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Jets have win within reach, let it slip away to Patriots

Malcolm Butler of the New England Patriots breaks

Malcolm Butler of the New England Patriots breaks up a pass intended for Eric Decker of the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on Oct. 25, 2015 in Foxborough, Mass. Credit: Getty Images / Jim Rogash

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Brandon Marshall just sat there, staring off into space.

With his legs outstretched and just a towel around his waist, the Jets receiver seemed frozen in time.

The eerie quiet inside the visitors' locker room at Gillette Stadium said it all.

"It wasn't good enough today," Marshall said after the Jets' deflating 30-23 loss to the Patriots on Sunday.

New England improved to 6-0 overall and 2-0 in the AFC East while the Jets dropped to 4-2, 1-1.

Marshall's drop in the end zone on a potential touchdown pass, a third-and-17 conversion against Todd Bowles' defense and questionable late-game decisions contributed to one giant missed opportunity for the Jets.

"I'm [ticked] off because I feel like we had them," right guard Willie Colon said. "I feel like we were the better team out there, but obviously, we were not . . . They beat us fair and square and that is the bottom line."

Despite the loss, the consensus among players is that the 2015 Jets aren't far behind the Patriots. Asked to describe the gap between the two teams, Marshall said: "Very small."

Said Calvin Pace: "I don't think there is a gap. I thought the game plan that we came with, I thought was excellent. We just didn't do enough."

And that makes the loss sting even more.

"You show me a good loser, I'll show you a loser," Bowles said. "So we are going to stew over it for a night and get ready for Oakland."

With the Jets leading 17-16 early in the fourth quarter, Ryan Fitzpatrick (22-for-39 for 295 yards, two touchdowns) looked to his favorite target on third-and-7 from the Patriots' 12. Marshall tried to adjust to Fitzpatrick's throw, turning his body around and away from the defender in the end zone, but couldn't hold on to the ball. The Jets were forced to settle for Nick Folk's field goal and a 20-16 lead.

Without hesitation, Marshall accepted responsibility.

"Absolutely, that is all on me," he said after catching four passes for 67 yards. "If I make that play, it puts us in a better position . . . You have to make those plays in games like this. It will definitely be my fuel this week to get better."

From there, it was all Patriots as Tom Brady worked his magic. The Patriots scored twice in the fourth quarter, first on Danny Amendola's 8-yard reception, which was set up by Julian Edelman's 27-yard catch on third-and-17 from the New England 27.

"That was the back-breaker," Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie said.

On the Patriots' next drive, Brady threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski with 1:13 left to make it 30-20. Gronkowski, Brady's favorite target, caught 11 passes for 108 yards.

Brady, who improved to 21-6 against the Jets in his career, was 34-for-54 for 355 yards with two touchdowns. He also scored on a quarterback sneak.

"This game is on us," linebacker David Harris said, referring to the Jets' defense.

But sprinkled among the blank stares and scowls was some perspective. "It's one game. It's not making us, it's not breaking us," said Cromartie, echoing Bowles' message to the team.

"There is no quit in us," said Fitzpatrick, who rebounded from his sack and lost fumble on the Jets' second play of the game and rushed for 29 yards on five carries.

Seldom-used slot receiver Jeremy Kerley gave the Jets their first lead of the day, 10-3, on a 5-yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter. And although Chris Ivory was a shell of himself (41 yards on 17 carries) because of a tight hamstring, the bruising back easily walked in on a 9-yard touchdown pass that gave the Jets a 17-16 lead in the third quarter.

"Guys work so hard to be in situations like this, and to come up short is frustrating, but at the same time, there is a lot of football left," Marshall said. "Games like this, situations like this, create championship teams or it creates teams that fold."

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