The New York Jets lost an absolutely gut-wrenching heartbreaker to the division rival New England Patriots, 29-26 in overtime on Sunday. There is so much to digest, blame to be placed and questions to be answered. The one question that's been racing around in my brain since Mark Sanchez's fumble in overtime sealed New England's 29-26 escape is:
What if Stephen Hill didn't drop that pass?
Late in the fourth, on second down with the game tied, Sanchez put the ball right in the rookie's chest. Hill would have had the ball at the 10 yard line with some room to work with, and anything could have happened. He could have made the remaining Pats defenders miss and ran in for the game-winning score. He could have fumbled. He could have been tackled, and on the next play, Sanchez could have thrown a game-winning touchdown or a pick six. Maybe aliens would have invaded Gillette Stadium while the Jets were in the huddle for the next play. I have no freaking idea what would have happened.
But Hill should have caught the ball. I'm not blaming this game solely on Hill. The Jets' loss wasn't his fault, to say so would be ludicrous. But, good lord he should have caught the ball. And if he did, oh how different the narrative would be. Sanchez might be starting to turn the corner. Instead, nope, Sanchez is a total scrub. Do we have that right?
Sanchez. Sorry guys. If you're looking for ridiculous commentary about how the few plays Sanchez left on the field are the sole reason the Jets didn't win, and if they could just dump this clown they'll rip off 12 straight wins and win it all and then cancer will be cured and unemployment will hit zero, go somewhere else. It ain't happening here.
In the second half, Sanchez was 16-of-20 for 190 yards and a touchdown. This included the Jets' 92-yard drive to get the score to 23-20, where Sanchez was 9-of-10 and connected with Dustin Keller on a picture-perfect toss to the end zone. He didn't play perfect, of course, but he handed his football team a lead with a minute and a half to go on the road in Foxboro. Were there bad plays he made? Yes, we'll acknowledge them later, because I'm actually being fair. But I simply cannot and will not throw all the blame for this loss on No. 6, which you are hearing and seeing a lot of people do.
I'm convinced at this point that people just don't like him, and won't like him, and will accept nothing less than a Lombardi trophy. That's fine, I guess, but just remember that you root for the New York Jets. I just don't know what else people want. Aaron Rodgers, Eli/Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees? YES, OF COURSE YOU DO, SO DO I. You want Andy Dalton? You want Joe Flacco? How about Ryan Tannehill? Maybe Cam Newton? Yeah, he's just effing brilliant, right? Oh, that's right, next week you people will be chanting for Tim Tebow. I give up.
Some more good: the Jets' defense did play solid overall, holding New England's offense to 20 points. Jeremy Kerley has emerged as a legitimate downfield weapon. Dustin Keller played a good game and appears to be back to full strength, which will only help the Jets moving forward. Nick Folk has been great this season, and was great on Sunday. Punter Robert Malone is on his way to Honolulu. Do they still play the Pro Bowl in Honolulu? They should.
Sanchez left some plays on the field, for sure. He lucked out on a few throws in traffic that easily could have been picked off. He didn't do a great job of finishing drives in both halves, which could have made the difference in the game. The sack in overtime was a play where he should have just tried to protect the ball and lived to see another day. Still, the Jets' offensive line left him out to dry on that play, so it's not all on him. Sanchez didn't play spectacular, and he made some mistakes out there. That's pretty much what can be said about every Jet, or at least every phase of the team, so again, I can't lay all the blame on Sanchez.
The Jets' running game struggled for the most part, although Shonn Greene did find the end zone again. But as per usual, New York's running game put the Jets' offense behind the eight ball quite often.
The Jets still need to find safeties who can cover Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
The Jets had some bad penalties out there for sure, including Kyle Wilson's pass interference in overtime (the call and the fact that the official who was closer to Egypt than he was to Wilson made the call also deserve to be in this spot)., and Antonio Allen's facemask on a New England punt (that was wrongly assessed to Nick Bellore).
The Jets defense was handed a lead late and coughed it...you know what, I'm sick of this same old song with Rex Ryan's defense. They deserve to be in...
The Most Unclutch Defense in the History of Football showed us once again why they're the most unclutch defense in the history of football. The Jets' special teams and offense handed the defense a three point lead in Foxboro with about 1:30 left. New England had one timeout. They went down the field in essentially three plays that looked like they were taking place during a scrimmage. You'll hear a lot of "Well, that's just what Tom Brady does," and things like that, but I'd like to point out that that's NOT what Tom Brady did last week in Seattle. It's NOT what he's done against the New York Giants, who have given him fits by putting him on his ass every other play in the fourth quarters of those games. It's just an easy lame excuse so that people can blame Sanchez for the Jets' loss.
I've had it with Rex Ryan and his defense, I really have. I ask again, what's the point of Ryan being your head coach if you're not going to have a shutdown, stifling defense? That was the exact opportunity for the Jets' defense to make one impact play; sack Brady and force the Pats to use their timeout, pick him off, knock the ball loose, something. They wilted. They let the Pats go down the field like it was backyard football and kick a relatively easy game-tying field goal.
And then came overtime, where the defense did its act again. If you're going to be one of these people that blame Sanchez and not accentuate his positives, you just can't turn around and point to the defense's positives without addressing the giant elephant in the room that they cannot get a clutch stop. I don't care how solid they played until that point. They have to make a stand there and get the team home free.
Can someone tell me why I should ever trust this defense in a big spot, ever? And then can someone again remind me why Rex Ryan is the head coach of this team if that's the case?
Tony Sparano's play-calling was bad in some key spots, from the 3rd-and-1 shotgun slant to Chaz Schilens late in the third quarter, to the ultra-conservative calls late in the fourth. You have them on the ropes, go for the kill. What do you have to lose? If Sanchez hits Hill in the numbers and instead of running in for a score he chucks the ball into the 19th row or something, everyone would still blame Sanchez anyway, You're in the clear, believe me.
The Jets' allowing New England to score nine non-offensive points is something that simply cannot happen, ever.
Well, the Jets are just one game behind big bad New England, and clearly there isn't much separating these teams. The division is still up for grabs and probably will be into December. The Jets are in this thing, and guess what. If Sanchez plays like he did on Sunday the rest of the way, the Jets will be fine. If the defense keeps choking away games late, if the receivers keep dropping passes, if the special teams keeps allowing points, they won't be. That's the truth, Ruth.