Well, Patriots, take solace in this: You were the very first team -- the very first -- to be penalized under Rule 9-1-3, a new rule that reads: "Team B players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation."
That's right. Never been called. Not once.
It was called on the Patriots' Chris Jones during a 56-yard field-goal attempt by Jets kicker Nick Folk in overtime, a kick that sailed wide of the goalposts. But Jones was penalized 15 yards for pushing teammate Will Svitek into the middle of the Jets' line, an unsportsmanlike-conduct call that moved New York to the New England 23-yard line. Three runs into the middle of the field set up Folk for a 42-yard kick that he drilled through the middle of the uprights, giving the Jets their first victory over the Patriots since the 2010 playoffs, 30-27. (Click here for the game summary, statistics and scoring.)
Bill Belichick didn't agree -- "You can't push on the second level [but] I don't think we did that" -- but, on replay, Jones' action do appear to be a textbook example of the rule as written. The rule was instituted as a safety measure for offensive linemen and, according to former NFL official Mike Pereira, the league recently distributed game tapes to the officials showing plays when the penalty should have called.
Their awareness raised, the officials called it Sunday. And it basically put the Patriots in a position from which -- barring a miracle defensive play -- they couldn't recover. "I’m sure the league would rather the first call in history of this rule would not have been at this point in the game with these ramifications," Pereira, who now works for Fox Sports, wrote on Foxsports.com, "but it is the rule."
"I guess if they saw that, they saw that," said Patriots guard Logan Mankins. "Kind of ticky-tacky for the game-winning play there, but it is what it is. They called it, and it really hurt us."
But that the Pats were in a 27-27 tie in overtime had nothing to do with the referees and everything to do with their own offensive ineptitude, which began late in the second quarter and carried into the fourth. They seemed to have the game in hand with a 21-10 lead in the second quarter, and they were in position to put the game away when they took possession at the 50 with 5:15 left in the second quarter.
Instead they went backwards, losing seven yards and being forced to punt. The defensive stand energized the Jets, who allowed the Pats just one first down in their next five series. And the third quarter was worst of all, starting with a pick-six thrown by Tom Brady to Jets corner Antonio Allen, who snared a pass intended for Rob Gronkowski and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown just 33 seconds into the half that cut the lead to 21-17.
It got no better, as the Pats went three-and-out on their next three drives and gained a total of one yard.
"That third quarter was just horrible," said Mankins. "Sacks, we couldn't make a third down, we couldn't do anything right. That's really what turned the game. The offense played so bad, [it gave] the Jets a great chance to get ahead of us."
As bad as the offense was, the defense -- playing for the first time without four injured starters (Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Jerod Mayo and Aqib Talib) -- wasn't much better. The Pats allowed 383 total yards, allowed the Jets to convert an astounding 11 of 21 third-down attempts (including a third-and-21) and let New York control the ball for 46:13 of the 69:53 the teams would up playing.
In that context, it was just a matter of time before the Jets took the lead, And take the lead they did, on an eight-yard scramble by quarterback Geno Smith with 4:33 left in the quarter. Folk added a 37-yard field just before the end of the quarter, making it 27-21.
The Pats cut it to 27-24 on a 39-yard field by Stephen Gostkowski with 12:58 to play, then tied it with 16 seconds left when Gostkowski drilled a 44-yarder to cap a 10-play drive in which Brady drove New England from its own 8 to the Jets 22. But they missed a chance to win when Gronkowski (8 catches, 114 yards in his season debut) almost made a one-handed grab late in regulation at about the Jets 10-yard line when he had a clear lane into the end zone. But he couldn't hold on.
The Pats won the coin toss and took possession in overtime, and Brady completed a 16-yard pass to Gronkowski on the first play. But three straight incomplete passes later, they had to punt . . . and the rest is history.
The loss makes the AFC East a race again, as the Pats drop to 5-2 and the Jets improve to 4-3. The Bills (3-4) tightened up the back end of the race by beating the Dolphins (3-3), as well.
That alone would make it hurt. But it was the Jets, and it came on an obscure call. That makes it much, much worse.
"I hate losing to these guys," said Mankins. "We're not going to get over this one tonight. I know I won't."