- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One word to describe this: devastating.
The Jets were poised to stun the heavily favored Patriots, but they mismanaged the clock, got conservative on defense and fell hard in overtime, losing 29-26 Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 48-yard field goal on the Patriots' first possession of OT. The game ended with sack/fumble by Mark Sanchez.
What it means: The Jets, left for dead two weeks ago, showed plenty of fight, rallying from a 10-point deficit in the third quarter. But they blew a three-point lead in the final minute of regulation. They missed an opportunity to take first place in the AFC East. The Jets dropped to 3-4 with one of the toughest losses of the Rex Ryan era.
Blame the coaches: The Jets were guilty of horrible clock management at the end of the fourth quarter. They used only 25 seconds -- run, run, sack -- before Nick Folk kicked the go-ahead field goal with 1:37 left. That's too much time for Tom Brady.
Ryan got conservative at the wrong time. Sanchez was throwing well and they should've taken at least one shot from the Patriots' 18, where they recovered a fumble on a kickoff. The Patriots capitalized, sending it to OT with a 43-yard field goal.
Sanchez report: Considering the deficit and the opponent, this was Sanchez's best overall performance of the season. He overcame two big mistakes in the first half (a fumble that resulted in a safety, and an interception) and carried the team on his shoulders, something he hadn't been able to do. Exploiting a porous secondary filled with rookies, Sanchez completed 28 of 41 passes for 328 yards and one TD. Surprisingly, the coaches cut him some slack, letting him throw -- a lot. This should quiet his critics.
Brutal call: The play that will be second-guessed was a third-and-2 pass from the Patriots' 3 in the third quarter. This was an ideal situation for Tim Tebow, who converted in a similar situation last week. Not only did they not use Tebow, but the Jets made a terrible call -- a quick slant to WR Chaz Schilens. The slant has become such a predictable call for the Jets. Down three points, they should've run the ball with Tebow or Shonn Greene. They settled for a chip-shot field goal, but you need more than chip-shot field goals to beat the Patriots.
Tiny Tim: Tebow was a complete nonfactor in the game. So much for all that ridiculous speculation that he was going to play running back. He played only four snaps on offense (including a penalty), rushing three times for 10 yards. He actually lined up once at running back and motioned out of the backfield, but there was a penalty on the play.
Silver lining: The Jets' defense, so disappointing through the first 4½ games, continued to make positives strides. You can't blame the defense for this loss; it allowed only 17 points. But they got too conservative at the end of regulation, going to a prevent-style coverage and letting Brady march up the field for a game-tying FG.
Until then, the Jets did a terrific job of keeping the NFL's top-rated offense in check. They eliminated big plays by mixing their coverages and blitzes, forcing Brady (26-for-42, 259 yards and two TDs) to a dink-and-dunk attack. The Jets added more speed by using rookie LB Demario Davis and diminutive CB Isaiah Trufant in their nickel package. Trufant did a nice job in the slot against WR Wes Welker. It's rather remarkable the Jets played this well without injured CB Darrelle Revis.
Gronked -- again: The Jets signed safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, in part, to help them defend TE Rob Gronkowski. So far, it's advantage Gronk. He didn't rip apart the Jets like he did last season, but he was a huge factor in the red zone, hauling in 17- and 2-yard TD passes. Landry's coverage was solid on the 17-yard TD, but it was a terrific throw and catch. The second TD was child's play, a block-and-release that beat LBs Calvin Pace and Bart Scott to the flat.
Kicking themselves: The Jets' usually stellar special teams suffered a major breakdown, surrendering a 104-yard kickoff return to Devin McCourty. It killed early momentum for the Jets, who were feeling good about themselves after taking a 7-0 lead on their first possession. The kickoff coverage was horrible, so bad that it looked like they had only eight players on the field. Replays showed that McCourty broke free after finding a lane that may have been vacated by Garrett McIntyre.
What's ahead: The Jets return home to face the Dolphins (3-3), who will be well-rested after a bye week. The Jets won the previous meeting, 23-20 in overtime. It's the Jets' last game before their bye.