It was a battle in the snow as the Patriots and Jets closed out their 2023 seasons, with New York pulling away late en route to a 17-3 victory. The Jets win broke a 15-game win streak by the Patriots over their rivals in green and capped off a disappointing 4-13 campaign by New England.
Both offenses struggled to move the ball for the vast majority of the day, but the Jets, led by running back Breece Hall (174 rushing yards), made just a handful more that were the difference. A late turnover by Bailey Zappe sealed New England's fate and eliminated any comeback hopes.
Here's how the last game of the season went down.
1. Jets Break Defensive First Quarter
The start of the game unfolded as you might expect from two of the lowest-rated offenses in football playing in a snowstorm. The two teams combined for five-straight three-and-outs before a poor punt by Bryce Baringer set the Jets up inside New England territory at their 38-yard line. New York would lean on the ground game to move the ball, picking up the first first downs of the game, converting two short-yardage third downs before stalling out inside the Patriots five-yard line. New York would settle for a field goal to open the scoring late in the first quarter, taking a 3-0 lead.
Breece Hall's 11-yard gain on third-and-five was the key play of the drive, as the Jets took advantage of a Patriots timeout to get Hall back in the game to pick up the conversion. Still, New England's defense held firm inside the red zone, thanks to a nice pass defense by Jabrill Peppers, who returned to the lineup for the finale after battling a hamstring injury that cost him the Buffalo game. Peppers continues to stand out in an otherwise forgettable season, showing leadership and resilience by getting back to play a Week 18 game with no implications in the snow.
2. Big Passing Plays Open More Scoring
It took until well into the second quarter before New England picked up their first first down of the game, but the Pats made the most of it, as Bailey Zappe hit Jalen Reagor for a big 33-yard gain on third-and-three to put them inside Jets territory. Reagor made an impressive catch in the snow, tracking the ball and coming down with it despite a fair amount of defensive contact. Unfortunately, his celebratory spike after the play was flagged and cost the Patriots five yards. However, the Patriots picked up another first down on back-to-back rushes by Ezekiel Elliott that got them within makeable field goal range.
A final third-down pass fell incomplete as Mike Gesicki could not maintain possession of the ball as he fell to the ground in the end zone for a would-be touchdown. The Patriots were forced to settle for a 30-yard field goal to tie the game.
The Jets would follow a similar script on their ensuing drive, with Trevor Siemian hitting Garrett Wilson up the sideline for a 29-yard gain, a big play that would lead to a second score. The Jets also had some rising success with their ground game, including back-to-back 12-yard gains by Hall, but once again the Patriots defense stiffened when they had to and held New York to a 40-yard field goal that gave the Jets back a three-point lead at 6-3.
Jets kicker Greg Zuerlein would add a miss from 40 yards out to end the first half while New England would cap off the second quarter with just 69 yards of offense.
3. Puntfest Continues into Second Half
As conditions worsened in the second half, so did both team's offensive outputs with them combining for six total punts and just three first downs between them. There was no scoring in the third quarter as a layer of snow covered the field and continued to fall into the fourth, making for tough sledding for everyone.
The Patriots continued to trail 6-3, unable to find any consistency on the ground, despite some plus runs by Elliott. The passing game continued to be grounded, with Zappe completing just eight of his first 21 passing attempts. The Jets had slightly more success, but still not enough to build on their three-point lead.
4. Patriots Go For It, Jets Stop It & Seal It
The Patriots came up against a fourth-and-one from their own 45-yard line and decided to go for it, staying aggressive after a nice 17-yard reverse to Jalen Reagor provided their first offensive spark since the first half. In the first matchup against the Jets, the Pats caught them with a passing play to Pharaoh Brown and tried to run a similar play-action play, but this time New York wasn't fooled and defended the pass, forcing the turnover on downs.
New York took over just past midfield and made the most of the positive field position, stringing together a third scoring drive while traveling 30 yards in eight plays to set up a 32-yard field goal that made it 9-3 with just over eight minutes remaining in the game. An 11-yard Breece Hall run around the edge was the biggest play of the drive, as New England's red zone defense held strong for a third time.
The Patriots defense would pitch a fourth-down stop late in the fourth quarter to give their offense one last chance at a game-winning touchdown. It looked like the chance would come to an early end when Ashtyn Davis picked off Zappe for the game's first turnover. But during the return, Davis attempted a lateral, fumbled and watched New England recover the ball for continued new life.
But it was all for not, as two plays later Zappe would throw a second interception that sealed the loss for New England. The Jets would close out the win with a final 50-yard touchdown run by Breece Hall.
5. Patriots finish the season 4-13
While the conditions played a major role in slowing down both offenses to a near standstill, it still didn't feel like that much of a departure from what we saw from the Patriots in 2023: a stagnant offense and a defense that couldn't get a win despite allowing a manageable amount of points. It was a frustrating loss that encapsulated a frustrating season and one that broke New England's 15-game win streak over the Jets, one of the final vestiges from the Patriots two decades of dominance.
Now, New England awaits the rest of the last day's results to determine where they'll end up picking in this spring's upcoming draft. The final loss, the first to the Jets since 2015, sets the stage for a spring where significant change is to be expected after a jarring 4-13 season.
The Patriots 2024 offseason begins now.