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Patriots fall to Jets, 34-17

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            Despite battling back from an early two-touchdown deficit, New England had its worst showing of the season in a critical 34-17 divisional loss to the New York Jets Sunday night.  

The mood was downtrodden after the Patriots (2-5) fell for the second time this year to the archrival Jets.
"Obviously that was our poorest performance of the year," Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said. "We just really didn't give ourselves a chance to win this game. We got outplayed and outcoached in pretty much every phase of the game. They just did a better job than we did all the way around."

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            New England put itself in a deep hole early, as the first two pass attempts led directly to New York's first 14 points of the game. Though taking care of the ball has been a strength for New England all season, the team had six turnovers that resulted in 17 points for the Jets.  

Facing a third-and-two on New England's first possession of the game, Drew Bledsoe hit Kevin Faulk for a short gain that would have been good for a first down. However, Faulk fumbled, and Jets linebacker Bryan Cox recovered at the New England 38-yard line.

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            The Jets took an early 7-0 lead when Curtis Martin ran in for a 2-yard touchdown. The deficit doubled on New England's next play from scrimmage. Bledsoe's pass, intended for Faulk, was tipped by Mo Lewis and intercepted by Victor Green for a 21-yard touchdown return, making the score 14-0.  

"We got behind and we didn't run the ball enough early in the game," Belichick said. "Part of that was inefficiency and part of that was the score. We became a one-dimensional game, and that's always going to be a problem."

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            The Patriots struggled on the ground throughout the night. At halftime, they had run 10 times for just 30 yards, and they had just four attempts for 21 yards in the second half. The problems running the ball coupled with large deficits forced New England to throw without much success for most of the game.  

As much trouble as the Patriots had running the ball, the defense had even more problems stopping the Jets ground attack. The absence of defensive tackle Chad Eaton hurt New England, as they allowed a 100-yard rusher for the first time this season. Martin ran 34 times for 143 yards and three touchdowns, having little difficulty gaining yards in big chunks.

Belichick was not willing to use the absence of Eaton as an excuse.

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            "We had some new people on the defensive line, and they ran the ball and obviously tried to attack that," Belichick said. "That's part of the game. When you have people go out, other people have to step in."  

Down by two touchdowns, the Patriots did fight back with 10 unanswered points. New England responded to Green's touchdown with its best drive of the game, despite starting deep in its own territory.

On the second play from the 14-yard line, Bledsoe hit Terry Glenn for a 29-yard gain. Following a 3-yard scramble by Bledsoe, the quarterback attempted to hit Glenn deep down the right sideline. New York cornerback Aaron Glenn was flagged for pass interference on the play, giving the Patriots first-and-10 at the Jets 19.

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            New England moved as far as the 5-yard line, but the drive stalled there. Adam Vinatieri put the team on the scoreboard with a 23-yard field goal to make the score 14-3.  

Later in the half Troy Brown returned a punt 20 yards to the Patriots 43. After a sack and a short run by Faulk, Bledsoe hooked up with Tony Simmons (3 catches, 76 yards) on a 46-yard pass play to the Jets 9-yard line. On the next play Faulk ran the ball in for a touchdown to close the gap to 14-10.

"We cam back and mounted a bit of a counterattack," Belichick said. "But in the end we just didn't make enough plays."

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            The Patriots momentum was taken away quickly, as New York marched 75 yards on 14 plays for Martin's second of three touchdowns. The key play of the drive was a third-and-13 play from the New England 46-yard line. The Patriots appeared to hold the Jets shy of the first down, but a hands to the face penalty on Antonio Langham gave New York an automatic first down and extended the drive.  

Martin put the game away with his final touchdown of the night, a 2-yard run that capped a nine-play, 40-yard drive. For Martin, it was his first three-touchdown game as a Jet, and the second of his career.

"Curtis is a very good back. He's one of the best backs in the league," Belichick said. "I've said that from day one. There's no doubt about it. If you give him space, he'll hurt you."

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            The Jets defense hurt Bledsoe throughout the game, as they sacked him a season-high seven times. It was the most sacks the Patriots have allowed during the quarterback's career. Despite the constant pounding, Bledsoe kept trying to rally the team.  

Early in the fourth quarter, Bledsoe started a drive at his own 37 by hitting Eric Bjornson for a 14-yard pass. After a 4-yard run by Faulk, Bledsoe hit Simmons for 16, and then a 1-yard pass to Bjornson turned into another 16-yard gain to the Jets 13.

On second down, Bledsoe took advantage of a huge hole in the middle of the New York defensive line. He kept the snap and ran 13 yards for the first touchdown of his career. Bledsoe dragged three Jet defenders with him for the final few yards.

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            Despite the personal milestone, Bledsoe was obviously down following the game.  

It's one game, and it's one step back," Bledsoe said. "We're really at the bottom of the pile looking up at everybody. This was a key game for us as we were trying to get back into the mix. That doesn't change the fact that we have to come in here and get ready again this week. We have the division champs at their place, and it's going to be a huge battle for us."

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