AFC East: 2012 Week 7 Rapid Reaction
October, 21, 2012
By Mike Reiss | ESPN.com
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots' 29-26 overtime victory over the Jets at Gillette Stadium:
What it means. An unexpected turn of events. The Patriots led 23-13 at the end of the third quarter and found themselves staring at a 26-23 deficit when they started their final offensive drive of regulation at their 20-yard line with 1:32 remaining. They were fortunate to escape, with two drives that produced field goals -- one at the end of regulation and one to open overtime -- to improve to 4-3 (2-0 in AFC East). Defensive ends Jermaine Cunningham and Rob Ninkovich combined to strip-sack Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez to seal the win.
Where has the explosive offense gone? Two weeks ago, after back-to-back wins over the Bills and Broncos, the Patriots’ offense looked explosive and some were wondering if it might be better than the team’s record-setting 2007 edition. The offense has struggled to find its groove since. The Patriots attempted to be more balanced in this game, but couldn’t string together any consistency in either area. Tom Brady’s frustration was evident at various points. The Patriots need to find that spark again.
McCourty’s kickoff return a spark ... then he nearly fumbles game away. The Jets had tied the game at 23 with 2:06 remaining when Patriots kickoff returner Devin McCourty lost a fumble on the ensuing kickoff return. The Jets recovered and kicked a field goal to go up 26-23. This offset one of the best plays of the game -- McCourty’s 104-yard kickoff return in the first quarter. It was the second-longest kickoff return in Patriots history.
Gostkowski’s 43-yarder forces overtime. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski delivered one of the biggest kicks of his seven-year career with the team, nailing a 43-yard field goal with no time left in regulation. The kick was set up by a five-play, 65-yard drive directed by Brady. Gostkowski's 48-yarder in OT was the winner.
Injuries mount in various areas. The Patriots are a banged-up football team. Starting right guard Dan Connolly (illness) played only the opening series before being replaced. The team also was playing without starting left guard Logan Mankins (hip/calf) and starting safeties Steve Gregory (hip) and Patrick Chung (shoulder), while cornerback Ras-I Dowling (right quad) and defensive end Trevor Scott (right hamstring) left in the fourth quarter and didn’t return.
Credit to the Jets. Two weeks ago, the Jets were left for dead by some after back-to-back losses to the 49ers and Texans, but they've rebounded and gave the Patriots all they could handle in this game. The Patriots were ineffective for long stretches of the game, but the Jets deserve credit for parts of that. They mixed up their defensive plan -- sometimes bringing pressure, sometimes rushing just three -- and also played tough against the run. They served notice that they will be a factor in the AFC East.
What’s next. The Patriots travel to London for a “road” game against the Rams on Sunday. The team is scheduled to leave late Thursday afternoon. Following London is the Patriots' bye week. The Jets return home to entertain the Dolphins.