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Game 15: Not destiny's child

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             The Patriots lost control of their own playoff fate in a 30-17 loss to the Jets. At 8-7, New England must now beat Miami in the season's final week and hope that the Jets lose to the Packers in order to win the AFC East.  

A lackluster offensive performance and an inability to stop the Jets when necessary, keyed a disappointing 30-17 loss in front of a packed house Sunday night at Gillette Stadium. The Jets moved the ball when they needed to and New England never really got any type of flow offensively, either in the air or on the ground. The Jets and Patriots are now both a game back of the 9-6 Dolphins heading into the final game of the season in a hazy AFC playoff picture.

The Jets impressive special teams unit set up New York's first score of the game on a 34-yard Santana Moss return of a Ken Walter punt. The Jets took over at the New England 43-yard line for their second possession of the game. Two plays later quarterback Chad Pennington hit wide receiver Laveranues Coles for a 32-yard score. Patriots defensive back Leonard Myers, getting the start in place of the injured Otis Smith, appeared the have decent coverage on the play, but when he, Coles and Patriots safety Victor Green jumped for the ball, Coles came down with it for the score. Jets led 7-0 just over five minutes into the game.

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            The lead was short-lived though, as New England return man Kevin Faulk took the ensuing kickoff 87 yards for the score. Faulk got behind his blockers and then cut to the right sideline and outran Jets kicker John Hall to the end zone. It was Faulk's second kickoff return for a touchdown on the season, joining Raymond Clayborn (three in 1977) as the only other Patriot to have multiple kickoff returns for scores in a single season.  

After the teams traded punts, the Jets offense put together another quick scoring drive. Consecutive Pennington passes of 15, 47 and 14 yards to tight end Anthony Becht, Moss and Wayne Chrebet set up the score. Pennington found Moss in the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown and the 14-7 lead at 2:55 of the first quarter.

The Patriots final possession of the first quarter also ended in a punt as the team had just a single first down and 28 yards of total offense in the quarter. Quarterback Tom Brady struggled in the opening period completing just 1-of-6 passes for five yards and was extremely erratic on a number of throws.

After the teams traded punts to open the second quarter, the Patriots took advantage of a positive swing in the field position game. New England took over at the Jets 45 yards line. On the first play from scrimmage Brady hit receiver David Patten for a 15-gain to the 30-yard line. Following a sack and just five more yards of offense the Patriots were held to a 49-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal to cut the Jets lead to 14-10.

No sooner had the Patriots cut the lead, than did the Jets answer with a score of their own. New York marched 12-plays and 50 yards, but stalled at the New England 21. The Jets settled for a 39-yard Hall field goal and a seven point lead at 17-10.

The teams combined for three more punts, and time ran out on the half with the Jets leading 17-10. Overcoming five penalties for 50 yards, the Jets dominated much of the first half totaling 10 first downs to just four for the Patriots and marching for 261 net yards of offense to just 78 for New England. Brady was just 7-of-18 in the first half for 47 yards, compared to Pennington's 14-of-21 for 196 yards and two touchdowns.

As inconsistent as the New England offense was in the first half, the team put together an impressive drive to start the second. Brady and company marched 66 yards on 16 plays on the opening drive in 8:41, culminating in a 6-yard score from Brady to tight end Christian Fauria. Brady had a key 15-yard run on third-and-nine from the Jets 29-yard line that extended the drive and helped set up the score. Antwain Smith also rushed for 21 yards on six carries on the drive as the Patriots tied the score, 17-17.

After stopping the Jets and forcing a punt on the following series, the Patriots gave up the key turnover of the game when Troy Brown muffed the punt and the Jets recovered at the Patriots 19-yard line. New York took advantage of the break by marching down the 5-yard line, but stalled there and settled for a Hall 23-yard field goal. Jets led 20-17.

Following yet another Patriots punt, the Jets essentially put the game out of reach with an impressive nine-play, 74-yard scoring drive to open the fourth quarter. Pennington to Coles was the key pair on the drive as the two hooked up on connections of 17 and 13 yards. The drive culminated in a Pennington to Chrebet 15-yard touchdown as the Jets took a 27-17 lead with 8:45 left in the game.

New England's next drive and attempt to get back in the game was short and fruitless. After completing two passes to move to the Jets 49-yard line Brady looked to hit Patten deep down the right sideline, but Patten was well covered and Donnie Abraham intercepted the pass for the Jets at the 5-yard line. Abraham returned the pick 23 yards to the Jets 28.

The Jets then capped the game's scoring by moving 47 yards in 11 plays and connecting on Hall's third field goal of the game, a 43 yarder, and the 30-17 lead. New England used a hurry-up offense to work its way down to the Jets 6-yard line, but stalled there and the Jets took over on downs. Two Pennington kneel-downs latter and the Jets had the impressive 30-17 win.

With the win the Jets are now tied with the Patriots at 8-7. Both teams still have a shot at the playoffs, although both need help from other teams to make the postseason. For the Patriots, they can win the AFC East title if they beat the Dolphins next Sunday in Foxboro and the Jets lose to the Packers. The Patriots can win the Wild Card if they beat Miami, the Jets beat the Packers, Denver losses to Arizona, San Diego loses to Seattle and Cleveland losses to Atlanta. In the Wild Card scenario the Jets would win the AFC East in a three-way tie with the Patriots and the Dolphins and the Patriots would be the Wild Card team.

Notes

Rohan Davey, Tedy Bruschi, Tom Ashworth, Kenyatta Jones, Deion Branch and Cam Cleeland were all inactive for the Patriots. … Curtis Martin carried 26 times for 106 yards for the Jets. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark on the season becoming just the second player to pass the mark in the first eight seasons of his career, joining Barry Sanders. … Patten led the Patriots with 5 catches for 38 yards. Troy Brown had just 2 catches for eight yards. … Brady finished 19-of-37 for 133 yards, one touchdown, one interception and two sacks. … Roman Phifer led the Patriots with 11 tackles

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