No one gave the Jets much of a shot to knock off the Patriots on Sunday, but they came within 97 seconds of doing that.
Close, as they say, only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. The Jets scored 13 straight points to take a three-point lead with less than two minutes to play, but the Patriots rallied to force overtime and kicked a field goal on their first possession of overtime.
The Jets moved the ball a little bit on their possession (if the first team kicks a field goal, the second unit has a chance to match or score a touchdown to win the game) but Mark Sanchez fumbled on a Rob Ninkovich sack to give the Patriots a 29-26 victory.
For much of the day it looked like the Jets were destined to wind up being praised for their effort in a closer than expected loss to their hated division rivals. The defense played inspired football throughout the contest, but the offense was a parade of errors and the special teams gave up a 104-yard kickoff return for the first Patriots touchdown.
Both units would redeem themselves, however, and the Jets would push themselves into the game. Mark Sanchez led a 14-play, 94-yard drive that ended with a Dustin Keller touchdown and then he led them to a game-tying field goal after the defense forced the Patriots to go three-and-out.
Then the special teams came through as Lex Hilliard forced a fumble by Devin McCourty, who had the touchdown, on the ensuing kickoff. The Jets couldn't pick up a first down that would end the game, however, and left Tom Brady time to come back after another Nick Folk field goal gave them a 26-23 lead.
Brady did just that, using three passes to move the team into Stephen Gostkowski's field goal range with seconds to play. Gostkowski hit the kick and the game went into overtime.
As well as the Jets wound up playing, several mistakes wound up shooting them in the foot and costing them a shot to win the game. Sanchez flubbed a handoff to Shonn Greene that turned into a safety, he threw a pick on a horrendous underthrow to Stephen Hill in the end zone and the team couldn't score a touchdown after driving the ball to the one-yard line on their first possession of the second half.
When you throw in a slew of costly penalties and a drop by Hill that could have given the Jets a chance for another touchdown late in the fourth, the Jets are losers because they are victims of self-inflicted wounds. That makes it hard to sit and praise the effort because the win -- and first place in the AFC East -- were right there for the taking.
That doesn't mean they didn't play well. Sanchez made mistakes, but he was dynamite in the fourth quarter and made some nice throws in overtime as well.
The defense was great and the Jets, generally, showed that they aren't quite ready for the glue factory yet. They aren't ready for first place either, however, and that's the painful truth of Sunday's result.