By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Two years ago, on a November night in Foxboro with driving winds that rendered Peyton Manning completely unable to throw the ball toward the open end of Gillette Stadium, the Patriots won an overtime coin toss and opted to defend that open end rather than taking the football. It made perfect sense. The Patriots won.

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But on Sunday afternoon, on a calm day in New York, choosing to kick in overtime did not make sense. And the Patriots lost.

Barring a real weather-related need, a team with even a mediocre quarterback should always opt to receive the football when a touchdown can end the game. Because no matter what has happened to that point in the game, the mediocre quarterback — say, a Ryan Fitzpatrick type — can make a play to kick-start a five-play, 80-yard drive in a matter of two-and-a-half minutes to win the game.

There’s no denying that it was a slow go for the New England offense on Sunday, but what is the best-case scenario for kicking? It would be to stop the Jets on a third-and-3 from the New York 27-yard line, forcing a Jets punt. That punt would likely give the Patriots the ball at their own 25-yard line or so. (Earlier in the game, the Jets punted from their own 13-yard line. It came down at the New England 30-yard line and was returned to the 34.) That means that by choosing to kick, the Patriots risked losing the game in order to gain five to 10 yards of field position and to have the chance to end the game on a field goal.

On a team that employs Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, that just doesn’t make tremendous sense.

Yet it was a decision that didn’t completely come out of left field. The precursor to that decision came with 1:53 left to play in the first half, when the Patriots trailed 10-3 after Brandon Marshall’s touchdown in front of Duron Harmon. The Patriots took over at their own 20-yard line with two timeouts and plenty of time to at least mount a field-goal drive. Instead, Brady handed off Brandon Bolden for an inside run to gain 13 yards. The offense then huddled, letting time tick away, before slowly making its way to the line for the next play, another inside Bolden run, this one gaining just two yards. They huddled again, draining another 30 seconds from the clock, before going with a short pass over the middle to James White for a gain of five yards.

Brady called for a huddle, then lined up for a play, but let the final seconds of the first half tick off the clock, content to head into halftime down 10-3.

There were reasons to play conservative, of course, not the least of which being the early loss of Sebastian Vollmer, which thrust recent pickup/Lions castoff LaAdrian Waddle into action at left tackle. But the Patriots aren’t good enough to get away with not trying to score every time they get the ball.

Not to sound too much like Trent Dilfer, but it’s hard to win games when you don’t try to score. Maybe it’s something the Patriots can get away with when they’re 100 percent healthy, but that doesn’t really matter right now. They’re not healthy. Their talent gap over opponents is a lot smaller than it used to be, and choosing to punt possessions away at the end of the first half and the start of overtime is the type of decision-making that can directly lead to losses.

That’s especially true for a team that’s made the “dreaded double score” somewhat of a trademark. And it was just three weeks ago when the Patriots did the same thing against the Eagles, when they sort-of tried to move the ball but also played it safe. They ended up getting a punt blocked, allowing the Eagles to score a touchdown before halftime, and they eventually went on to lose.

It almost came back to bite the Patriots in their first meeting with the Jets this year, too. In Week 7 at Gillette, the Patriots stuffed the Jets on a second-and-8 with 1:14 left in the half. Bill Belichick opted to not take a timeout, and on third down, Jamie Collins sacked Fitzpatrick for a loss of 12 yards. The Patriots took a timeout at that point, but it was much too late. They ended up getting the ball with just 24 seconds left in the half.

The Patriots managed to win that game, thanks in part to Marshall dropping a touchdown, but they weren’t so lucky on Sunday. Perhaps by now they’ve learned that even with injuries across the board, an aggressive approach is still paramount to winning games.

Now, onto the leftover thoughts from the Jets’ 26-20 win.

–There was confusion on the overtime coin flip, and that confusion was only augmented when Belichick said after the game that there was no confusion.

Bill Belichick: “There was no confusion.”

Matthew Slater:

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

The confusion stemmed from the fact that Slater seemed to believe he could choose to kick and choose which direction, whereas in reality you can only choose one of those two things. He probably should have said “We want to defend that goal,” which would have then passed the kick/receive option to the Jets, who would have almost assuredly chosen to receive. That is, of course, if the side of the field was very important to the Patriots.

In any case, the coin toss was a cluster, but the Patriots did want to kick in overtime. Even though that proved to be a very bad decision.

–Minor (major) pet peeve: I keep hearing people say that Belichick wanted to “defer” on the overtime coin toss. One cannot defer an overtime coin toss. To defer does not mean to kick off. When the Patriots defer on opening coin tosses, they are postponing their decision on either kicking receiving OR defending a certain goal until the start of the third quarter. By deferring, the opponent gets to choose whether to take the ball, or whether to defend a goal. Considering the Patriots will almost assuredly elect to receive to start the second half, the opponent always opts to receive that opening kick.

Defer does not mean to kick off. DO YOU SEE?

–Having watched Tom Brady all year, I can’t help but notice that the man looks utterly exhausted. He just looks gassed, both on the field and after the game. It’s taxing, I imagine, shouldering the load while losing both starting tackles, playing behind three rookie interior linemen and two second-year interior linemen, and losing playmakers like Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman along the way. There were plays on Sunday where Brady had less than two seconds to get rid of the ball before getting walloped, and there were other plays when he did have a little bit of extra time but nevertheless tucked the ball and went down when his internal clock told him to bail.

The guy just seems wiped. I suppose that winning a Super Bowl, fighting a “scandal” and a suspension, and then carrying a team at the age of 38 and leading the NFL in pass yards and touchdowns wire-to-wire, all while taking 36 sacks, can be quite tiresome.

–I did find it noteworthy that when Brady was asked about his interception to Darrelle Revis, he didn’t expend much energy to let Rob Gronkowski off the hook. On the play, it appeared that Gronkowski ran the wrong route or made a bad read and thus broke off on the wrong option, but the only way we can know such things for certain is if one of the players involved tells us.

I expected Brady to fall on the sword, take the blame for a “bad pass, bad decision” and then move on. But instead he said, “That’s just one we gotta watch as a team. I mean, you hate to have ’em happen. And not throwing it to [Revis] — that would be my least favorite option on the play. But it just so happened that’s what … didn’t turn out the way we wanted.”

Brady looked pretty steamed at Gronkowski later in the game when the tight end apparently wasn’t lined up in the right spot, forcing Brady to burn a timeout. But it didn’t affect them too much, because Brady ended up going to Gronkowski to convert a fourth-and-1 coming out of that timeout.

So there’s no underlying problem. Just something you notice during an ugly afternoon in New Jersey.

–That fourth-and-1 conversion, by the way, likely set some hearts aflutter around New England. That was the play on which Calvin Pryor dragged Gronkowski down from behind, leading to Gronkowski’s upper body lurching forward while his lower body was stuck in the ground. It looked bad.

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

But he popped up and stayed in the game, thereby making this just a regular loss in New Jersey instead of a catastrophic loss in New Jersey.

–The funniest Gronkowski play of the game came early in the second quarter. He engaged Antonio Cromartie in a block about 1 yard from the line of scrimmage:

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

He ended up casually pushing Cromatie about 12 yards up the field:

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

And with Cromartie listed at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, that’s one of the least lopsided cornerback-Gronk matchups that’s possible in the league.

–Did you enjoy the three straight trick plays, aka the “OK, Fine, Josh, We’ll Let You Do This Because It’s Week 16 Vs. The Jets” sequence?

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Flea-flicker to Gronkowski, incomplete.

Reverse to Brandon LaFell, nine yards.

Wildcat, Brady wide right, direct snap to Bolden, zero yards.

Wee!

–Pardon my ignorance, but what does it mean to “Jet Up”?

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

–I like replay review when it corrects obvious mistakes made on the field, but for the most part, I hate it. Watching sports in 2015 has come to mean sitting patiently while inconsistent officials analyze every single pixel in super slow-motion while trying to decide something based on ambiguous rules that nobody can really define.

It sucks the sports out of sports.

That instance came in this game when Brandon Marshall waltzed into the end zone, nearly untouched, the football extended over the goal line, inside the pylon, as he trotted out of bounds inside the 1-yard line. It was a touchdown, OK? We watch sports, we knew it was a touchdown. Yet instead, we got a booth review, and a nice long commercial break to keep us all entertained.

We needed a review for this?

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

–Another complaint: I’m sick of pick plays, or rub routes, or whatever you’d prefer to call them. I just refuse to believe that defensive players are so talented and defensive coordinators are so brilliant that it’s impossible to run an offense without relying on sneaky little ways to spring receivers open. It was made an art form by Peyton Manning’s Colts, and it’s since been copied around the league, with teams essentially hoping they get away with it and/or daring officials to throw a flag. The Patriots do it a lot, and they do it poorly, often getting flagged for setting picks, and it’s just kind of a chintzy way to try to beat a defense. It’s akin to rushing to the line to catch the substituting defense with too many men, which is another Manning-era Colts trick which the Patriots have emulated in recent years. It’s all within the rules, for the most part, but I don’t like it.

It’s difficult enough to play defense in the current NFL; we don’t need to make it harder.

Granted, the play that set up the Jets’ overtime score wasn’t a pick play per se, because no Jets player contacted a Patriots player. But Brandon Marshall’s in-cut prevented Tavon Wilson from covering Quincy Enunwa on the out route, with Wilson instead doing the picking of his own on Leonard Johnson. Wilson probably would have been better off just running into Marshall in hopes of drawing that offensive pass interference penalty, but that’s a lot easier to say from afar, long after the fact.

–On the first play of the second half, Brady hit Gronkowski for an easy gain of 22 yards. Apparently the Jets spent halftime forgetting who No. 87 was.

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

This should never happen. Yet it keeps occurring.

–Covering Jimmy White proved difficult too, on the game-tying touchdown.

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

James White and Rob Gronkowski celebrate a touchdown. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

James White and Rob Gronkowski celebrate a touchdown. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

–Congratulations to Stevan Ridley for winning the Super Bowl.

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

Ohh, wait, that was just a 13-yard run in the third quarter, Ridley’s longest of the season, which nevertheless prompted him to start shouting at the Patriots sideline. Good times.

Then again, Ridley was tackled on that play like this:

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

So perhaps he was just celebrating the fact that he was still alive.

–Had the Patriots not lost the game, Gronkowski’s catch on fourth-and-9 would have made the short list for Patriots plays of the year. It was simple, really, and the Jets sort of made it easy for the best quarterback-tight end combination in the league, but it still involved a bullet of a pass, an impressive catch:

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

And it also involved Gronkowski dragging several fully grown adult males on his back.

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

–I feel like Eric Decker probably expected more fans to swarm him when he hopped into the stands to celebrate his game-winning touchdown. Instead he got a whole lot of empty first row in his back.

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

(Screen shot from NFL.com/GamePass)

–Some people on the Internet immediately speculated that the Patriots lost on purpose in order to push the Steelers out of the playoff picture. That is the Internet Theory to end all Internet Theories. Bill is good, but I don’t think he’s good enough to be able to coach a game while paying attention to how the Steelers are doing in Baltimore, and then deciding, “Eh, let’s lose.” You could say that maybe he kept some things close to the vest, in case these two teams do meet in Foxboro in mid-January, but I don’t think it’s really right to believe he’d drop anything intentionally when the No. 1 seed in the AFC remains unclinched.

(The Patriots definitely lost on purpose in Week 17 of the 2005 season, though, aka the Flutie Drop Kick Game, less popularly known as the Game When Matt Cassel Threw The Potential Game-Tying Two-Point Conversion 50 Yards Through The End Zone. If memory serves, that was in order to avoid the Steelers and instead get the Jaguars in the divisional round.)

–I don’t think the Patriots will have any problems beating the Dolphins, no matter which players actually participate in the game. The Dolphins just lost at home to the quarterbacking duo of Charlie Whitehurst and Matt Hasselbeck. Frank Gore had one of his best days of the year. The Dolphins scored one touchdown.

It’s the offseason already for the Dolphins. If they get down by seven or 10 points early on, I don’t anticipate much pushback. And the Patriots will finish the season with a 13-3 record and the No. 1 seed in the AFC. But I suppose we’ll save that coronation for next week.

–In any case, if the Patriots do end up hosting the Jets in a playoff game, it won’t be very difficult for Bill to gather some bulletin-board material for his team.

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You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.