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Patriots lose an instant overtime classic, 34-31

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The Patriots handed over sole possession of first place in the AFC East with a 34-31 overtime loss to the New York Jets.

New England fell behind early in this one, 24-6 in the first half, before scoring at the end of the half to close within 11.

The second half was a completely different story with the Patriots defense suddenly stopping the Jets offense and Cassel and his offense driving up and down the field. In the end, it was just not quite enough.

Cassel was 30 of 51 passing for 400 yards and 3 touchdowns while his counterpart, Brett Favre, was 23 of 33 for 258 yards and 2 touchdowns.

For the Jets, Thomas Jones had 104 yards rushing on 30 carries. Wes Welker had another 100-yard performance, 108 yards and 7 catches.

It was a disappointing loss for New England with lots of encouraging performances to build on.

The first half was made up of a flurry of scores that ended with the Jets taking an 11-point lead into the locker room.

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]()The Jets took the lead on their first possession. The drive started with a short kickoff just inside the 10 that Leon Washington returned to the 38. One 13-yard run by Jones and New York was over midfield. A third and 6 pass to Laveranues Coles was originally ruled out of bounds but upon review was overturned and gave the Jets another first down at the Patriots 37. The scoring play was a 7-yard pass to Washington that he caught around the line of scrimmage and bulled into the end zone.

New England got three points back on its first try, a 42-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal. Cassel converted two third downs with an 11-yard pass to Benjamin Watson and a 16-yarder to Jabar Gaffney but on third and 5 from the Jets 26, Faulk was stuffed for only a 2-yard run to bring on the field goal unit.

The Jets drove right back down the field when their offense came back on. This time, with first and goal from the 5, the Patriots defense held the Jets to a 22-yard field goal to make the score 10-3. Still, whether it was Jones running up the middle or Favre finding receivers over the middle, the Jets were picking up yards in chunks as the first quarter came to an end.

Kevin Faulk had a nice 19-yard catch and run where he rammed into Kerry Rhodes for a couple extra yards at the end of a 19-yard play on the Patriots next turn. Cassel took 12 plays to pick his way to the Jets 13 where Gostkowski was good on a 31-yard field goal to make the score 10-6, Jets.

Field goals weren't going to cut it on this night and that became all too clear when, on the ensuing kickoff by the Patriots, Leon Washington took it down the left sideline for a 92-yard touchdown.

The Jets made it look easy later in the second quarter. Favre hit Jerricho Cotchery down the middle for 18 yards on the first play of a 5-play scoring drive. Cotchery would come up big again with a 46-yard, one-handed catch down to the Patriots and then again on the very next play as Favre rifled one into him from 15 yards out that Cotchery extended over the goal line with a nice individual effort.

New England finally got in the end zone in the waning moments of the first half. Cassel engineered and excellent hurry-up drive with only 1:44 remaining. His main target was Gaffney who had catches of 11 and 8 yards before fighting off Dwight Lowery in the end zone for a 19-yard catch to make the score 24-13 after 30 minutes. Along the way, Cassel helped his own cause with a 19-yard scramble up the middle down to the Jets 30 to make him the leading Patriot rusher with 42 yards on 4 carries.

Two serious Patriots miscues stopped promising drives early in the second half. The first was a Watson fumble on the Jets 22 that would have been a first down. The Jets Rhodes recovered and Favre took over at his 33.

New England's defense was energized, however, and after Vince Wilfork and Richard Seymour sacked Favre on first and third down respectively, New York punted after three plays.

Again, Cassel had his team on the move, going back to Watson for 14 yards and Faulk for 10 yards down to the Jets 38. But as Cassel barked out his signals on the next play, center Dan Koppen snapped the ball too soon. It sailed past Cassel and by the time he could cover it up, the play lost 24 yards, essentially ending the drive.

Meanwhile the Patriots defense was keeping Favre and his offense in check, enough so that when the Patriots offense took over late in the third quarter, New England still had a chance to climb within a score.

[

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]()That's just what they did with a 7-play, 78-yard touchdown drive with big plays by Cassel keeping plays alive with his feet and finding open receivers. He did so early in the drive with a 29-yard pick-up by Welker and later with a 14-yard pass to Gaffney who continued his big night. The scoring play was Cassel finding Watson in the back of the end zone and Watson atoning for his previous fumble.

Down 24-19, the Patriots elected to go for two points and once again, it was Gaffney coming up with the catch to bring New England within a field goal.

Along the way, Cassel eclipsed the 300-yard passing mark for the first time in his career.

With momentum brimming on the Patriots side, the defense continued its inspired play. On a play right after Jerod Mayo dropped Washington for a 1-yard loss, Jason Webster stripped Cotchery of the ball after a 9-yard catch. Gary Guyton recovered and the Patriots were first and 10 on their 40 with 12:33 left to play.

Cassel had yet another big run on the ensuing drive, this one 17 yards to the Jets 37. On third and 3 from the 30, Cassel's pocket caved in and he did all he could to gain a yard. That brought out Gostkowski to try a 47-yard field goal. He made it and with 10:16 left, the Patriots had climbed back to tie the game at 24.

Despite the furious comeback by New England, New York wasn't laying down by any means. Back on offense, the Jets embarked on a clock-eating 14-play drive that ended with Jones running it in from a yard out. Perhaps the biggest play was a holding penalty on Mike Vrabel that came on third and 6 at 7-yard line. The play would have been an incomplete pass making it fourth down and most likely forcing the Jets to kick a field goal. Instead, the Jets had a first and goal from the 3. The Jets then ran three more plays and valuable time off the clock.

The Patriots got the ball back with 3:04 left to play and one time out. Thirty-one seconds later they were punting it away after three ineffective plays, one a 7-yard sack of Cassel by Kris Jenkins.

The Patriots managed to get the ball back but not before calling its last time out while on defense. By the time Cassel was able get on the field, only 1:04 remained.

What happened next will certainly make the Cassel family video files.

Using the middle of the field, Cassel proceeded to complete passes, get first downs and then spike the ball to stop the clock. The execution was textbook. With eight seconds left, Cassel had a fourth and 1 from the 16. One play left.

Cassel took the snap, looked downfield and nearly got sacked. He ducked the rush and rolled out right. Finally, he spotted Moss near the side of the end zone. As Ty Law dove to make a play, Moss stretched out his 6-4 frame and grabbed the ball while just barely keeping his feet down before he went out of bounds. Touchdown.

The play went under review but the ruling stood and the game went into overtime.

New York won the toss and went on offense. After Pierre Woods sacked Favre for a 5-yard loss on first down and Favre then threw incomplete on second, things were looking good for New England. But on third and 15, Favre hit Dustin Keller for 16 yards to get out of the hole. From that point, the Jets never had another third and long to overcome and made it look easy getting down to the Patriots 16. From there, Jay Feely hit a 34-yard field goal and just like that, it was over, 34-31, Jets.

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