Jets mistakes prove costly in loss to Patriots

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Jets mistakes prove costly in loss to Patriots

FOXBORO -- Rex Ryan walked slowly to his postgame press conference and stepped up to the microphone, full of regret.

"Well, ah, you know, ah, I think you, ah, have to, you know, give New England a ton of credit," Ryan said, wiping his face. "That's a heck of a football team. You know, we made too many mistakes to beat them. I think that's it."

The Jets had their chances to win on Sunday but lost to the Patriots in overtime, 26-23. If not for their own self-inflicted errors, they thought, it could be them sitting atop the AFC East at 4-3, not the Patriots.

"You have to learn from the things we messed up on," said Jets defensive end Mike DeVito. "We have to watch the film and bounce back. It is still within our reach, and we control our own destiny. We just have to bounce back and get ready for next week."

The Jets miscues started with Devin McCourty's 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter. The Jets were up a touchdown early, and just seconds later they allowed the special teams equalizer to a team that has struggled this season to get its return game firing. Strike one.

"We just over-pursued," said Jets safety Antonio Allen. "Through the whole week we were reading the wedge and seeing where it was going. It was a special teams breakdown."

Then in the second quarter, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and running back Shonn Greene botched a handoff when Vince Wilfork drove Jets guard Matt Slauson into the backfield. Sanchez kicked the resulting fumble out of the back of his own end zone for a safety. Strike two.

"We had some unfortunate errors," said Jets tackle D'Brickshaw Ferguson. "The whole game was a fight. When you're playing an opponent like this and it is a tough game, it's the small things that become really big."

On the Jets' next possession, Sanchez drove the Jets 56 yards before another hiccup. With New York on New England's 36-yard line, rookie receiver Stephen Hill was all alone in the front right corner of the end zone. Sanchez lobbed a fluttering pass through the air and into the wind toward Hill. It died and landed in the hands of another rookie, Patriots corner back Alfonzo Dennard, who was able to camp under the ball for his first career pick.

"It looked like the ball never came out of his hand right," Ryan said of Sanchez's throw.

Strike three. And the Jets hadn't yet made it out of the first half.

The Jets trailed by just six at halftime, somehow. Mostly because the Patriots were not error-free themselves. Nor would they be perfect in the second half. But the Jets continued to screw up at a pace that wouldn't allow them to move ahead on the scoreboard.

They allowed the Patriots to drive 83 yards on their first possession of the second half, including a two-yard touchdown catch by Rob Gronkowski on a play that Ryan said his team practiced defending all week.

At the end of the fourth quarter came the real stinger, when Hill dropped an easy first down deep in New England territory. The Jets had to settle for a game-tying field goal with 2:11 left instead of running off more clock -- and maybe coming away with more points.

"It was just a catch I should have caught," Hill said. "Other than that, that's it."

Fittingly, the Jets finished the game with one final misstep. With the Patriots up three in overtime, Rob Ninkovich got a beat on Mark Sanchez, knocked the ball loose and recovered the fumble.

Jets linebacker Calvin Pace was on the sideline when the Jets made their last, costly error. The play was under review, but he and the rest of his teammates knew what had happened. They had messed up. Again. And though the game was tight, over the course of the day, they had messed up more than the Patriots. Certainly too often to head home with a win.

"They are not the type of team to beat themselves," Pace said of the Patriots. "It just wasn't good enough . . . We missed a golden opportunity. Too many 'should ofs, could ofs, would ofs.' We just didn't get it done."

Quick Slants The Column: On booing Goodell and overvaluing Jimmy G

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Quick Slants The Column: On booing Goodell and overvaluing Jimmy G

Big night, Philadelphia. How you gonna treat the man NFL owners pay $35 million to be their meat shield? The first round of the draft is one of the few Roger Goodell appearances the league can’t manage. Released from the protection of John Mara’s coat pocket, Goodell has to hear a voice vote from fans every time he approaches the mic. He can grin, bang nipples and backslap all he wants with the first-rounders and sling that “Welcome to the family!” line of BS. He can hit the stage with the ghosts of Reggie White, Buddy Ryan and Chuck Bednarik. Philly’s too smart to get caught watching the paint dry. 

Got into a brief and spirited debate on the topic of Jimmy Garoppolo this morning on our “Boston Sports Tonight” email chain. I opined that perhaps Garoppolo is a bit overrated. Overvalued may have been a better adjective. Here’s why. With a fleet of teams dying for a quarterback they can build around, the Patriots squelched all Jimmy G suitors by declaring him untouchable. We may ultimately find out it was all a ruse and the team winds up getting a boatload of picks in exchange for him but from everything I’ve been told since September that’s not happening. Garoppolo will stay a Patriot and the team will figure out later how to proceed with him once his contract is up in March.

If Garoppolo isn’t franchised and doesn’t sign an extension to back up Tom Brady until Brady either retires (not on the horizon) or is traded (gasp), then why did the team pass on the haul it could have had? The theory most often posited is that Garoppolo is Brady insurance. If Brady gets hurt in 2017 and Jacoby Brissett is the next-man-up, the team is cooked. But that reality has existed throughout Brady’s tenure whether he had Rohan Davey, Matt Gutierrez, Matt Cassel, Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett behind him. It didn’t faze them then. Garoppolo is better than all of them. Potentially. And that’s probably why the Patriots don’t want to make a decision on him before they have to. They look at all these forever .500 teams trying to find a quarterback answer and think, “There, but for the grace of God and the presence of Brady, go I.” Garoppolo isn’t going to be better than Brady. But he fits the suit better than anyone they’ve ever had and they like the fact they found him, developed him and were right about him. Clearly they believe he is a greater asset as a backup with a soon-to-expire contract and a complicated future than the collection of young players they’d be able to draft with whatever picks they got back in a deal. This, of course, runs counter to the way the team has traditionally done business. Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio have found innovative ways to acquire, stockpile and flip picks. The fact the team’s already got its 2017 draft haul of Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy, Dwayne Allen and Mike Gillislee thanks to pick-flipping. Garoppolo could yield the next batch of picks the Patriots could use in the “rent-to-own” model they’ve shrewdly adopted. But Garoppolo is the extreme outlier. And the Brady-Garoppolo-what’ll-they-do dance is fascinating because it highlights the confluence of everything – draft, free agency, cap management, trades, potential vs. proven, old vs. young, icon vs. phenom – at the most important position in sports on the greatest franchise of this era. 

Which brings me to this: we’ll have former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis in studio tonight at 9pm on Boston Sports Tonight helping us through the first round of the draft. Looking forward to his insight on why Garoppolo is persona-non-tradeable. Put the over-under on “Tommys” at about 47.

Patriots seven-round mock draft: Shakeup in the secondary

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Patriots seven-round mock draft: Shakeup in the secondary

In order to shake things up a bit in our third and final mock draft of the pre-draft season -- you can find our first two here and here -- we went ahead and made a trade for the Patriots.

In a move silimar to the one they pulled off involving Chandler Jones last year, in this mock draft the Patriots dealt Malcolm Butler to the Saints in order to pick up some draft capital. But instead of receiving the No. 32 pick overall in return, Bill Belichick pulled in a haul of picks that provided nearly equal value: No. 42 overall (second round), No. 103 (third round) and No. 196 overall (sixth round). 

That deal bumped the total number of Patriots selections from six to nine, and by picking up a second-rounder they gave themselves an opportunity at a top-end talent.

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