Week 16 – New England @ New York Jets: Escape from New York

Seriously, what is it with us and the Jets?

Every time the Patriots play them, it’s always the same. It doesn’t matter how badly the Jets have been playing previously. They could be one of the worst teams in the league (which they have been this season), but line them up against New England and all of a sudden they look like playoff contenders. Hell, even Geno Smith starts to look like a competent quarterback!

Here are the winning margins in the last six New England and New York Jets encounters: 1 pt, 2 pts, 3 pts, 3 pts, 20 pts (the “butt-fumble” game), and 3 pts. Five of those six games have been New England wins, but all but one have been extremely close.

And this is during a three-year period when the Jets have been really terrible. They’ve had Sanchez, Tebow, Geno and Michael Vick throwing the ball. The once-vaunted defense is a shell of its former self. And head office is a shambles.

But I suppose as any team likes to do against one of their main rivals, they step it up against the Patriots. Rex Ryan makes no apologies for it. Even the Jets players were saying after this week’s game that with nothing else to play for, this game had basically become their Super Bowl.

So it’s Week 16 and New England comes to Met Life Stadium knowing exactly what is has to do. Keep winning, and they get that all-important first seed in the AFC. They won’t have to travel in January, as the road to the Super Bowl will go through Foxborough.

When you’re playing the Jets who are still a small chance of ending up with the number one draft pick, and whose head coach definitely knows he won’t be there next season, you’d be forgiven for thinking this game wouldn’t be too difficult.

But no, it’s the Jets.

The first sign we get that this game isn’t going to be easy is the entire first quarter. It basically becomes a battle between Ryan Allan and Ryan Quigley to see who can punt the ball better for their team. Because neither offense is going anywhere. As a Patriots fan this is starting to become very concerning.

The offensive line is regressing back to how it was during the first month of the season. Defenses are getting through and putting the heat on Tom Brady, who was sacked three times in the first quarter alone. He starts getting rid of the ball quicker, and making mistakes. They need to get this fixed before the playoffs.

The game comes to life in the second quarter when New England finally breaks through for an opening touchdown – a three yard pass to Rob Gronkowski.

Straight away though the Jets come right back. Geno Smith playing uncharacteristically well and marching right down the field and connecting with Jeff Cumberland in the end zone, after Patrick Chung completely misread a play-action call.

A New York field goal before half-time has every New England fan starting to dread the unthinkable during the main break – “could we seriously blow home-field advantage to the Jets?”

We’re no closer to getting an answer in the third quarter, with the teams trading a field goal each.

Mercifully, Geno remembers he’s Geno Smith and gifts the Patriots an interception late in the third quarter. Finally, the Patriots get their noses in front at the beginning of the final quarter with Jonas Gray running in for a touchdown.

But still the Jets won’t just lay down! They claw back another field goal to make it a 1-point game. Tom Brady then gets intercepted by Marcus Williams to give Geno Smith a legitimate shot and finding a winning score. But they can’t get the first down. And Nick Folk’s 52-yard attempt is blocked by Vince Wilfork’s outstretched fingers.

With five minutes to go, the Patriots start chewing up as much of the clock as they possibly can. They get enough first downs to force the Jets into using their time-outs, and when Brandon Bolden runs 17 yards with 1 minute 55 seconds remaining, the game is over. The Patriots will hang on for a 1-point win.

Every New England fan can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that for the second time this season we have gotten out of jail against the Jets. A blocked field goal in both games this season proved to be the difference.

A win is a win though, and the Patriots can keep rolling towards January. And some good news is to come.

At the time of writing this article, it’s after Monday Night’s game. Denver losing to Cincinnati means the Patriots have secured that first seed in the AFC. On top of everything else, it also completely changes the dynamics for next week.

Our final game is against Buffalo, whose defense is one of the best in the NFL. The temptation will be to rest key players. It wouldn’t surprise me if Rob Gronkowski misses the game. And Tom Brady may only get a half. But then, with the first round bye in the play-offs, do you risk these guys not playing for two weeks and losing form? Coach Belichick will have a lot to think about how he handles what is now a meaningless game, before the real stuff begins.

Dec 21
Met Life Stadium, East Rutherford NJ (78,160)

New England 0 7 3 7 – 17
New York Jets 0 10 3 3 –16

Passing: Geno Smith (NYJ), 210 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Chris Ivory (NYJ), 11 car, 53 yds
Receiving: Brandon LaFell (NE), 7 rec, 64 yds
Pigskin Almanac “Not just a $31 million punt returner” award: Danny Amendola (NE)

About

Sam Wilkinson lives in Melbourne, Australia. His appreciation for the New England Patriots sees him awake at some ridiculous hours just to catch their game. Like all Pats fans, he refuses to admit that one day Tom Brady will get old and have to retire.

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