Jets beat Patriots, who elect to kickoff in overtime

By on December 28, 2015

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Sunday, December 27, 2015, 4:16 PM

Bill Belichick handed the Jets the best Christmas gift they could imagine: the ball in overtime.

And the Jets never gave him the ball back. The fate of the Jets’ season changed on an odd coin toss decision that helped Gang Green defeat the Patriots in dramatic fashion, 26-20, in OT Sunday at MetLife Stadium. A 6-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Eric Decker allowed the Jets to seize control of their playoff destiny.

Because the Steelers lost to the Ravens on Sunday, the Jets (10-5) only need a win over the Bills next week to clinch a wild-card berth. They would also get in with a loss, if the Steelers (9-6) lose to the Browns, or the Broncos (10-4) lose their final two games (to the Bengals on Monday and Chargers next Sunday).

“I think it’s meant to happen,” Calvin Pace said of reaching the playoffs. “I do. I’m not going to sit here and make guarantees, we’ve still got business to handle, but the talent is there, the coaching is there. It’s just about us going out and doing it.”

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Eric Decker leaps into the crowd after his touchdown in overtime gives the Jets a victory over the Patriots – and gives them control of their own playoff fate.

MEHTA’S INSTANT ANALYSIS: JETS 26, PATRIOTS 20 (OT)

The Jets couldn’t put the Patriots away with a two-touchdown lead, but they got the ending they hoped for in OT, starting with Belichick’s shocking decision to kick off. The Patriots, after the game, confirmed that their intention was indeed to kick and that it was not a mistake.

“I thought that was the best thing to do,” Belichick said, citing field position as a factor involved.

Special teams captain Matthew Slater was the one who called for the kick, only after he had “double-checked and triple-checked” with his coach to make sure that is what Belichick wanted.

“I just asked him three or four times just to make sure I’m not the guy that goes up there (and decides), ‘Yeah, we want to kick off,’ ” Slater said. “I think he was looking at me like, ‘Are you concussed?’ because I kept asking him.”

There was some confusion after the coin toss because Slater thought the Patriots would also get to choose which side to defend if they elected to kick. In actuality once they chose to kick, the Jets got the choice of sides.

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Brandon Marshall comes up big to help lead the Jets past the Patriots on Sunday at MetLife.

Despite the gift of getting the ball first, the Jets still had 80 yards to go after Stephen Gostkowski kicked a touchback to open overtime. And they were up for the challenge.

Despite their offense going flat as the Patriots rallied to tie the game, Fitzpatrick & Co. were firing on all cylinders in the extra session. No pump-up speech was required.

“Everybody knew what we had to do,” Fitzpatrick said.

Ryan Fitzpatrick drove the Jets down the field on the first possession of OT for the win.Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Ryan Fitzpatrick drove the Jets down the field on the first possession of OT for the win.

The second play of OT featured a 48-yard completion to Quincy Enunwa — who made up for a fourth-quarter drop — to put the Jets in striking distance. After a completion to Brandon Marshall put the Jets on the 6-yard line, Fitzpatrick hit Decker in the corner of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

Decker celebrated by leaping into the crowd as if he were at Lambeau Field.

The players then raced to check the score of the Steelers’ game, which only heightened the mood in the postgame locker room.

“I’m glad we’ve got fate in our hands, not depending on anyone,” Sheldon Richardson said. “My first time ever being the driver’s seat for my own playoff future. I want it. I want it bad.”

And only increasing the drama is that the Jets’ final game comes in Buffalo. Where Fitzpatrick used to play. Where offensive coordinator Chan Gailey used to coach. And where Rex Ryan is now the head coach.

Ryan’s team is out of the playoff picture, but he would love nothing more than to ruin the dream of his former team.

The Patriots return a Ryan Fitzpatrick fumble for a TD to start the second-half comeback.Peter Morgan/AP

The Patriots return a Ryan Fitzpatrick fumble for a TD to start the second-half comeback.

“In the words of the great Steve Smith, man, it’s going to be a bloodbath,” Pace said.

The Jets actually looked like they had the Patriots beaten long before Belichick coughed up the football or Decker caught his game-winner.

Two touchdown receptions by Marshall had the Jets up 17-3 in the third quarter and firmly in control of the game. But after a field goal and a strip-sack by Jabaal Sheard that was recovered and returned for a touchdown by Jamie Collins, suddenly the lead was just four points.

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Chris Ivory helps give the Jets a strong ground game early against the Patriots.

And in the final minutes, trailing 20-13, the Patriots were at it again, converting two fourth downs on Tom Brady passes to Rob Gronkowski before scoring just inside the two-minute warning on a Brady pass to a wide-open James White.

“I never lost faith,” Richardson said. “But most definitely it was one of those times where I was just like, ‘Why? Why does (Brady) always get back in the game?’ That just goes to show you how great that man is.”

The old Jets might have collapsed, but in the biggest game of Todd Bowles’ coaching career, his team bounced back.

“We still have a ways to go,” Bowles said. “I’m not saying we’ve arrived. We won a game. We haven’t arrived yet. We haven’t gotten into the playoffs yet.”

The Jets were somewhat of a longshot to make the postseason entering Week 16. But now it would be devastating if they don’t earn a berth.

“From my standpoint, man, I just knew it was going to come down to this last game against Rex,” Pace said. “It’s fate.”

“It’s actually bittersweet,” Richardson said of facing Ryan in the final game. “I love the guy. I love Rex. I love this coaching staff, too. But he’s in the way right now. And we’ve got to get past him.” 

Tags:
todd bowles ,
bill belichick ,
ryan fitzpatrick ,
eric decker ,
tom brady ,
brandon marshall ,
muhammad wilkerson ,
sheldon richardson ,
darrelle revis ,
bilal powell ,
chris ivory ,
sebastian vollmer ,
kenbrell thompkins ,
lorenzo mauldin ,
rob gronkowski ,
quincy enunwa ,
new england patriots ,
new york jets ,
nfl
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