Inspired defense, big penalty help Jets beat Patriots in overtime
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Willie Colon stood before them and spoke from his heart.
Few players in the Jets' locker room understand the value of time. And Colon, an eight-year veteran, has far less left than most of his teammates.
So with the Jets losing by 11 points to the Patriots at halftime on Sunday, he looked around the room and -- with the aid of "a lot of rated-R stuff" -- demanded they all give a better effort.
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"I just told them, there's no tomorrow," the Bronx native and Hofstra product said. "We can't wait for Geno to grow up, we can't wait for somebody else to make a play. I told them, leave it all out there. Come out firing, have passion in your belly -- and fight.
"I know the importance of 'now' 'cause I've been in this situation," he said.
It's unclear whether Colon's message to the entire team or Muhammad Wilkerson's encouragement to the defensive line to "stay hungry" -- or a Patriots pushing penalty that gave Nick Folk another opportunity to kick the game-winning field goal -- was the true difference in the Jets' 30-27 overtime win over the first-place Patriots.
In the end, all that mattered was that the Jets (4-3) had done what few thought they could against an opponent that has haunted them for years. New England's winning streak against AFC East opponents finally ended at 12 games. But more important for Rex Ryan, his players stuck it to the Patriots (5-2) for the first time since the 2010 playoffs.
"We finally finished," linebacker Calvin Pace said. "We've been in this situation numerous times, whether it's been overtime or the final drive of regulation. So it was finally time for us to finally get one."
With the score tied at 27, Folk missed a 56-yard field goal wide left with 7:11 left in OT. But the play was negated when defensive tackle Chris Jones was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for pushing teammate Will Svitek forward in an attempt to block the kick.
The newly implemented rule, which the NFL said was enforced for the first time this year, stipulates that a player cannot push another teammate into the opponent's formation. The 15-yard penalty gave the Jets the first down and the ball at the New England 23. Four plays later, Folk kicked the ball through the uprights from 42 yards for the win.
Referees had warned the Patriots about pushing on a previous field-goal attempt, according to Colon. But Bill Belichick said of the Jones penalty: "You can't push from the second level, but I don't think we did that."
Even a standout performance by tight end Rob Gronkowski (eight catches, 114 yards) in his season debut wasn't enough of an edge against Ryan's defense. The unit set out to prove it could duplicate its Week 2 performance against Tom Brady, who completed only 48.7 percent of his passes and threw for 185 yards in their first meeting. Brady was 22-for-46 for 228 yards this time but didn't throw a single touchdown pass.
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Though Geno Smith's first-quarter pick-6 (a 79-yard return by cornerback Logan Ryan) put the Jets in a 14-7 hole, he didn't crumble. But Brady, who was sacked four times by four different Jets (Wilkerson, Pace, Quinton Coples and Damon Harrison), seemed rattled by the Jets' dialed-up pressure in the second half.
"It's hard blocking us for four quarters," rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said.
Brady threw his own pick-6 in the third quarter on a pass intended for Gronkowski. Second-year safety Antonio Allen returned the interception 23 yards to pull the Jets to within 21-17.
Smith, who threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley on the Jets' first drive, ran for an 8-yard touchdown in the third, giving the Jets a 24-21 lead.
According to Ryan, quarterbacks coach David Lee told Smith before the game that he would have to "make two plays with his legs that are going to win the game for us."
And he obliged.
Said Smith: "I think coach Lee may have a good job being a psychic or something."
The Jets, however, never predicted overtime. The Patriots came back to tie the score at 27 thanks to field goals of 39 and 44 yards by Stephen Gostkowski in the fourth quarter, the second with 16 seconds left in regulation. But in the end, the Jets' defense rebounded from a sluggish start and slammed the door on Brady.
In the first half, Wilkerson sensed his linemates were getting frustrated by their lack of pressure on Brady. So he reminded them that if they stuck to their technique, they'd be fine.
Richardson, flashing a big grin, asked:
"Was he right or not?
"He was right."