The pass was perfect. The Patriots' coverage, however, was not.
Jets receiver Stephen Hill stood near the 14-yard line, a forgotten man within New England's poor pass defense, and Mark Sanchez was determined to orchestrate a late-game comeback in Foxboro. But the upset win in enemy territory never materialized. With his team trailing by three and 2:11 left in regulation, Hill dropped Sanchez's third-down pass -- a miscue that helped set the final moments in motion of a 29-26 overtime loss.
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Hill maintained that the Jets' nationally televised rematch against New England Thursday night isn't personal. But make no mistake, the rookie is looking to redeem himself.
"I'm ready to play this game," he said. "You can say it's kind of a 'get back' in a way."
Hill's drop was just one of several "self-inflicted wounds" that derailed the Jets that night in their quest for first place in the AFC East. The special teams unit allowed Rutgers product Devin McCourty to go 104 yards on a kickoff return for a touchdown; Sanchez kicked the ball out of the end zone for a safety; and the defense allowed Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to throw three straight completions of 15, 12 and 20 yards en route to Stephen Gostkowski's regulation-tying 43-yard field goal.
At 4-6, the Jets still believe the playoffs are in sight. But first, they have to go through New England -- just as it's always been during Rex Ryan's coaching tenure with the Jets.
"We know we have to make up a ton of ground and there's only one way to do it," he said. "That's to focus each day and try to get better."
Both teams were 3-3 when they met in Foxboro last month. The Jets, however, are 1-3 since then while New England (7-3) hasn't lost since Oct. 14.
"It's a big game," safety Yeremiah Bell said. "Especially after the way we ended the first game with them. A lot of things we did, we kind of hurt ourselves, shooting ourselves in the foot, and it wasn't a good feeling after that game.
"To get them back in here at our place, it's going to be fun out there."
There were missed opportunities in all facets of that Jets loss. But none, perhaps, bigger than Hill's wide-open drop.
The Jets' second-round draft pick was billed as raw, coming out of Georgia Tech's run-heavy offense. But the Jets believed his height and speed were worth the risk. However, Hill's drops and lapses in concentration have taken center stage instead of his 4.36 40-yard dash speed.
"It's nerve-racking," the rookie said, when asked about his season. "I've been through a lot with injuries and stuff. These guys in the locker room have been helping me out. They're just making sure I'm doing OK and not feeling sad. I always keep a smile on my face."
Hill said it's not in his nature to get down on himself -- even when his biggest blunders occur on the biggest stage.
"Of course you're going to correct yourself and get mad at yourself at that point," he said. "But I don't dwell on the issue a lot. Just let it go."
Later, he added: "I've seen people have seasons like mine."
Notes & quotes: The Jets promoted rookie draft pick Jordan White from the practice squad, per source . . . Backup QB Tim Tebow (ribs) is listed as questionable, along with NTs Sione Po'uha (low back), Kenrick Ellis (knee), RB Joe McKnight (ankle), LB Bart Scott (toe), WR Jeremy Kerley (heel/hamstring) and CB Aaron Berry (quad) . . . The Patriots will be without TE Rob Gronkowski (forearm), rookie DE Chandler Jones (ankle) and G Logan Mankins (ankle, calf). TE Aaron Hernandez (ankle) and WR Wes Welker (ankle) are among those listed as questionable.