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Take Two-sday: Hill's drop opens door to victory

Posted Oct 23, 2012

The Jets had a chance to put the Patriots away in regulation, but a missed opportunity allowed Tom Brady and Rob Ninkovich to make the big plays to win in the end.

The Patriots and Jets each made a ton of plays in Sunday evening's overtime battle for first place in the AFC East. Both teams also let a number of opportunities to make big play slip through their hands.

One of those failures from New York – a ball literally slipping through the hands of rookie receiver Stephen Hill – opened the door just a bit for New England's offensive and defensive units to finally finish the game on both sides of the ball.

The Patriots were clinging to a 23-20 lead late in the fourth quarter, with Zoltan Mesko having just booted a 53-yard punt to put the Jets in possession at their 35 with 4:19 to play. New York got moving with a quick 21-yard completion to Dustin Keller, followed by a pair of Joe McKnight runs totaling 18 yards.

After a 1-yard run, the Jets then faced a third-and4 from the Patriots 25. Sanchez lined up in the shotgun with three receivers to his right, one to his left and one back in the backfield. Hill was the outside receiver on the right, with Keller in the middle and Jeremy Kerley on the inside. At the snap Kerley ran a quick out, Keller fought through a bump from a pair of Patriots defenders at the line and Hill got a free release down the field.

The rookie receiver then ran a quick turnaround route to the inside at about the 14-yard line, in a hole in the Patriots coverage. Devin McCourty was about 5 yards behind Hill, while Nate Ebner approached from the inside and Alfonzo Dennard was occupied by Kerley. No one was within a 5-yard radius of the intended target. Sanchez delivered a perfect throw to the wide open rookie, and he simply dropped what would have been a sure first down and maybe more.

Had Hill – who had questions about bad drops coming out of Georgia Tech that have continued to plague him through his rookie NFL season – caught the ball, New York would have had a first down at around the 10-yard line with just more than two minutes to play in the game. The visitors could either have gone on to score a touchdown and take the 27-23 lead, or taken more time off the clock before kicking the tying field goal.

Had they taken the four-point lead, and considering Devin McCourty's fumble on the eventual ensuing kickoff, the game very well could have been over.

Had they milked the clock before the field goal, and considering McCourty's fumble on the eventual ensuing kickoff, the Patriots would have had far less time to attempt to tie the game following the Jets second field goal in 29 seconds.

"I think he was trying to make a big play and so many times when that happens you've got to catch that ball first, then worry about making the run after the catch," Jets coach Rex Ryan said of the Hill drop. "It looked like he had a lot of room afterwards. It's just unfortunate that you had to do the first thing. You have to do Point 'A' before you get to Point 'B.'"

"It was just a catch I should have caught, other than that, that is it," Hill said.

That was it, because the drop opened the door – over a crazy final few minutes of regulation and overtime – for Tom Brady to get his job done on offense and for Rob Ninkivich to make the decisive strip sack and fumble recovery on defense.

The Patriots have been criticized for a failure to finish in recent weeks, but this time around they were the beneficiary of another team's similar failing.

With so many plays and circumstances being broken down at the end of the Patriots important win to take over first place in the division, not too much time seems to have been spent on Hill's horrific drop. That played changed how the rest of the game would be played out.

And it's just the type of play – or in the this case failed play – that Take Two-sday is all about!

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