Tom Brady never saw it coming. And by the time he picked himself up off the turf, the New York Jets had the ball and the victory. Down 14 in the fourth quarter, Jason Taylor’s blindside strip-sack of Brady ended the New England Patriot’s final attempt to get back in the game and sealed the victory for the Jets.
Up 14-10 going into the half, New England committed three turnovers en route to a scoreless second half. The offense could not sustain long-enough drives to rest the defense, and Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez picked apart the Patriots secondary, throwing two second-half touchdown strikes as part of a three touchdown, 220-yard performance. The Jets defeated the Patriots 28-14 Sunday at New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey.
In particular, Sanchez picked on Darius Butler, who could not handle his wide receiver assignments. On a fourth-quarter Jets drive, Butler committed two pass interference penalties for 39 total yards. The second half of the Patriots young duo of cornerbacks, Devin McCourty, was then beat to the left-side for the touchdown. Butler and McCourty were repeatedly beat by Jets wide receivers, frequently being out-jumped by their marks.
Offensively, everything the Patriots did well in the first half seemed to stall in the second. In the first half, Brady hit Wes Welker and Randy Moss each for touchdown passes. Moss’s catch was particularly spectacular, a 34-yard bomb from Brady that Moss caught with one out-stretched hand while outrunning cornerback Darrelle Revis to the back of the endzone. Revis re-aggravated his injured hamstring on the play and did not return, but the Patriots were unable to take advantage of his absence. Moss and Welker combined for five yards on two receptions in the second half.
“We couldn’t do anything in the second half,” Brady said in his post-game interview. “We just didn’t execute.”
Brady started strong, but finished the game with two touchdown passes, 248 yards, and two key interceptions. Perhaps worse than the interceptions themselves was Brady’s and Moss’s lack of understanding as to their cause. “The first one was just a mis-communication. Second one was just a good play,” Moss said in his post-game interview. On both plays, the Jets cornerback assigned to Moss was in better position to catch the ball than Moss was. Neither Moss nor Brady was clear as to whether those passes were overthrown or under-run.
Brady described the game as “very frustrating,” a sentiment echoed by Moss and head coach Bill Belichick. “They did a good job. Played better than we did. Coached better than we did,” Belichick said. According to the head coach, his team was out-played in “all three phases of the game.”
The lone bright spot for the offense was its tight ends. Aaron Hernandez caught all six passes thrown in his direction for 101 yards. The young tight end corps of Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski continue to impress, giving Brady an array of weapons to utilize.
However, Brady seemed to run out of ammo in the second half. “Way too many third-and longs today. That was a joke,” said Brady. The Patriots offense faced third-and-8 or worse five times. They converted all three times they were in that situation in the first half, but failed both times in the second half, with Brady throwing his first interception on a third-and-13 in the third quarter.
The Patriots were also beat on both sides of the line. On offense, they were never able to establish holes for a running game, as no Patriots running back went over 25 yards rushing. On defense, while the line sacked Sanchez three times (tackle Gerard Warren had two), the sacks stopped after the first play of the second half, and the Jets running game kicked into high gear. LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene finished the game with 76 and 52 yards rushing, respectively. The Jets pounding running game opened up its passing game, as the backs would frequently gain at least five yards on first down, making the later-down situations much easier for Sanchez.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan out-coached Belichick in the second half. The Jets came out of halftime with a far better game plan as to how to counteract the Patriots passing game while simultaneously opening up their own. The Patriots had no answer. “The plays they made in the second half, we didn’t make in the second half,” Moss said, a sentiment which Brady echoed.
“We were trying to do everything we could to gain a yard,” the Patriots quarterback said. Frequently, the Patriots could not even do that. The Patriots gained eight first downs in the second half- two via penalty- as opposed to 12 in the first half. Brady was clearly frustrated with his performance. “I gotta do a better job leading this team,” Brady said.
In a game of what Moss described as “will and determination,” the Patriots came up short. It now falls to them to recover from the loss and move on. It is still early in the season, and in their first two games the Patriots have shown two very different sides to themselves. It remains to be seen which side will be the dominant one: the near-unstoppable force they showed against Cincinnati or the stagnant, out-of-rhythm offense that marked their second half against New York. In either case, this game is one the Patriots said got away from them. Perhaps Moss said it best: “You take the wins with the wins, and the losses with the losses. This one hurts.”