(Long Island, N.Y.) Heading into last Sunday’s matchup at Foxboro, the Jets and Patriots both had a share of the top spot in the AFC East. As a matter of fact, all four teams residing in the division had identical 3-3 records. So a casual observer may have felt that they were on equal ground.
That assumption gained even more credence as the Jets mounted a fourth quarter comeback and even took a slim three-point lead with less than two minutes remaining in the contest. But those are the times when the serious contenders seal the deal, and unfortunately for the Jets, they were not able to do so.
“I just went through the entire game and when you look back on it, we definitely had opportunities to win that game.a play here, a play there,” Jets head coach Rex Ryan said, stating the obvious. “Obviously, it doesn’t matter. Once you lose, that’s the end result.”
Three weeks ago, the Jets were shut out at home versus the San Francisco 49ers, so it is apparent that they have been playing better football. But they are 1-2 in those games and sooner or later, you have to beat a playoff team to be considered one yourself. The Jets have beaten the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts, not exactly a trifecta to wear as a badge of honor.
It is the little things that can change an entire season, such as a key late game drop. But rookie Stephen Hill can’t be the sole culprit because that entire drive (the Jets’ go-ahead field goal) was ultra-conservative. Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano played it safe and only took the narrowest of leads instead of trying for a touchdown and forcing the Pats to go the length of the field.
“We knew we needed the first down,” Ryan said. “We were trying to get a first down. It wasn’t like we were just trying to burn their timeouts. To their credit, they made some plays.”
The issue is that the Jets made it easy for New England with runs up the middle and the aforementioned drop, as well as giving up an ill-advised sack to make the field goal attempt more of a challenge. For a short period of time, it seemed as if the Jets would somehow find a way to win. Short time, indeed.
Did it ever seem as if Tom Brady – armed with one time out – wouldn’t get the Patriots in field goal range executing the two-minute drill? He didn’t even need to stop the clock until they were already in a comfort zone for the game-tying kick. And it only seemed appropriate that the momentum pendulum didn’t swing back as New England won the overtime coin toss and proceeded to march right down the field to kick another field goal.
The game wasn’t officially decided until the Jets were unable to do anything with the ball, but a Patriot victory was merely a matter of time much earlier. There’s no such thing as a team being snake bitten or unlucky and that is a loser’s cop-out. The Jets did not win this game because they were not the better team – that day and many other days.