FOXBORO -- The New York Jets are within a touchdown of the lead after a first half at Gillette in which they seemed overmatched.
With the score 16-10, New England at the break, the Patriots can once again look at the little things and see why they are in a too-tight contest.
On the Jets only touchdown drive, the Patriots allowed a 26-yard completion on third-and-7, were called for defensive holding (Ras-I Dowling) on a third-and-8, allowed Tim Tebow 3 yards on third-and-2 and had just 10 defenders on the field for Shonn Greene's 1-yard TD run.
The Patriots first drive was chugging along until Brandon Lloyd slid to catch a Tom Brady bullet and took it in the chest for an incompletion.
The Patriots failed to come up with a fumble when they had Shonn Greene surrounded with 4 players after he caught a swing pass at his 48 late in the first.
When the Patriots got the ball after that Jets drive, they got out to the 50 before a hold on Donald Thomas squelched the drive.
After forcing a safety, the Patriots went four-and-out after receiving the free kick.
They picked off Mark Sanchez at the goal line on the drive following that but this time stalled at the Jets 48 even after a dunderheaded Jets penalty on a punt extended the drive for New England.
In short, the Patriots are in a spot where they can either close the Jets out the way people have wanted to see them or burp up a lead and cause strife in the region.
Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discuss the aftermath of Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live video. Curran interview Matt Light ahead of the AFC Championship. They dissect the press conferences of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and look at how to beat the Steelers.
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2:29 Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live aftermath
13:14 Stopping Le’Veon Bell
27:16 heywassyonumba? with Patrick Chung and Kyle Van Noy
32:30 Injury report updates for AFC Championship
36:51 Brady and Belichick’s press conferences
44:50 Matt Light interview
FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick knows that how you play, not where, is what matters most.
That's why when he was asked on Wednesday about the advantage the Patriots will have by playing at Gillette Stadium in the AFC title game, he wasn't willing to go all-in on how a comfortable environment will positively impact his team.
"I don’t know," he said. "Go ask Dallas and Kansas City."
The Patriots apparently thought enough of home-field advantage that they played their starters throughout their regular-season finale win in Miami, exposing their best players to potential injury in order to maintain their positive momentum while simultaneously ensuring a better road to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots fans in attendance on Sunday will help when the Patriots take on the Steelers, Belichick acknowledged. But there's much more to it than that.
"Yeah, of course," he said, "but the game is won by the players on the field. That’s who wins football games – the players. And they’ll decide it Sunday night."
And if you needed any further proof, just ask the Cowboys and Chiefs how helpful their home crowds were in the Divisional Round.