was their opposition, the Patriots, who were hit with a flag at the worst possible time. The penalty wound up costing New England the game, a 30-27 defeat at MetLife Stadium.
As Jets kicker Nick Folk missed a 56-yard field goal attempt in OT that would have given the Patriots great field goal position, the whistle blew. Patriots defensive lineman Chris Jones was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct after pushing his own player from behind, in hopes to surge through the offensive line. That gave the Jets ball, great field position, another field goal try, and the win.
While the talk of the game will undoubtedly be about the call, there were plenty of other intriguing sub-plots Sunday in New Jersey. Here are three of them:
Rob Gronkowski made his long-awaited return to the field for the Patriots. There was plenty to like in his 2013 debut, as he hauled in eight balls for 114 yards. Gronk, who sported a large brace on his left arm, wasn’t an every-snap player in his first game back, but did play in more than half of the team’s offensive snaps. He also was Brady’s favorite target on Sunday, as he was thrown to a whopping 17 times. But it was a drop late in the fourth quarter, on what would have been a great one-handed catch, that he’ll lose sleep over.
The banged up defense
There were plenty of questions surrounding the Patriots defense heading into Sunday, with Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, and Aqib Talib all out. The answers are mixed. For one, Dont’a Hightower didn’t have a great game. He looked behind in coverage, and was one of the players responsible for allowing a Geno Smith rushing touchdown in the third quarter. Jets receiver Jeremy Kerley (eight rec., 114 yards, TD) took advantage of a banged up secondary, and RB Chris Ivory rushed for 104 yards.
Momentum-shifting third quarter
The Patriots went into the third quarter with a 21-10 lead and the ball. A scoring drive may have been just enough to put this one out of reach, but instead, Brady made the ultimate mistake – a pick six. With that, the Jets cut it to 21-17, and would score 10 more points in the quarter to take the lead. The Patriots offense was abysmal in the third quarter, racking up three drives of negative yardage, literally going backwards up until they got the ball with 1:25 left in the quarter. By then, though, the Jets had already taken the momentum and the lead.