TOUGHEST TARGET, AS EXPECTED
Jeremy Kerley has a history of gouging the Patriots. In two games against New England last season he caught 14 passes for 206 yards. Unfortunately for the Jets, Kerley missed the first matchup between these rivals because of a concussion. He looked to make up for lost time this Sunday. Quarterback Geno Smith found Kerley three times on New York's opening drive, including a 12-yard touchdown ball. Tough cover.
SWEETEST SIGHT FOR MIIIIILLIONS (number unconfirmed) OF SORE EYES
Rob Gronkowski caught a football. In a game -- a regular season game. After multiple forearm procedures and back surgery, the tight end was stuck in rehab limbo for months. The uncertainty is what tortured fans. Will he play? Won't he? Weeks passed. Gronkowski got closer to a return in some reports and suffered setbacks in others. Finally, seven weeks later, he took the field against the Jets. And he played. HE PLAYED! Gronkowski got nine of 12 snaps on New England's opening drive and caught two passes on two targets for 42 yards. There was much rejoicing.
SMARTEST PLAY BY A ROOKIE SUB
Logan Ryan got his first NFL interception, a pick-6, as the clock wound down in the first quarter. Geno Smith, who perhaps through Ryan would be playing off, tossed a lazy ball to David Nelson. Ryan read the throw, jumped the slant, and the ball landed right in his arms. He ran it back 79 yards for the touchdown. The interception was the fourth by Smith in six straight possessions against the Patriots, as he threw three (two to cornerback Aqib Talib, one to Alfonzo Dennard) in the September 12 game. New England's streak of 34-straight games with a turnover was also extended on the play.
BEST DISPLAY OF SPEED AND POWER
Chandler Jones made life harder for Smith by sacking the QB on second-and-12. He put a sweet move on the normally sure-footed Jets left tackle, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, to take Smith down for a loss of 9 yards. Jones now has 5.5 sacks through seven weeks. His rookie tally was 6.0 in 14 games last season. The stat masters at Pro Football Focus have Jones ranked 16th among 4-3 defensive ends with a 9.1-rated productivity. (New York actually converted the ensuing third-and-22 play. Still a good job by Jones.)
CLEREST SHOW OF OWNERSHIP
Julian Edelman set the league's all-time record for highest punt return average when he hit 13.0 this season. He gave a great example in the second quarter of Sunday's game of how he's hit that mark. Jets punter Ryan Quigley booted the ball 37 yards to where Edelman was waiting. The receiver set off. He zigged and zagged, cutting maybe four times, for a 38-yard return. As New England's ensuing drive started on the Jets 28-yard line, the team needed just six plays and less than three minutes to cover the difference and score a touchdown.
WORST POSSIBLE WAY TO START THE SECOND HALF
With a Tom Brady fumble. It was Jets linebacker Quinton Coples who got around New England's O-line and stripped Brady. At least the quarterback recovered. And theeeeen he threw an interception. It was a short pass intended for Gronkowski, but safety Antonio Allen was on the inside of the tight end's shoulder off the break; Brady never should have made the throw. Allen took the pick 23-yards to the house and cut New England's lead to 21-17.
WORST WAY TO CONTINUE THE SECOND HALF
So the Patriots try again. LeGarrette Blount had a solid 27-yard return, but an offensive holding call on Chris White brought it back 10. From there? Stevan Ridley got three-straight handoffs and rushed just nine yards. New England went three-and-out. Woof.
BIGGEST BAIL-OUT WASTED
The Patriots were in trouble on New York's next drive. Smith found Nelson on third-and-5 for a 27-yard completion that skipped them up to New England's 47-yard line. Two plays later, the QB tried Jeff Cumberland in the end zone who beat Dont'a Hightower in coverage and skied to make the grab. Somehow, Devin McCourty was there to break up the pass as Cumberland was coming down, and save the touchdown. It was a beautiful play. And it got flushed when New England allowed the Jets to Smith to scramble and convert a third-and-14 to extend the drive. The eventual touchdown was hardly surprising.
For the Patriots? Easy: Going 0-for-8 on third down. A hideous number, and that's where the Patriots were at halfway through the fourth quarter. Consequently, the Jets were up 27-24 and had a dominant 31:08 lead in time of possession to New England's 18:45. Especially brutal since the Patriots were 100-percent in the red zone (two-for-two) for the first time this season.
Chris Ivory certainly can't complain this week. The Jets running back was vocal after New York's loss to Pittsburgh: "Going [forward], we have to run the ball. I feel like it’s a must." He got his wish. Rex Ryan's club returned to Ground and Pound against New England, attempting 52 rushes. Of the total, 34 of the handoffs went to Ivory, obliterating his former single-game high this season of 12.
MOST SURPRISING OVERTIME EFFORT
Thanks to a 44-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski, New England got the three points needed to force OT. Would the offense be able to scratch and claw for another comeback win? Surely, if you're in a pressure situation, Brady is the guy you want. The Patriots won the coin toss and received the kickoff. New England's bid started out well enough with a 16-yard completion from Gronkowski, which makes it all the more surprising that the team flamed out quickly after. Brady followed up with three incomplete passes, including one well over Edelman's head, to turn the ball over to New York.