Special teams giveth and taketh
October, 21, 2012
By Matt Ehalt | ESPNNewYork.com
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaDevin McCourty's 104-yard kickoff retun erased the Jets' opening score.FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Jets' special teams unit made its mark on Sunday's game.
For better and for worse.
In Sunday's 29-26 overtime loss, the Jets allowed a 104-yard kickoff return by Devin McCourty that tied the score in the first quarter, but bounced back to force and recover a critical fumble in the fourth quarter that led to a field goal, which put the Jets up 26-23 in the final two minutes. New England ultimately rallied to send the game to overtime and win it.
It was the first time since 2009 that the Jets allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown.
"We pride ourselves on kickoff coverage and we did a great job all year. And getting them inside the 20 and have a play like that happen, it's unfortunate," Jets fullback Lex Hilliard said. "We'll recuperate from it and go back to the practice field and work hard and make sure it doesn't happen again."
Despite its early blunder, the Jets' special teams put Gang Green in prime position to pull off the big upset in New England. After tying the game at 23 with a little more than two minutes left, Hilliard poked the ball loose from McCourty on the ensuing kickoff and safety Antonio Allen recovered it at the New England 18. The Jets would kick a field goal to go ahead 26-23, but the Patriots had too much time left on the clock and marched down the field to tie it.
"At the time it was going to be a game-changing play," Allen said. "But the way the game turned out, that play doesn't even matter."
Although that play gave the Jets a chance to win the game, the specials teams unit previously had negated all of the positive energy the team had in the first quarter. After the Jets took a 7-0 lead on their first drive, McCourty took the following kickoff 104 yards to the house and went unscathed down the left sideline to tie the game.
During the week, the team had been reading the wedge New England used and knew where it was going to go, but even that preparation didn't help. Allen said the team was too aggressive and tried to play over the wedge, and McCourty instead hit them with a backdoor cut to tie the game.
A mistake like that didn't sit well with the team after the heartbreaking loss.
"It was a special-teams breakdown," Allen said. "We have to get back on our jobs and come out next week and do better."