You Jets fans out there – how did you feel when, after dominating the 4th quarter and tying the Patriots 23-23 with two minutes left to play, the Jets recovered a fumble at the New England 18-yard line? Be honest: Didn’t you think the Jets were the better team, at least on this day? I certainly did, and I’ll bet that most Patriots fans did, too.
There was no way to lose this one, was there? Even with Shonn Greene out, you figured, like me, that Mark Sanchez has the hot hand – he had just completed 9 of his 10 previous passes for 93 yards — and, this was the time and the place on the field where Tim Tebow would be most effective. But when Tebow didn’t take the ball out of the wildcat formation or run wide on an option, but simply took a hand-off for a 2-yard gain, you started to do the math in your head, and felt queasy about it, didn’t you?
You figure, oh, damn, they’re going to run it up the middle again,
try to knock some time off the clock but at least make the Patriots use a
timeout … and then …
Well, you’d seen it all before, hadn’t you? You knew Sanchez was
going to drop back and, since New England knew that on 3rd-and-7 that he
had to throw, this time the ball would plop incomplete, stopping the
clock, or that Sanchez might get dropped a few yards in back of the
line, and just for a teaser, the Jets would make their field goal try an
be leading 26-23 with about 1:30 left. Then you knew the Pats would
go with three or four straight over-the-middle short passes, be in line
for about a 40-yard field goal which they’d make with about five
seconds left on the clock. Then the game would go into overtime, and you
knew who was going to win that, didn’t you?
And, like a bad dream, everything you figured after Tebow got these
two yards came true. On 2nd down, Joe McKnight ran for just one yard,
the Patriots stopped the clock, and on third down, sure enough, Sanchez
dropped back to throw and Jeremy Kerley – you saw it up in the top left
corner of your screen – fell down, so Sanchez took the 10-yard sack
instead of throwing the ball away – a smart play, actually, given the
circumstances, because holding onto the ball forced Bill Belichik has to
use another time out. The Jets kicked their field goal to go ahead by 3
and New England got the ball with 1:37 left.
And, indeed, Tom Brady marched them right down field, got the field goal, and won it in overtime.
Afterwards, the blogosphere was filled with statements like “Well,
who knows what might have happen if they had let Sanchez throw on 1st or
2nd down even they were on the 18? The ball might have been
intercepted. Stephen Hill might have dropped yet another key pass.
Sanchez might have been hit and fumbled like he did in overtime on the
last play of the game.”
Yeah, sure, all of that. But – the point is that Sanchez had been
picking New England apart in the 4th quarter, and Tony Sparano’s
decision not to let him pass deprived the Jets of their best chance to
win the game. You know it, the Jets knew it, and the Patriots knew it.
Once again, in a tough situation with the game on the line, the Jets
coaching staff lost its nerve. Ryan and Sparano made the bad call, not
Once again the Jets lost a game that you feel by rights they should
have won. Once again, the Jets had the odds in their favor and found a
way to fumble those odds away. It’s not enough now to say, well we’ll
get them next time at MetLife. Yeah, maybe, but the fact is that to kill
the Patriots the Jets needed to beat them on their home field and ours.
And once again, it looks like the best chance for turning the season
around has come and gone.