On an unusually warm fall Sunday in East Rutherford, the Jets were looking to continue their surprising start to the season. Their week 6 matchup against the New England Patriots had every bit of a big-game feel, and more, leading up to kickoff.
The excitement went up a few notches when the Jets jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first half. These were the defending Super Bowl champions the Jets were taking it to early, with first place in the AFC East on the line.
Well, reality had other ideas.
Tom Brady shook off a slow start to lead New England to a 24-17 victory over the Jets, in a packed MetLife Stadium. The loss for the Jets snapped their three-game win streak, it also allowed the Patriots to take over first place in the division.
The Jets were hit with two reality checks on this day.
First, the road to credibility in the AFC East still runs through Brady and New England.
But, for the Jets, reality also came in the form of a painful reminder. They’re still a rebuilding team with a very slim margin of error.
Despite giving up a 14-point lead, New York found themselves still in position to pull off an upset when controversy hit.
Early in the fourth quarter, trailing 24-14, Jets quarterback Josh McCown hit Austin Seferian-Jenkins on a short pass, Jenkins reached over the goal line for a four-yard touchdown.
But, while all Jets fans in the stadium were celebrating newfound life, the officials decided to review the catch and ultimately overturned the call.
According to the officials, the video replay showed Seferian-Jenkins slightly losing control of the ball when the Patriots’ Malcolm Butler knocked it loose as he was crossing the plane of the goal line. Seferian-Jenkins didn’t regain control of the football until after he stepped out of bounds, this results in a touchback, even though the ball never hit the ground.
Are you confused yet? Me too.
There was no conclusive evidence on any of the replays shown which could confirm the officials were right to overturn the initial touchdown ruling.
“They said he didn’t have control of it going out of bounds,” Jets head coach Todd Bowles said afterwards. “If it hits the pylon going out of bounds, it’s a touchback going the other way.”
New England got back the ball, the Jets went on to come up short in their comeback, and the NFL has plenty of explaining to do for what looked to be a terrible call.
“From my angle on replay, I didn’t see the ball fumbled,” Bowles added. “I saw it bobbled and I saw him gain control of it.”
Jets wide receiver Jermaine Kearse was blunt about the situation.
“I’m pretty sure everybody’s going to look back and say that was a B.S. call.
Bad call? Yes. Bad timing? Definitely. Costly? You had better believe it.
Was it the main reason why the Jets lost this game? Absolutely not.
There were too many missed opportunities by the Jets, especially on offense, which contributed to this loss.
Look at the first half, after the Jets jumped out to a 14-0 lead. Their first three drives of the game produced 14 points, 173 yards on offense.
It went downhill after that and fast. The next three drives all ended up in three and outs.
Then McCown throws a killer interception near the end of the first half on a pass intended for Robby Anderson. Brady and the Patriots only needed six plays to find Rob Gronkowski for a two-yard touchdown pass to help tie the game.
Crucial mistakes which, for a team in the Jets position, can’t happen.
“No doubt, that was very costly,” McCown said afterwards. “We lost the game by seven, so it was costly. It was something that Robby and I need to keep working on. Just the angles of his routes and how we’re going to do things and the location of the ball, and we’ll get better at that. I promise you, we’ll get better at that, but it’s frustrating.”
In a season where development is a key word for this team, the Jets have to file this one away as a lesson learned. Yes, the call by the refs was terrible, but it shouldn’t have come down to that in the first place.
The bottom line is the Jets didn’t put themselves in the best position to take advantage of what turned out to be a winnable game against the defending champs.
They’ll need to go back to practice this week and fix what went wrong, because that’s what winning teams do when it comes to changing their reality.