The Patriots were upset by the Jets, 14-17 on Sunday afternoon. Persistent rainstorms doused the field at Gillette Stadium before kick off, arriving in weaker and weaker spurts as the game progressed. A thick fog covered the stadium, a precursor to the way the game would unfold.
Neither team looked particularly sharp in the first quarter's flat midday light. Both teams exchanged punts throughout the quarter, neither of them able to get into the red zone with the rain-slicked turf slowing both teams down.
"It's just one of those games where you just kind of feel stuck, like something's going on," said cornerback Ellis Hobbs after the game. "I heard one player out there, he commented that, 'Both teams look like they're moving slow,' I think because of the field and the conditions and things like that. It was just one of those games that's going to be tight and the first mistake loses."
The Patriots appeared to have the upper hand, however, as they controlled the ball for more than two-thirds of the first quarter and finished a 9-play, 77-yard drive at the end of the quarter with a 31-yard field goal by rookie kicker Stephen Gostkowski. He was two-for-two on field goal attempts Sunday, but the Patriots really needed to convert the third downs that resulted in those field goals. After the game, receiver Troy Brown said he thought the Jets defense simply made good stops, including on those important third downs.
"You can't say [we beat ourselves]," said Brown shaking his head. "The [Jets] played their butts off. They sacked us, knocked balls down, batted balls down, and ran back kicks and they just beat us. Especially during the crucial situations like third downs [and] penalties."
In the second quarter, both teams exchanged turnovers, with Patriots receiver Doug Gabriel fumbling one on a 22-yard catch-and-run down the Patriots sideline. The fumble came less than a minute after safety Artrell Hawkins picked off a Chad Pennington pass intended for wideout Laveranues Coles. The Jets then constructed a 16-play, 81-yard touchdown drive.
While the Jets seemed to be ironing out wrinkles, the Pats offense couldn't build any momentum and their slow start extended into the second half. The Patriots wouldn't pull together a touchdown drive until late in the fourth quarter.
Asked after the game about the slow start, linebacker Tedy Bruschi responded, "That's how the game goes, especially when you have conditions like that out there. I think both teams early on tried to establish a running game and short passing game and play possession football. I think both teams came out to win to start the game. We came out wanting to win the game but we just couldn't get it done today."
The Pats defense, playing without starters Rodney Harrison and Ty Warren, got pushed around more than usual as well.
But, defensive lineman Vince Wilfork wasn't making any excuses after the game, "Who's to say if Ty [Warren] was playing the outcome wouldn't have been the same? It made no difference. We had 11 guys on defense playing. So get outta here with 'who was playing' and 'who wasn't playing.' We're not going to make up excuses. Point blank, we got beat. Bottom line, we lost."
"The defense, we should have gotten off the field a little bit faster than what we were doing out there today," said Hobbs. "[They were] sustaining drives. We were making plays on the ball and we were making tackles, regardless of what the conditions out there were. When it comes down to it, they made one play that changed the game and that play was against me."
The play Hobbs was referring to was a Pennington touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery. It came after Brady threw an interception in the middle of the fourth quarter. Cotchery and Hobbs both jumped for the ball, but Cotchery got to it first.
"I think any [defensive backs] coach will tell you that you always need to high point the ball," said Hobbs. "That's the thing I didn't do. It was kind of staying up their like a wounded duck. It was taking so long and those are the hardest ones to time up, especially when it's coming straight down at you. I just didn't make the play. Bottom line. Cotchery made it and I didn't."
"This is the second week in a row that we've gotten beat as a team and not just on one side of the ball," said linebacker Rosevelt Colvin. "That's one thing we have to get corrected and get corrected fast because we only have seven more games left."
According to a number of players, the difference in third down efficiencies between the two teams was indicative of the Jets overall dominance in the game.
"We didn't get the stops we needed on third down," said linebacker Mike Vrabel after the game. "[They] Stopped us on third down. Stopped us when they had to. Beat us up. They out played us," said Brown.
The Patriots converted only three of 12 third-down attempts (25 percent), while the Jets managed six of 13 attempts (46 percent).
The Patriots offense finally clicked late in the fourth quarter, constructing a 4-play passing drive that covered 61 yards. Tom Brady chucked three big passes to three different receivers, including a 15-yard touchdown pass to receiver Reche Caldwell, which was tipped, though Caldwell grabbed it and dodged two defenders before sliding into the end zone.
"I think I played okay, but we didn't win the game and I think there were a few things I could have done better, so I didn't play well enough to win the game," said Caldwell after the game. He had a career-high nine receptions for 90 yards against the Jets, and has led the team in receptions in three of the Pats last four games. His nine catches was the most by a Patriots receiver since September of 2005.
Caldwell also caught a 15-yard 2-point conversion pass on the following play, which brought the Patriots within three points of tying the game. Time would not allow it, however.
"We got it down to a one-score game," said Brown, recapping the game's ending with frustration. "We had a chance to get ourselves back into field goal range. It took us all game to get a touchdown on the board and I'm disappointed. But the situation dictated that we needed to go down there and score. We did that, but we just couldn't stop them on defense and when we did get them stopped, we had to use all our timeouts. And we had to go 90, 91 yards, I mean whatever it was to get into field goal range. We just didn't have enough time."
Brady was sacked on the final play, fumbling the ball after gaining three first downs in the drive.
"We always like to come through at the end," admitted Brady. "It just didn't happen. It just didn't happen. I tried to get the ball out of bounds there the last play. They ended up coming to us before I got the ball off. So hopefully, we are not in that situation but we kind of put ourselves in that situation."
The Jets are only one game behind the Pats in the AFC East Division after stealing the win.
In his post game press conference, Brady spoke about the Patriots last two losses, which followed a big win at Minnesota three weeks ago.
"Well, I think we thought that we were, everyone thought we were making a bunch of improvements," said Tom Brady after the game, when asked about dropping the last two games including the Pats first loss to the Jets since 2002. The Patriots hadn't lost consecutive games since that last loss to the Jets, so their 57-game streak without back-to-back losses was also snapped on Sunday.
"Everyone thought we were heading in the right direction," Brady said. "Last week against the Colts was tough. We certainly didn't play anywhere near our level of ability in that game and today it was just a tough day all around. There were a few plays we could have made, but that's the difference. You could say that every week. So you are judged week to week. We didn't play well last week; we didn't play well, as well as we could this week. We have to play better next week."
Brady tied a career high last weekend when he threw four interceptions against Indianapolis' defense. It was only the fifth four-interception game of the quarterback's career. Typically, he has followed up those games with strong performances, and entering this game, he'd never thrown an interception in the week after a four-interception game. The Jets kept pressure on Brady all night, picking him off and ruining the streak.
On Sunday Brady did not look his sharpest, throwing two interceptions, one of which was called back since the Jets drew a penalty for roughing Brady. Referee Pete Morelli later said the penalty was called because the Jets defender "picked [Tom Brady] up and drove him into the ground and used the force of his helmet and basically stuffed him into the ground." More of Brady's passes seemed to be off target than usual. Admittedly, the field and the football were both saturated with rain water.
Running back Corey Dillon broke free for a 50-yard run late in the first quarter, marking the longest rush by a Patriot in nearly eight years. Dillon's rush was the longest for New England since Sedrick Shaw tore off a 71-yard run against the New York Jets on Dec. 27, 1998 at Giants Stadium. For Dillon, the 50-yard run was his longest rush since Oct. 6, 2002, when he ran for a 67-yard touchdown for the Cincinnati Bengals. Prior to Dillon's 50-yard run, the longest rush for the Patriots since Bill Belichick became head coach in 2000 was a 45-yard touchdown run by Kevin Faulk against the Buffalo Bills in November of 2002.
Quote of note:
Troy Brown on whether he feels the Patriots are still improving:
Brown - "You saw the game. The last two weeks, did we look better than we did in Minnesota? You tell me."
Reporter – "No."
Brown – "Alright."