Despite jumping out to a 24-point lead, mental lapses on the part of the Patriots allowed the Jets to climb back into this one and make things interesting. In the end, the Patriots held on for a 24-17 win and a 2-0 record on the young season.
Tom Brady, while still not at the top of his game, performed better than last week going 15 of 29 for 220 yards, a touchdown and one interception.
The tandem of Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney again delivered. Dillon ran for 80 yards on 20 carries with a score while Maroney had 65 yards on 16 carries with a touchdown of his own.
For the Jets, Chad Pennington had his second consecutive 300-yard passing game. He finished with 306 yards; 22 of 37 passing with 2 touchdowns and an interception. His big targets were Jerricho Cotchery who had 121 yards on 6 grabs and Laveranues Coles with 6 catches and 100 yards.
Chad Jackson made his Patriot debut during the Patriots second series of the game and caught a nice 29-yard pass from Brady, the first pass thrown his way. Jackson was closely covered but managed to come up with the ball down the left sideline. That play sparked an 11-play, 82-yard drive ending on a Dillon 1-yard touchdown run behind the left side of the Patriots line. On the drive, Troy Brown started things off with a 15-yard catch. Later, Ben Watson had a 14-yard grab down the middle to move the ball to the Jets 22. From the 18-yard line two plays later, Maroney followed up a 4-yard run with a 14-yarder to the 4. It was an impressive drive that incorporated all the weapons at Brady's disposal.
On the Patriots second scoring drive that came with 13:15 left in the first half, Brady flaunted his tight ends. Dave Thomas started strong right on one play and came across the field with no one near him. Brady connected and the rookie went 29 yards to the Jets 49. On the very next play, Brady went down the middle to Daniel Graham for another 29-yard pick-up. Despite the promising start to the drive and getting as close as the Jets 2, Brady was unable to connect with Watson and then Doug Gabriel in the end zone. Stephen Gostkowski was good on a 20-yard field goal attempt for a 10-0 New England lead.
Meanwhile, the Patriots defense was keeping the Jets at bay. It threw a wrinkle into the game plan by going mostly 4-3 during the first half. Also, of note, Tedy Bruschi made his 2006 debut during the second quarter, playing middle linebacker in that 4-3 alignment.
Jets punter Ben Graham gave the Patriots a golden opportunity to add to the lead at the end of the half when he badly shanked his punt for net 10 yards. The punt came after a three and out stand by the defense by way of a pair of sacks, one by Tully Banta-Cain and another by Richard Seymour.
Brady took over at midfield with a minute left and immediately looked long to Jackson. The pass was right on the rook's hands -- with the Jets Andre Dyson beat -- but it fell harmlessly to the ground. Brady then looked to the proven Brown who muscled his way to a 14-yard gain on a pass to the left flat. Two plays later it was Watson for 23-yards to the Jets 13 and on the next play, Jackson made up for his lost opportunity earlier in the drive with a touchdown pass over the middle; his first career score and a 17-0 halftime lead for New England.
New England started the second half with a solid short yardage stand. First Junior Seau stuffed Kevan Barlow for no gain on third and 1 from the Jets 46. On fourth down, the Jets went for it and it was Ty Warren and Jarvis Green with the stop.
New England took over on downs. On third and 5, Brady looked deep to Kevin Faulk down the left sideline. The Jets Victor Hobson made his move too soon and hit Faulk for a pass interference call. That put the ball on the Jets 12. A hold on Watson moved the ball back and a defensive hold two plays later gave the Patriots a first down on the 17. Maroney did the rest of the work with three carries, 14 yards to the 3 followed by a 2-yard carry and then a 1-yard scoring play.
It looked all Patriots, especially after Vince Wilfork sacked Pennington for a 3-yard loss and then Leon Washington ran into the line for no gain on second and 13 on the Jets next series. But on third down, Pennington got off a throw just as he was being hit and Cotchery came up with it. Cotchery was blistered by Chad Scott as he caught it but somehow he managed to keep his feet and take off downfield for the touchdown, a 71-yard score. The Patriots challenged the play thinking his elbow had perhaps touched the turf on the Scott hit but the ruling on the field stood making the score 24-7 with 6:15 left in the third quarter.
Things started to get sloppy for the Patriots from there. Brady looked for a home run on the next series to Gabriel who was double covered. David Barrett made the pick and the Jets had the ball right back. A big New England penalty was next to give New York new life. Vince Wilfork jumped offsides and then worse, knocked Pennington to the ground for a 15-yard roughness call. From the New England 46 on third and 9, just plain sloppy tackling allowed Laveranues Coles to take a pass and weave his way through at least four would-be tacklers for a touchdown.
The third quarter ended with the score 24-14 and with the Patriots in possession of the ball on the Jets 42. Maroney set up the drive with a 39-yard return of the kickoff but the series of unfortunate events continued for New England as Kerry Rhodes came from his safety spot and nailed Brady from his blindside on third and 8. The ball was fumbled and the Jets recovered at the Patriots 49.
Mike Vrabel and Seymour teamed up to sack Pennington on third and 8 from the 24 and that play kept the Jets to only 3 points as Mike Nugent was good on a 42-yard attempt. Still, the Jets had somehow come from 24 points down to within a touchdown with 9:20 left to play. Plenty of time to complete the comeback if the Patriots didn't wake up before it was too late.
New England needed a nerve-calming drive and who else to lead one but Mr. Cool, Tom Brady. He converted three third downs, starting from his own 30. Reche Caldwell was good for a 6-yard catch on third and 5. Faulk had another 6-yarder on third and 4 and Brown made 8 yards on a third and 7 catch from the Jets 35. Add in a bone-crushing 10-yard run by Dillon where he flat out leveled Rhodes at the end of the play.
At the two minute warning, New England still had the ball third and 5 at the Jets 11. Dillon banged out another 4 yards to the 7 making it fourth and 1 with 1:47 left to play. Brady milked the play clock to 1 second and then called timeout with 1:15 left. A field goal would put New England up by 10 but Brady went to the line to try and draw the Jets offsides. New York wasn't buying and on trotted Gostkowski for a 29-yard attempt.
The kick was blocked and recovered by Jonathan Vilma. The Jets hopes remained alive with 1:05 left.
The New England defense dropped into a prevent and kept everything in front of them while Pennington, with no timeouts, dunked the ball downfield. The Jets plays were to the middle of the field, however, and too much of the clock was running down. With 15 seconds left, the Jets were second and 10 on their own 45 and Pennington decided to go for it. He lofted the ball downfield into a crowd and Bruschi made sure he held on for the game-ending interception.