AFC East: 2011 Week 13 coverage

Rapid Reaction: Jets 34, Redskins 19

December, 4, 2011

LANDOVER, Md. -- For the second straight week, the New York Jets staged a fourth-quarter comeback, stunning the Washington Redskins, 34-19, on Mark Sanchez’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes with 4:49 remaining. A week ago, Sanchez-to-Holmes beat the Buffalo Bills in the final minute.

What it means: The Jets (7-5) won their second straight and, coupled with the Cincinnati Bengals’ loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, moved into a tie for the second wild-card spot in the AFC.

One-play difference: Sanchez & Co. capped a brutal offensive performance with one shining moment, the 30-yard scoring pass to Holmes. After throwing slants all day, they burned the Redskins with a slant-and-go. Holmes ran a double move on CB Josh Wilson to break into the clear on a corner route. Sanchez made his best throw of the day.

The Jets secured the win an 11-yard TD run by Shonn Greene, erasing what would’ve been an embarrassing offensive day. For 50-plus minutes, they made costly penalties, wasted timeouts and generally made a mess of things. They went 74 yards on their opening possession for a touchdown, then took a three-quarter hiatus.

Mr. Clutch: Sanchez isn’t the prettiest passer, but he gets it done in crunch time. It was the 10th fourth-quarter comeback/overtime win of his career.

Awesome D: After a horrible start, the Jets regained their composure on defense and absolutely stuffed the Redskins. They made Rex Grossman look bad, which isn’t hard to do, and refused to budge in the last three quarters. The Redskins produced 304 total yards. OLB Aaron Maybin recorded another sack, giving him six on the season. The Jets also had two takeaways, one on a strip sack by Maybin.

Butter-finger brigade: It’s a simple concept: See the ball, catch the ball. The Jets’ punt and kickoff returners haven’t mastered that. Rookie Jeremy Kerley committed the sixth special-teams turnover (yes, sixth), muffing a punt late in the second quarter. The Redskins converted the mistake into a gift field goal, taking a 13-10 halftime lead.

That makes four straight games in which the Jets either muffed or fumbled a return. Inexcusable. Not surprisingly, Kerley was replaced by Jim Leonhard, the only guy who can catch a punt.

There were other special-teams blunders: Nick Folk missing from 40 yards and a poor punt by T.J. Conley that set up the Redskins’ go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.

Solid protection: One of the big storylines leading into the game was the Jets’ ability to block outside pass rushers, Brian Orakpo and rookie Ryan Kerrigan. Mark that a win for the Jets’ offensive line, who didn’t allow a sack for the second straight week.

Give credit to OTs D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Wayne Hunter. The Jets also employed a lot of three-step drops, with Sanchez delivering the ball quickly. They moved the pocket on occasion, letting Sanchez roll out and throw on the run, which is one of his strengths.

The challenger: Rex Ryan won two replay challenges, the latter of which resulted in a change of possession. Leonhard recovered a fumble at the Redskins’ 29 -- initially Roy Helu was ruled down by contact -- but they failed to capitalize, naturally. Folk missed from 40 yards.

LT dinged: LaDainian Tomlinson was limited to only a handful of plays after reinjured his left knee on his first “touch,” a screen pass in the first quarter.

What’s ahead: The Jets return home to face the offensively challenged Kansas City Chiefs, who lost QB Kyle Orton on Sunday to a finger injury on his first play as a Chief. It looks like the Jets will see Tyler Palko as the Chiefs' starting QB.

Rapid Reaction: Pats 31, Colts 24

December, 4, 2011
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots’ 31-24 win over the Colts at Gillette Stadium:

What it means: The Patriots keep pace for the top seed in the AFC and improve to 9-3. The Colts drop to 0-12. The big swing in the game came at the end of the second quarter when the Patriots led 10-3. The Patriots stopped the Colts, called timeout, then got the ball back at their own 40 with 1:38 left in the half. They then drove for a touchdown, got the ball at the start of the third quarter and scored a touchdown, and that was the knockout punch. For the second week in a row, Tom Brady was taken out of the game in the fourth quarter, as backup Brian Hoyer came on (Brady was back for the final kneeldown). The game wasn't as close as the final score indicated as the Colts scored two touchdowns late.

Gronkowski solidifies standing as top NFL tight end: Second-year Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski caught his 12th and 13th touchdown passes of the season, tying the NFL single-season record by a tight end (Antonio Gates in 2004 and Vernon Davis in 2009). It looked like he had his record-breaking 14th but the play was later ruled a lateral and a rushing touchdown. Gronkowski didn’t do one of his patented “boom!” spikes after the third touchdown, thinking he had set the record. He’s had a remarkable year.

Defense carved up but strong in red zone when it counted: Things weren’t looking good for the Patriots’ defense on the Colts’ second offensive drive. They were losing the battle on third down as four conversions advanced the ball to the 1-yard line and chewed up the final 9:30 of the first quarter. But as has been the case all season, the D seems to be at its best inside the 20. A run was stopped for no gain, and it was followed by an incomplete pass. A false start penalty pushed the Colts back and the Patriots ultimately forced a field goal. That was a win for New England on the Colts’ 19-play drive, and while the defense showed significant vulnerability at other points in the game, it held its ground enough on a day that the offense blitzed the Colts in the second and third quarters.

Vinatieri hears boos from Gillette fans: Kicker Adam Vinatieri played for the Patriots from 1996 to 2005 and his clutch right foot played a big part in delivering three Super Bowl championships. Yet that didn’t stop the home crowd from booing him when he came on for a 31-yard field goal in the second quarter. This was Vinatieri’s third trip back to Gillette as a member of the Colts (2006 and 2010), and he’s been booed each time during the game.

Ochocinco back in the mix as No. 3 receiver: Some might say the Gillette Stadium crowd has a sense of humor after it gave veteran receiver Chad Ochocinco a huge cheer when he made his 12th reception of the season in the second quarter. Ochocinco hasn’t produced as expected this season. After missing last week’s game in Philadelphia, Ochocinco was part of the No. 3 receiver mix along with Tiquan Underwood and Julian Edelman. He played 10 snaps, all in the first half, and some were in the hurry-up offense, which is a good sign for him.

Fourth center of the season & offense doesn't miss beat: An easy-to-overlook storyline is that the Patriots went wire to wire with Nick McDonald at center, as he was promoted from the practice squad on Saturday because of injuries to Dan Koppen (IR, foot), Dan Connolly (groin) and Ryan Wendell (calf). He is the fourth center to start for the Patriots this season and there were no issues with the shotgun snap. The offense didn't break stride.

What’s next: The Patriots travel to Washington, D.C., to face the Redskins (1 p.m.) on Dec. 11, while the Colts visit the Ravens that day. Also, Patriots followers will be watching Monday to see if the Dec. 18 game at Denver will remain a 4:15 p.m. start or be flexed to prime time.