BOSTON (CBS) – You can’t talk about Sunday’s game between the Patriots and Jets without talking about the penalty.
The penalty, of course, was an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Chris Jones for pushing a teammate into the line of scrimmage. The 15-yard penalty changed the game – instead of the Patriots taking over at their own 46-yard line, the Jets were given a first down on the New England 23-yard line, a chip shot away from winning the game.
Now, my only issue is with the timing. It’s not that I don’t think the penalty was called correctly; it’s that the officials were told to keep an eye on this during the week, yet it was not called anywhere else in the league on Sunday, and it was not called on any of the other five field-goal attempts in this particular game. I find it hard to believe that Jones’ push in overtime of this game was the only instance of the foul in the entire league on Sunday, yet it was the only one called. To selectively enforce it at that very moment was wrong, no doubt, but the refs in no way blew the call.
Plus, the fact that the Patriots were in the situation where a Jets field goal was going to beat them in overtime was not the fault of the officials. And given the way the Patriots’ offense was struggling, there was hardly any guarantee that they’d be able to gain the 25 yards necessary to get into game-winning field-goal territory.
So yes, the penalty call cost them that one last chance, but it’s not why they lost the game. Let’s get into how that happened, plus much more, in all of the leftover thoughts from the Jets’ 30-27 overtime win over the Patriots.
–The Patriots lost the game in the third quarter, plain and simple. Their first four drives of the second half gained a grand total of negative-5 yards, which is antithetical to the purpose of the sport of football. And it’s also inaccurate, because the first drive ended in Tom Brady’s pick-six on a play that began on the 14-yard line. So technically, the Patriots’ first four drives of the second half went negative-19 yards and scored negative-seven points.
That’s how a 21-10 lead disappears quickly, and it’s how the Patriots found themselves going to overtime in a game they should have put away before the fourth quarter ever began.
–Tom Brady was not happy about this. He was hard on himself and the rest of his offense, dedicating just about all of his postgame talk to how their performance wasn’t acceptable.
–He’s right, too. He wasn’t accurate all day on Sunday, with ESPN Stats & Info tweeting that he went just 4-for-20 on passes that traveled 10 yards or more. That’s terrible. But he was hardly alone. The offensive line allowed four sacks, making that third quarter all the more difficult, they had failed runs on third-and-1, missed routes, bad timing, bad cuts – it was ugly. They went 1-for-12 on third down, even with Rob Gronkowski back in the fold, and it was so unlike what we’ve become accustomed to seeing out of a Tom Brady-led offense.
–Gronkowski is now Wes Welker, in the sense that Brady’s going to lock in on him and throw his way nearly 20 times per game, apparently. So while Gronk’s eight receptions for 114 yards were nice, and while he looked good considering how much time he’s missed, it wasn’t a perfect game for No. 87. His drop on the the last drive in regulation may have been the costliest mistake of the day, his offensive pass interference penalty took the Patriots off the goal line in a drive that would end in a field goal instead of a touchdown, and (though this is hardly just hit own fault) he caught just eight of the 17 passes thrown to him.
It always felt wrong to criticize Welker too harshly for one drop in a game where he’d catch 15, and I feel similarly with Gronkowski. But a one-handed catch sure would have changed things at the end of regulation.
–The loss wasn’t solely on the offense, either. Marquice Cole got run over by the quarterback, then committed to the inside to give Geno Smith a running lane to the end zone for the Jets’ go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. They missed Aqib Talib. Kyle Arrington got worked by Jeremy Kerley in the first half.
The defense did make plays. Chandler Jones was a force, Chris Jones had himself a nice day before the penalty, and Alfonzo Dennard made this play:
But it wasn’t a banner day for the Patriots’ defense.
–I do enjoy how Brady, in the thick of a comeback drive, is 10 times calmer than everyone else watching him. While fans scream at their TVs, watching seconds tick off the clock, Brady is just kind of nonchalantly standing there, calling out the play, letting seconds tick away. Maybe that drive didn’t end in a touchdown, but it did end in a game-tying field goal. And just as importantly, it ended with just 16 seconds left in regulation, meaning there was no chance of a Jets drive to win the game.
—Jerome Boger probably could have prevented the world from being so confused by the overtime penalty if he actually had some idea of what he was calling. He stood on the field and announced that No. 94 was penalized 15 yards for “for pushing an opponent … into the pile.” So initially, I think most people thought Chris Jones was being penalized for … pushing an opponent … which is kind of the purpose of the sport, you know?
—That wasn’t even Boger’s worst/best call of the day. That honor belongs to his announcement after a Brady fumble was recovered. “On that play, the ball was fumbled forward, so we bringin’ the ball back to the spot of the fumble.”
–Logan Ryan did an excellent job in jamming David Nelson at the line and jumping the route for his interception and 83-yard return for a touchdown, but what a boneheaded move he had with the crotch-grabbing celebration. That’s a ridiculous thing to do at any level in any situation, but to do it in the middle of an NFL stadium, in the first moment of his career where all eyes are on him … I just sort of felt bad for him as a person. He’s 22 years old, but that’s no excuse for being stupid.
–The penalty call in overtime shouldn’t have been particularly surprising, considering Chandler Jones was penalized 15 yards of “unnecessary roughness” when he gently pushed a ball carrier after a play. This officiating crew clearly did not take pushing lightly.
–“Pushing”? Really? No pushing? Is this the public swimming pool?
–There was also no penalty called on Kyle Wilson for shoving Kenbrell Thompkins’ head into the ground after slamming the receiver to the turf following an incompletion.
I guess shoving is allowed, as it’s not pushing. If he had just pushed Thompkins’ head, he’d have gotten the 15-yarder.
—Joking aside, the NFL is ridiculous. This vicious push of a shoulder pad draws a 15-yard penalty:
But you’re allowed to launch helmet first into another man at full speed, so long as that man is carrying the ball.
Though at least the officiating crews are maintaining the standards of true sportsmen. A true sportsman would never push a teammate when trying to block a field goal. That’s simply not the conduct befitting of a sportsman.
—To the earlier point about the selective enforcement of the field goal penalty, you could see two Jets stack up right in the middle of the line on Stephen Gostkowski’s game-tying field goal, for what that’s worth:
–Alas, there was a blatant hold by Nate Solder on Brady’s game-winning touchdown last week against the Saints, but there wasn’t much talk of that around these parts. That’s the way sports go. To sit and lament about any one call is no way to live life. That would make you a Raiders fan. You don’t want to be a Raiders fan, do you?
–The Patriots lost on Sunday, but do you know who didn’t lose? Bob Kraft, that’s who. Super Bowl ring cufflinks? You win, Mr. Kraft.