The New England Patriots outplayed the New York Jets in the first half, jumping out to a 16-10 lead. In the third quarter, that lead was extended to 23-13. But then the Patriot offense stalled and the defense continued to sacrifice yards to the Jet offense. Leaving themselves in a situation where the offense simply had to work the ball up the field to run down the clock and ice it with a score.
But the offense would never get the chance, as McCourty fumbled the kickoff giving Sanchez and the Jets a short field and easy score. With the Patriots able to tie it back up before time ran out in the fourth. Devin McCourty should get the zero of the game award this week, but his teammates rose to the occasion to save this game.
Overtime would tell the tale of a game that never should have gone that far. It has been a confusing year for Patriot nation. One week Tom Brady is on fire, the next he plays like a mere mortal. His receivers can't decide if they want to catch what is thrown to them; and the running game is still not being utilized effectively. We don't expect 300 yards on the ground every week, but for two weeks it has been anemic and none of the backs have run for 100 yards.
Several players could be selected as hero of the week for the Pats, starting with Brady, who led the team on its final, OT, scoring drive; or I could give it to Steven Gostkowski for nailing that winning kick of 48 yards. Gronkowski led the team in receiving with a paltry 78 yards, but again, dropped passes marred the passing game overall.
But I am going to go with the obvious choice, Rob Ninkovich. He has been one of the key players in an otherwise questionable defensive showing all year, and dating back to last season as well. His sack, fumble, recovery (for the second time this year) to end the game is why he is the player of the game and maybe of the year in my book. He does come up big in crucial situations.
And guess what... the man he sacked in OT is my zero of the game. Not only did Sanchez fail on that play, the most important of the day, he failed at other times, most notably when backed up to his own goal line. In fact, the two points he surrendered in the second quarter on a fumble/safety were the only points for the Patriots in that quarter and may just have been the difference in this game. Credit Vince Wilfork for blowing up the play despite a stranglehold by the left guard and it is no wonder that the running back never got the ball. And despite throwing for 328 yards, he only had 1 touchdown versus 1 interception, which occurred deep in the red zone.
I'm still not happy with much of Josh McDaniels play calling, so he is always runner up for the zero designation in my book regardless of the outcome on the scoreboard. The lack of production is not all his fault, as noted above, so I say that because he seems to be over-thinking and not allowing the top offense in the league to finish out games.
Players still have to execute, and it was the defense, amazingly enough, that sealed this one for the Patriots at the end.