The Patriots and Jets battled through a low-scoring divisional game as both defenses controlled the majority of the game and points were at a premium. New England was finally able to break through in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter with the game appearing to be headed for overtime. Rookie Marcus Jones took an 84-yard punt return to the end zone to hand New England a thrilling 10-3 win.
New England's defense was the story of the game prior to the game-winning special teams play, holding the Jets to just over 100 total yards of offense to go with their three points. The Patriots offense had its share of mistakes but none critical enough to change the course of a game that was tied at three late into the fourth quarter.
With three-straight wins now under their belt and a solidified spot in the playoff race, the Patriots will look to add another victory in just a few short days against the Vikings on Thanksgiving.
Here are the key takeaways from the win!
Slow starts follow offense out of the bye week
The Patriots gave up a seven-yard sack on their very first play from scrimmage, as the offense had trouble knocking the rust off from the bye week with two three-and-outs to start the contest. Damien Harris would rip off a 22-yard run on their third possession to spark things, with Jakobi Meyers chipping in with an 11-yard catch-and-run to pick up another first down and move the Pats into Jets territory for the first time.
The offense would hit the skids again in the red zone on the same drive, settling for a 24-yard Nick Folk field goal to take the early lead. Despite the scoring drive, there was plenty to overcome... an illegal formation penalty and a self-inflicted fumble and recovery by Jonnu Smith on what might've been an end-around touchdown play standing out as two examples. The Patriots flashed some positive plays in this game, among their best of the season, but often those good plays were followed by undercutting mistakes.
All in all the start looked clunky and familiar though they'd start to find a bit of a stride in the second quarter, with Mac converting passes of 13 yards to Jakobi Meyers and 26 yards off play action to Jonnu Smith. They'd still need an impossible Stevenson checkdown run where he broke at least three tackles to get a conversion on 3rd-and-16. A terrible three-play stretch would follow with a holding penalty then a sack to set up a 44-yard field goal miss by Nick Folk.
The offense produced just three points in the first half, going 0-for-2 in the red zone.
Andrews, Wynn exit
The offense received a boost in this game with the return of veteran captain David Andrews at center, but Andrews appeared to sustain a significant thigh injury on the third drive of the game. Andrews needed help as he limped off the field, with James Ferentz taking over in the middle of the offensive line.
The team struggled to move the ball and protect the quarterback over the two games that Andrews missed previously with a concussion and losing him for another extended period would be worrisome.
Isaiah Wynn, who started back at left tackle for the first time this season, joined Andrews on the sideline with a foot injury, opening the door for Trent Brown to return to his usual spot there. Brown was a surprise nonstarter in this one, with rumors of a potential sickness being mentioned before the game started. Yodny Cajuste went wire-to-wire at right tackle, picking up a holding penalty along the way late on a third-down scramble play near the Jets end zone.
Both Andrews and Wynn were later ruled out of the game. With a short week coming up and limited offensive line depth, the health of Andrews and Wynn will be something to monitor in the next couple days.
Defense keeps the clampdown
With the offense sputtering to a slow start the defense made sure the Jets weren't able to build any kind of a lead before the Patriots found some offensive rhythm, forcing early punts on New York's first two possessions. The Pats D consistently got to third downs early in the game and the Jets had trouble converting. A big 34-yard pass down the sideline to Denzel Mims on a 3rd-and-7 helped set up the Jets first field goal of the game, but otherwise New England's defense picked up where they've consistently left off against Wilson.
The defense showed no let-up in the second half, forcing five-straight three-and-out punts to maintain the tie game. Matthew Judon picked up another sack-and-a-half while the defensive front held the Jets' ground game in check. Zach Wilson was unable to decipher the coverage behind them as the Pats D refused to let the Jets take control of the game.
It was an excellent effort but the margin of difficulty for the Patriots defense is about to increase exponentially in the coming week and a half.
Folk's misses complicate things
Nick Folk has been one of the most reliable kickers in the history of the NFL during his time with the Patriots but he missed two field goals on Sunday, both coming at the open end of the Gillette Stadium under gusty wind conditions. Add in new holder Michael Palardy and there were some new issues that might've affected Folk but in a defensive struggle, the misses were costly, keeping the score tied at three in the third quarter when New England might've hoped for a 9-3 lead.
Back and forth, then breakthrough in closing seconds
The offense continued their fits and starts in the second half. After the defense forced a quick three-and-out at the start of the third quarter, the offense responded with their third-straight drive into Jets territory, sparked by an impressive 30-yard cutback run by Damien Harris. But a sack and then a holding penalty backed them up 17 yards and again Folk missed a field goal attempt, his second of the game.
The Patriots would again cross midfield on their next possession but were forced into a fourth-down attempt that the Jets snuffed out short, taking over at their own 36-yard line, among their best starting field position of the day. It wouldn't matter though as the defense forced another punt with Matthew Judon picking up his second sack of the contest.
The teams continued to trade punts through the second half. The Jets got the last chance in regulation, with 1:52 left they took over with a chance to take the game, but once again the Pats D forced another critical punt with under :30 seconds left.
That set the stage for the game-winning play...
Marcus Jones ends it
No touchdowns were scored until the final seconds of the game, with Marcus Jones taking an 84-yard punt return to the house to give the Patriots a shocking walk-off 10-3 win. The rookie was drafted for his superlative punt return ability and this game made it all worth it. In a contest many were calling a must-win, and one that looked like it was headed to overtime, the Patriots special teams and Jones made the play of the game.
Patriots are now 6-4
With the win, the Patriots extend their win streak to three games and move to 6-4 on the season. The defense again showed that they are able to shut down bad NFL offenses and they completely contained the Jets for the entirety of the contest. Offensively the Patriots had more positive plays than they've recently had, as the offense looked more in rhythm despite losing two starting offensive linemen in the first half.
But the mistakes continue to linger and the offense isn't able to overcome their volume. Penalties and negative plays seemed to consistently strike as soon as the Pats got close to the red zone. Putting an end to those mistakes should open more opportunities for touchdowns because otherwise there were some glimmers of offensive life in this game.
Now the Patriots will have a three-day turnaround before facing the Minnesota Vikings on Thanksgiving evening.