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No one can say the Patriots don’t bring plenty of drama in their games. In beating their arch rival Jets 29-26, the Patriots let New York get ahead early, came back to open up a lead, let New York back in it, opened another lead, let New York take the lead, tied the game and finally won in overtime. Intense, I know, but at least the Patriots finally got things together after blowing a late lead, again.
After the opening drive didn’t quite pan out for New England, New York was quick to exploit the lack of ability in New England’s defense to make big stops; New York’s first drive featured completions of 24 and 26 yards. Even so, New England would have limited the damage to a field goal, but a holding penalty on 3rd-and-8 kept the drive going. Four plays later, New York marched into the end zone to take a 7-0 lead.
Fortunately for Patriots fans, New England didn’t take long to respond. Just 12 seconds after the Jets took the lead, Devin McCourty took the kickoff from four yards deep and weaved his way down the left sideline for the 104-yard return touchdown to tie the game.
After forcing a three-and-out, New England quickly marched down the field, relying heavily on their two-headed tight end set. In the end, it was Rob Gronkowski who caught a 17-yard pass to take a 14-7 lead for New England.
After punting a few plays into the quarter, New England had New York backed up on their own 12. On New York’s first play of the quarter, Mark Sanchez fumbled the ball at his own 6. With defenders closing in, Sanchez kicked the ball out of the back of the end zone to take the safety rather than give up another seven points.
After forcing another punt, New York managed to get downfield and into New England territory. After getting to the 36, Sanchez went deep (just shy of the end zone), but didn’t plan things out well enough; the play ended up being an interception at the two-yard line. New England managed to get the ball into New York territory and ate up nearly four minutes, but were still forced to punt yet again. The Jets would have liked to score a touchdown to give themselves a chance to take the lead starting off the second half, but could only get to the New England 36 before Nick Folk converted a 54-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 16-10 at the half.
New York got the ball again to start the half. Four first downs (including a 23-yard completion to Dustin Keller) brought New York to New England’s 11, but they were stopped three yards shy of the goal line, and had to settle for a field goal, cutting the deficit to 16-13.
New England responded with a drive that was just as effective and deep, penetrating deep into the red zone. Aaron Hernandez brought a reception down the one-yard line, but lost the football, which was then recovered by New York in the end zone. That was the ruling on the field, but replay evidence showed Hernandez was down by contact. After nearly being stopped, Tom Brady found Gronk once again for the touchdown to go up 23-13.
The Jets’ first drive of the quarter took up nearly half of it. In 6:58, New York marched 96 yards downfield (after a false start backed them up to their own 4-yard line). The drive culminated in a seven-yard touchdown catch by Keller, and pulled New York once more to within three. New England was quickly forced to punt, and New York quickly brought the ball into New England territory, thanks to a few more good-sized plays. Then, on 3rd-and-4, Stephen Hill of the Jets dropped a very wide open pass that would have given New York a first down and possibly let them eventually score a touchdown. Instead, New York had to begrudgingly tie the game on a 43-yard field at 23-23.
On the ensuing kickoff, New England had three timeouts and the two-minute warning in play, and Tom Brady marching them downfield for the game-winning drive. At least they would have, but Devin McCourty, who had the 104-yard TD return earlier in the game, fumbled the ball away to the Jets with 18 yards between them and the end zone.
After two run plays, New England was down to two timeouts (thanks to the two-minute warning stopping the clock). The Jets went to pass on 3rd down rather than run the ball and force New England to use a timeout. As it turned out, the good news for New England was that they had to use their second timeout anyway, because Sanchez was cornered and took a 10-yard sack, but New York still took the lead 26-23 on their second 43-yard field goal on consecutive possessions.
Saving that last timeout and moving the ball downfield as only Tom Brady’s no-huddle, two-minute drill can do, the Patriots set Stephen Gostkowski up for a 43-yard field goal of his own. That brought up memories of a similar situation in Week 2 against Arizona, in which Gostkowski shanked the game-winning field goal from 42 yards entirely too wide left. This time, however, he was able to easily get the three points and send the game into overtime.
New England won the opening coin toss, but thanks to the new rules, scoring a field goal on the initial opportunity of possession gives the second team a chance to respond. Facing a 3rd-and-7 from their own 44, Brady threw incomplete to Hernandez short right, but New York was flagged for pass interference on the play, instead of receiving a punt. New England continued to claw for more yardage, and took the lead on a 48-yard field goal from Gostkowski.
New York faced a similar situation on 3rd-and-5, with Sanchez overthrowing deep right, but were gifted a first down on a holding penalty. Later, on 2nd-and-10 from his own 40, Sanchez fumbled the ball as he was being tackled. New England recovered the ball to end the game. Players and coaches along with TV crew flooded the field as they do at the game’s end, even though the play was under review. Replays made it perfectly obvious the call would be confirmed, though, so no harm done.
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*Game will be played at Wembley Stadium in London, England