The New York Jets hosted the New England Patriots on Sunday at Met Life Stadium that had playoff implications for both teams: Jets needing a win to keep their playoffs hopes alive and the Patriots playing to secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
By Paul Newbold
These two teams have a storied history of playing each other tight, and this match up is highly anticipated each year by both fan bases. This year’s game was even more highly touted as it represented the first time these to teams played a game with playoff contentions since 2011.
Jet fans were fired up for this contest, and Met Life Stadium was filled to the rafters with screaming Jet fans. There was talk among the fan base earlier this year that Met Life Stadium wasn’t loud enough to affect a legitimate home field advantage for the team, but that wasn’t the case on Sunday. The fan base came out in full force and they were on their feet even before the teams were introduced.
This game was huge for the team and it wasn’t lost on the loyal Jet fans in attendance. Jet fans know the game of football, and know their team well. They were up for this game and they let their team know it.
Fortunately for the team, Todd Bowles and Chan Gailey had their football team ready to go from the very start. The two teams are divisional rivals and know each other well, and the importance of this game wasn’t lost on either unit, as they both showed up to play. Make no mistake, these two teams don’t like one another and when they meet, it is often a fierce battle. Sunday was no exception as the competition thrilled those fans in attendance.
The contest started with both teams exchanging punts on their first drives. The Jet offense then came alive and mounted a thirteen play, seventy nine yard drive that culminated in a thirty yard field goal by Randy Bullock to put the Jets on the scoreboard. The Jets offense has often started slow, but on Sunday they proved they can come out early and score points. The drive put the Jets up 3-0 early, and they proved to be the only points of the first quarter.
The Patriots were a banged up football team coming into this game. Injuries to wide receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman kept them out for this game and it showed, as the Patriots took until the second quarter to mount a drive and put points on the board. Tom Brady mounted a twelve play, sixty nine yard drive that stalled in Jet territory. Steven Grostkowski put the Patriots on the board and tied the game at three all.
Not to be out done, Ryan Fitzpatrick then orchestrated a phenomenal thirteen play, eighty yard drive that culminated in a two yard touch down reception to Brandon Marshall. Two former Patriots, in the form of Kenbrell Thompkins and Stevan Ridley made key plays on the drive. Bilal Powell also made major contributions on the drive and it was apparent that Chan Gailey had a game plan in place to win this football game.
The Patriots were a shell of themselves on Sunday. Beyond the injuries to Amendola and Edelman on the offensive side of the ball, they were also without Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung in their secondary. The injuries weren’t missed by the Jet coaching staff and they took advantage. The Jets went into half time with a 10-3 lead in what for them, was a dominant first half of football.
The second half opened with the Patriots in possession of the ball and driving. Tom Brady was moving the ball down the field efficiently, covering forty yards on four plays. Fortunately for the Jets, on the next play while trying to get a deep pass to Rob Gronkowski, Brady was picked off on a spectacular play by Darrelle Revis.
The interception was the first turnover of the game and the Jets wasted little time. Ryan Fitzpatrick took the field and ran with the momentum, once again mounting a drive against the Patriot defense. This time it was good for sixty one yards, in just six plays. The drive culminated with Brandon Marshall finding the end zone on a thirty three yard strike from Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The drive was basically all Brandon Marshall, as the Patriots showed they had no one left to cover the big powerful wide receiver. On the drive Marshall caught passes for 19,11, and 33 yards. With no corner able to cover him effectively, Brandon Marshall had a huge day, putting up eight receptions that went for one hundred fifteen yards and two touchdowns. The Patriots secondary was abysmal, and Marshall made them pay.
The Patriots were down 17-3 before coming to life in the third quarter. It was apparent that the loss of Amendola, and Edelman, seriously affected the Patriots offense, but the crowd noise coming from the home town contingent didn’t help matters either. The Jets had the Patriots on their heels, but they weren’t out of this game quite yet.
Tom Brady responded to the Jet touchdown with an eight play, fifty four yard drive. The drive saw the Patriots gain big chunks of yardage on passes to Brandon Bolden (11 yards), Keyshawn Martin (24 yards) and Brandon LaFell (19 yards). The Patriots drive stalled when rookie outside linebacker Lorenzo Maudlin streaked through the Patriots offensive line to sack Tom Brady for a five yard loss. Grostkowski came on and hit a forty four yard field goal to bring the score to 17-6 in favor of the Jets.
On the ensuing drive by the Jets, the Patriots defense helped their team get back in the game. After completing a pass to Chris Ivory that went for minus five yards, and hitting a hot handed Bilal Powell for ten yards, the Patriot defense stripped Ryan Fitzpatrick of the football. Jamie Collins scooped up the loose football after Brian Winter failed to cleanly recover for the Jets. Collins took the ball fourteen yards into the end zone to put his team back into the thick of things. The strip was set up on a missed block by Jet offensive lineman Breno Giacommini, who has struggled mightily in pass protections this year.
With the Jets leading 17-13 late in the third quarter, Ryan Fitzpatrick again rallied his troops and took them on a nine play, forty nine yard drive. The drive saw Ryan Fitzpatrick spreading the ball around as he hit, Quincy Enunwa for twenty one yards, and Brandon Marshall for eighteen yards while handing off to his running backs. The Jets mixed in the run rather well all day and Ridley broke one to the left side of the Patriots defense that was good for thirteen and Bilal Powell added four yards to his day on the drive as well. The drive stalled however and Randy Bullock came on to hit a clutch forty nine yard field goal to give the Jets a seven point lead.
The score saw had the Jets on top 20-13 early in the fourth quarter and Jet fans in attendance once again let the Patriots hear them. Met Life Stadium rocked on it’s pillars all day long, but with Jet fans smelling victory, the place exploded on Bullock’s field goal.
The Patriots wouldn’t be held down though as Tom Brady took the field with a chance to tie things up late in the fourth quarter. As expected, Brady was clutch, leading his team on an eleven play, eighty yard drive that culminated in a nine yard pass from Brady to Stephen White for the tying score. The drive was extended twice on fourth downs by Rob Gronkowski. On fourth and one the big bodied tight end caught an eight yard pass for the first down. Then later in the drive, with time running out on the Patriots hopes, Gronkowski once again managed to find a soft spot in the Jet secondary. It was fourth and nine, and with everyone in the stadium knowing where the ball was going to go, Gronkowski and Brady hooked up for a 26 yard pass play. The catch set up the Patriots for the ensuing touch down pass to White.
To end regulation, the Jets took the ball in an attempt to win the game, but the drive stalled and the Jets were forced to punt. The following possession for the Pats saw Tom Brady take a knee to send the game into overtime.
There has been a lot of questions concerning what happened next in this game. At the coin toss to start over time, the Patriots won the toss and decided to deffer to the Jets and play defense. Coach Belichick has taken this approach before with his football team, but on Sunday it proved to be the wrong decision. The Jets got the ball and wasted no time in driving the length of the field against a tired Patriot defense.
Fitzpatrick went three for three on the drive, hitting Quincy Enunwa for a 48 yard pass play that had Enunwa breaking tackles as he rumbled towards the goal line. Brandon Marshall added another catch to his day that went for twenty yards and Chris Ivory added six yards on the ground on two carries. In the end it was Eric Decker in the back of the end zone for the game winner.
That was the game. The Jets beat their divisional rivals, extracted revenge for the Patriots earlier victory and most importantly, they put themselves in a position to control their own destiny into the playoffs. A Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss to the Baltimore Ravens opened the door for the Jets to get into the post season by simply winning their final game against the Buffalo Bills next weekend.
This victory represented much more for the Jets however. They proved they could play a winning team tight and bring home a victory. Up to the Patriots game on Sunday, the Jets hadn’t beaten anyone with a winning record all season, and many analysts wondered if they could. The Jets stepped up and proved they have what it takes. The Jets extended their win streak to five games Sunday, and they appear to be getting hot at just the right time of the season. With a win over the Bills next weekend, the Jets will enter the playoffs, and do it on a roll.
Brandon Marshall set the all time Jet record for receptions in a season with ninety four catches on the year, topping Al Toon’s mark of ninety three. In addition to Marshall setting a Jet record, his one hundred fifteen yards allowed him to set a personal best for yardage in a single season as well. Marshall has now hit the one hundred yard mark in six games this season for the Jets and he’s not done yet. Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall also put themselves in the NFL record books as well on Sunday.
Marshall and Decker now have both scored at least one touch down a piece in eight separate games this year. That mark bettered the mark set by Randy Moss and Cris Carter of the Minnesota Vikings back in 1998.
This game wasn’t all about the Jets star players pulling out a victory over the New England Patriots however. In this game it wasn’t about Brandon Marshall’s eight catches for one hundred fifteen yards, or even Eric Decker’s game winning touch down. This game was about the Jets coming of age as a football team.
Bilal Powell had a huge game for the Jets, since coming back from a high ankle sprain that lingered through much of the season, Powell has provided a big spark to the Jet offense and he’s quickly becoming a major weapon in Chan Gailey’s spread offense. For the day on Sunday, Powell electrified the fans with five receptions that were good for thirty seven yards. Powell got open consistently in this game and showed a good grasp of the assignments set out for him by Chan Gailey. He’s become a key weapon on third downs, and his solid hands are making him a favorite check down receiver for Ryan Fitzpatrick. With Ivory being banged up in this game Powell was handed the ball seven times and he led the Jets in rushing on the day with fifty three yards. For the day, Powell contributed ninety yards of total offense to the Jets efforts.
Stevan Ridley and Kenbrell Thompkins are both former Patriot players, and they came up big against the Patriots on Sunday. Ridley, who has been underused by the Jets after coming off an inured reserve assignment to start the season, saw his most action yet as a Jet on Sunday. Ridley contributed some nice runs to the outside on Sunday, as he posted thirty six yards of offense on seven carries for the day. Ridley filled in nicely for a banged up Chris Ivory who managed thirty eight yards on eleven carries for the day. The Jets have to be happy that Ridley is starting to catch on after a quiet season.
Kenbrell Thompkins is proving to be a real steal for the Jets in recent weeks. Kenbrell had a slow start after the Jets signed him on October fifth to their practice squad and after being activated on October twentieth to the regular roster. Kenbrell is growing up in Chan Gailey’s system however and he’s provided some key catches for the Jets in the past two weeks. This week for the Jets, Kenbrell caught four Ryan Fitzpatrick passes for 27 yards, and his long twelve yard grab was good for a Jet first down to extend a drive. Kenbrell is slowly developing into another weapon for the Jet offense and could become a key component to any Jet playoff run this season.
Another player for the Jets that is showing his growth is Lorenzo Maudlin. The rookie was drafted by Mike Maccagnan in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft this year, and he’s making the adjustment to the pros quite well in his inaugural season. Maudlin has gotten into the mix more often after the release of Quinton Coples earlier in the season, and he’s taking advantage of his opportunity. The Jets have sorely needed a speed rusher off the edge, and Maudlin is well on his way to develop into exactly that. Maudlin has posted four sacks for the Jets this season, and as he gets more playing time, you can see what he can bring to the Jet front seven. On Sunday Maudlin came through for a big sack when the Jets needed it most, and was around Tom Brady all day. Maudlin is stepping up at just the right time for the Jets, and may become a huge factor for the Jets if they can make the playoffs.
Quincy Enunwa is yet another of the Jet youth that is coming on at just the right time. Enunwa was primarily a blocking receiver in college, but his game has developed into much more then that. Chan Gailey has brought this young man along slowly, first converting him from wide receiver to a blocking tight end role, and then adding pass catching assignments to his duties as the season progressed. Enunwa still needs to work on his hands, as he has dropped some easy catches this year. He dropped a deep ball from Ryan Fitzpatrick late in the fourth quarter on Sunday, but quickly made up for it on a forty eight yard rumble through the Patriots secondary in over time. Enunwa is now playing a hybrid tight end role for the Jets and his two catches on Sunday were good for sixty nine yards. Enunwa is proving himself to be a hidden gem from the John Idzik era, after he missed his entire rookie season due to injury in 2014. Enunwa and Jace Amaro may wind up as the Jet tight ends of the future, and with Amaro missing this season, Enunwa has been invaluable in so many ways. Chan Gailey has a penchant for versatile players, and its obvious the big wide receiver has found favor with his coach.
The Jet youth has developed nicely under Todd Bowles and his staff this season, and the Jets are beginning to benefit at the right time in the season. The pieces are coming together and Jet fans everywhere are excited to be witnessing their team grow up.
It was just a single victory in the win/loss department for many, but for the Jet team and its fans, this game sent a message. The message clearly was that “The Jets Have Come Of Age This Season”.