- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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FOXBOROUGH, MASS. -- When Nick Folk tied the game late in Sunday's eventual 29-26 overtime loss to the Patriots, Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill could not have been more elated as he watched from the sidelines. Just moments before, the rookie receiver had dropped a first down chance that potentially could have resulted in a touchdown drive for the team.
"Just a crucial drop I should have caught," Hill said.
The rookie receiver made the cardinal mistake of taking his eye of the ball and turning to move with it before catching the pigskin.
"(I) just (have to) keep my eyes to the tuck," said Hill, who finished with four catches for 55 yards. "Other than that, I'm going to work hard and just get back on the field so we can get this win for next week."
With the Jets trailing 23-20 and less than three minutes left in regulation, the Jets faced a critical third-and-4 at the Patriots' 25. Quarterback Mark Sanchez had time and found Hill wide open at the 14-yard line, but the rookie dropped the ball with no one around him.
Had Hill caught the ball, he had the first down and would have had one man to beat in open space to give his team the lead. Instead, the Jets had to settle for a field goal that tied the game. Hill was targeted seven times in the game and finished third on the team with his 55 yards.
"He made some nice catches in that game. It's unfortunate," Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. "I think he was trying to make a big play and so many times when that happens you've got to catch the ball first, then worry about making the run after the catch. It looked like he had a lot of room afterward. It's just unfortunate that you had to do the first thing. You have to (get to) point A before you get to point B."
After the dropped pass, Hill said his teammates were supportive, telling him they needed him for overtime, and he appreciated it. Sanchez made sure to talk to the rookie, who's had to produce immediately with the season-ending injury to Santonio Holmes.
Earlier in the game, Sanchez and Hill were not able to hook up on a long ball near the end zone, with Sanchez underthrowing Hill and the Patriots picking off the pass.
"The first thing I said to him was, 'Don't worry about it, we're going to get another chance. I'm telling you this thing is going to go down to the wire and you just keep your head up. It never even happened, just keep playing,'" Sanchez said. "He knows how to catch and he'll make big plays for us."
Hill has struggled with drops early in his career and it's a problem Ryan acknowledged after the game. Ryan said the team would do everything to cure those problems, including spending more time working with the JUGS machine to shore up those hands.
Even as the drops rack up, Hill hasn't lost any confidence in his game.
"I wouldn't be out here if I didn't have faith in myself," Hill said.