BOSTON (CBS) — It was not pretty, and at times it was downright ugly, but the Patriots never quit and earned an overtime victory over the Jets on Sunday.
The game featured a few more negatives from the Patriots than positives, so here are four ups and four downs from the 29-26 win.
For nearly four full quarters, Stephen Gostkowski’s job consisted of kickoffs and extra points. He was then thrown into a pressure-packed, make-it-or-go-home situation. And he nailed it.
After missing a game-winning kick against Arizona, Gostkowski had the chance to redeem himself and he did so with flying colors. He drilled a 43-yarder with 5 seconds left in regulation, then booted the eventual game-winner in overtime, a 48-yard kick. If he missed that first one, it would have been a looooooong week for him, the fans and the rest of the team. His performance was, dare I say, Vinatieri-esque.
He had zero catches in the entire first quarter, but he ended up being arguably the team’s MVP the rest of the way. He finished the day with six catches for 66 yards, which isn’t a career day for Welker. However, the timing of some of those catches was truly impressive. His first three catches came on third down, and two of them moved the chains (the one that didn’t was a gain of 16 on third-and-20). Three of those six catches resulted in first downs, and he also chipped in with his always-sure hands as a punt returner, gaining 21 yards on two returns.
This was the first time since Week 1, essentially, that Welker played with Aaron Hernandez and Julian Edelman in the offense, and he proved he’s still as valuable as he’s always been.
Honestly, it’s a little difficult putting any defensive player in the “up” category, considering the defense made Mark Sanchez look like Joe Montana for much of the afternoon. But when you make the game-ending strip sack and fumble recovery, you get the glory.
Ninkovich had six total tackles, 1.5 sacks, two tackles for a loss and the rare walk-off sack/fumble recovery. That’s as cool a moment a linebacker can ever really have.
Don’t worry, he’ll be in the “down” section too, but Devin McCourty’s 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was as crucial a play in the game as there was all afternoon. The offense clearly had its issues throughout the entire game, so without McCourty’s special teams play, who knows where the Patriots would have found themselves in the second half?
McCourty also did a good job filling in at safety with Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory out. The defense as a whole struggled, but McCourty played pretty well in a somewhat unfamiliar role.
As good as that touchdown was, his fumble returning a kickoff late in the fourth quarter was much, much worse.
With the game tied with just over two minutes left in the game, McCourty returned a kick out to the 15-yard line but coughed up the football, setting up the Jets in field-goal range in a tie game. Fortunately for McCourty, he and the defense held the Jets to a loss of seven yards in just 24 seconds, allowing the offense to drive for the game-tying field goal. Still, that’s a mistake that very few teams can overcome.
The Entire Offense
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong with the offense, but collectively, the unit struggled for almost the entirety of the game. The scoring drives, during which the Patriots looked like the well-oiled machine they’re supposed to be, came out of nowhere, and the offense had to send Zoltan Mesko out six times for punts.
Rob Gronkowski and Welker got passes, and Brady didn’t have a bad day, but many others did. Brandon Lloyd had just one catch, despite being targeted eight times. He had a couple of drops which admittedly would have been very difficult catches to make, but he let the potential game-winning touchdown bounce off his chest on a diving attempt near the end of regulation. He also got penalized for offensive pass interference, taking away a first down. The running game was serviceable if not spectacular, but as a whole, this offense was simply not what it’s supposed to be. There’s a lot of work to be done for Josh McDaniels and Co.
Despite the offense’s struggles, the defense was still in position to win the game in the fourth quarter. Staked with a 10-point lead entering the fourth, the Patriots allowed a 92-yard touchdown drive and a 40-yard drive that ended in a field goal to tie the game. Like they did in overtime, the defense needed to make a play in the fourth to win the game. More plays like that in other weeks, and they won’t be so fortunate.
The second-year cornerback has been a mystery this year, as nobody could quite figure out why he wasn’t getting any playing time. With a shorthanded secondary on Sunday, we have gotten our answer. He simply might not be very good.
He helped turn a Jets field goal into a touchdown by holding Dustin Keller on a third-and-8 incompletion, giving the Jets a first down in the red zone on the opening drive of the game. He was later whistled for another holding penalty, though that was declined. Dowling later let Keller slip through his arms on what should have been a third-down stop, allowing the tight end to run for the first down and a gain of 11.
With Alfonzo Dennard making his first career interception and having a pretty good game overall, Dowling didn’t do much to earn more playing time going forward.