After the Patriots shook off the stink of their first two losses with a 45-point 2nd half in Buffalo, I titled the game recap: "You make your own luck". Today, the Patriots came within a hair of a loss to the New York Jets a home, and required a kick-off return for a touchdown, a safety, a dropped pass from a wide receiver with no one around him for at least seven yards, a game-tying kick in the final seconds of regulation ,a game-winning kick in overtime, and a game-ending fumble in overtime to notch that W. Yes, you do make your own luck. Credit Devin McCourty, Stephen Gostkowski, and Rob Ninkovich for rising to the occasion with huge plays. At the same time, the Patriots did nothing but leave Stephen Hill wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide open when he dropped that pass in the 4th quarter that would have kept a potential New York touchdown drive alive and put the Pats down 4 instead of tied in the game's final minutes.
Yup, the Pats found themselves a leprechaun this week.
This game had all the makings of yet another 4th quarter meltdown by the Patriots. When the team was up by 10 in the 4th with the ball, I kept muttering to myself, "Now's the time to step on their throat." "Don't let them hang around like all those other teams". And what did the Patriots do? The started running gimmicky screen passes that were eaten up for lossed yard. The Patriots punted, the Jets abused our secondary, and then pulled within three after a touchdown. I'll tell you right now, if the Patriots had lost this game, I had the following photo all set up and ready to lead off with...
Talk about re-run city. So what do the Patriots do? They stall out yet again on offense. (Stop me if you've heard this one already.) Now, with but mere minutes left on the clock, I'm bracing myself for the inevitable Mark Sanchez touchdown drive with about 1:15 left to drive the stake into our hearts. The only question at this point is how it's going to happen. Will Jeremy Kerley simply blow past our safeties for a wide-open score, or will Kyle Arrington not turn his head and draw a pass-interference penalty in the endzone to set up a 1-yard touchdown run? Thankfully, Stephen Hill came down with the dropsies and saved the game for us, because again, our secondary had left him wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide open. Nick Folk then ties the game with a field goal.
But now I'm starting to feel alright, because the Patriots managed to avoid their typical script for blowing a game. They actually had some timeouts and weren't trailing. This is the time where you look to the sidelines, see that you've got #12 on your team and start feeling confident. And then Devin McCourty decided to run out of the endzone when he had no chance of actually making it to the twenty and fumbles the ball.
At this point, I'm borderline catatonic. I actually have no idea what the defense did following that fumble, but props to them. I just know that all of a sudden, it's fourth down, there's actually some time left on the clock, and the Pats have two timeouts. Folk puts the Jets ahead, and we're back to where we were a few minutes earlier except now we need Brady to tie the game, not win it. McCorty manages to not fumble this time, and the Pats are off to the races.
How nervous was I for Stephen Gostkowski's kick? Honestly, not even a little. The Ghost is too good to kill two game-determining opportunities in a row with botched kicks.
So now we're at the coin toss, and the Patriots win it. (Leprechaun time, baby!) At this point, where you're matching drives, it really boils down to Brady vs. Sanchez. Brady didn't do quite as well as I'd hoped (I was really hoping for the walk-off TD to Gronk), but the offense put Gostkowski in position to nail another clutch kick. And then all the pressure shifted to the defense. My only real concern at this point, was that with essentially four downs, Rex Ryan had some flexibility to throw long down the field once per series and test out our secondary. Thankfully, Alfonzo Dennard made a heads up play, and rather than pulling a McCourty and drawing pass interference on a 40-yard bomb, decided to cut his losses and get flagged for a 5-yard holding penalty. That play kept the Jets buried on their side of the field, and allowed for Rob Ninkovich to put the lights out with a sack-fumble of Sanchez to end the game.
My take aways from the game...
- Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels seriously need to game plan on how they are going to manage their leads. These fourth quarter meltdowns will end this team. Forget everything else at the moment. For the most part, it's working. This team just gets paralyzed in the 4th with a lead.
- I'm hoping that the final two drives where this team actually did move the ball down the field in a late-game situation help the Pats build momentum down the road
- Somewhere, Rex Ryan is sitting depressed, eating mayonaise straight out of the jar. I love it.
- I'd rather be hit by a Mack Truck than Brandon Spikes
- Thank heavens Jerod Mayo is ok. For a moment there, I thought we may have had our own Texans/Cushing or Ravens/Lewis injury.
- A W is a W. This season will boil down to how the team is playing on December 21st, not October 21st.
- I would have been really depressed if I were crossing the ocean next week to watch a game between two sub-.500 teams. That's right, next week I'm going to England to watch New England!