Nothing is ever easy for the New York Jets when the New England Patriots are involved. And their prime-time Thursday night contest followed tradition in the most dramatic fashion.
Fortunately for New York, the end result played out in their favor this time around as they defeated the Patriots on hostile ground, 34-31 in overtime.
At first, the game looked like it had the potential to get out of hand when the Jets jumped out with an 18-point lead. But intelligent fans know better than to count the Patriots out when there’s time left on the clock.
And New England proved that when Matt Cassel hit Randy Moss with one-second left for the touchdown to cap off their game-tying drive.
The Jets’ collapse in the second-half nearly culminated in the biggest catastrophe imaginable on a national stage. But a coin flipping in Kerry Rhodes’ favor placed the ball in Brett Favre’s hands to orchestrate the most important game-winning drive in his career with the Jets.
Pushed to the Limit by Makeshift Patriots
Most Patriots’ fans have their excuses prepared. They will discredit the Jets’ victory with every fiber of their being and will seek solace in some obscure fact that has no real bearing on the outcome.
When New England wins with players usually designated to backup roles, it’s a testament to Bill Belichick’s genius, and the quality of their scouting department to find players that will adapt to their system.
It’s something Patriots’ fans have referenced with pride throughout the Belichick-era.
But when New England loses with those players, it’s luck and the other team would’ve had no chance had the real starters been playing.
Be that as it may, the New England Patriots had just as much right and desire to win this game as New York, and they nearly pulled away with it.
And it was almost done without Ty Warren, Adalius Thomas, Rodney Harrison, and of course—Tom Brady.
Should that sour the sweetness of the Jets’ victory?
This has been New England’s reputation for the last six seasons. They win with players that began the season elsewhere on the depth chart. They’ve won big games, divisions, and Super Bowls with that system.
It’s the very foundation their dynasty was built upon!
The Patriots’ reign of terror began when their starting quarterback was lost to injury and replaced with a sixth-round draft pick. It should be no surprise that Matt Cassel could step in and have a 400-yard game with three touchdowns.
Make no mistakes—the New York Jets won a football game against a great team.
The Jets and their Unlucky Third Quarters
While the victory is still a sweet one, there is one glaring consistency that needs to be addressed.
Why do the Jets struggle so much in the third quarter?
A 24-6 lead was squandered as the first-half came to a close when Cassel found Jabbar Gaffney to bring the game within reach. But when the Jets needed to strike in the third quarter, they only allowed New England to bring the game within three points with a two-point conversion.
It’s been the story for most of the season. Fans should immediately remember Arizona’s 21-point explosion in Week Four to chop down New York’s 34-0 lead.
There seems to be an inability to adjust after the half. It’s as if they assume their opponents won’t be making any adjustments of their own in the second-half. Do the Jets expect a team to not do things differently when they’re down on the scoreboard?
The Patriots stormed the field in a no-huddle offense and left the Jets looking confused. If not for a sloppy Ben Watson fumble, the Patriots would have closed the gap a lot earlier, and completely shifted the momentum in their favor.
There’s a loss of aggression in the third quarter, as the Jets look for ways to respond to their opponents’ new approach.
The ball ultimately bounced in New York’s favor against the Patriots, but they’re not always going to be so fortunate.
No Longer Stealth
Jets’ fans love to fly under the radar. They seem to be at their best when the outside world has no expectations of them.
It’s the seasons where the media chooses to predict greatness for New York that they fail. In 1999, after playing in the AFC Championship game, the Jets were expected to go on a Super Bowl run—and then Vinny Testaverde was gone for the year.
In 2005, the Jets were expected to build on an impressive playoff run where they were a missed field goal from another AFC Championship appearance—and they lost Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler for the year in the same game.
The 2007 season also had some pretty high expectations, after Eric Mangini and the rehabilitated Chad Pennington led the team to the playoffs in 2006. That didn’t work out so well, either.
Coming into the 2008 season, the only thing people knew about the Jets was how much money they spent in the offseason. No one had a real evaluation of their talent, so no one really expected much.
An inconsistent start to 2008 allowed them to fall farther into obscurity, despite never being under .500. But now, hopes of passing through to the playoffs undetected are diminishing quickly.
Winners of four consecutive games—two against division rivals with winning records—the Jets can no longer expect to catch their opponents napping.
Everyone now knows how dangerous Leon Washington is from, well, everywhere. People know he’s quick and dangerous on special-teams. But playing strong while the nation watched makes it clear how important he is to the Jets’ offense, too.
Rookie Dustin Keller is emerging as one of Favre’s favorite targets because of the mismatch he presents. Usually sure-handed with great speed, his two first-half drops in the end zone during the same drive can be credited to rookie jitters.
Even still, New England learned how much of a force he can be on third-down.
And on the negative side, teams are realizing how much of a liability rookie corner Dwight Lowery is on the field. He’s good for some clutch tackles and deflections—but quarterbacks see a target on him and know he’s going to give up a crucial play eventually.
With first place in the AFC East belonging to New York for now—and a strong possibility for a favorable playoff berth—the Jets won’t be sneaking up on anyone at all.
Clash with the Titans
Looking ahead to Nov. 23, the Jets will head to LP Field to face the currently undefeated Titans.
A win against the Titans will place the Jets in even better position to make noise in the postseason, but it won’t be easy.
Playing on hostile territory again, the Jets will need to look for ways to stop a team that doesn’t look so one-dimensional anymore.
When coaches assumed that taking away the Titans’ running game would be enough, Kerry Collins stepped up and threw for nearly 300 yards.
But after winning four-straight, confidence is at an all-time high in New York. With over a week to rest and prepare for the AFC South’s surprise leaders, the Jets will have the opportunity to continue cementing their reputation as the new team to beat in the AFC.
Note to Readers: Angel Navedo was a guest on Alan Lupiani‘s show, “Morning Sports Bite,” on Nov. 14. Check the show’s archives for discussion on the Jets-Patriots game, picks for Week 11, and all-around NFL talk!