FOXBOROUGH — On Monday, Jets coach Rex Ryan said he thought his team was going to beat the Patriots. And though the Patriots gave them every opportunity to win on Sunday, from a Devin McCourty fumble to a holding call in overtime, the Jets weren’t able to make good on Ryan’s words.
Their fortunes — and the potential to take over sole possession of first place in the AFC East — were fumbled away in the extra session, as Rob Ninkovich came flying at Mark Sanchez, and the ball bounced out of the quarterback’s hand and to the turf.
The Patriots recovered and that was it. They had won, 29-26.
“We made too many mistakes to beat them,” Ryan said. “I think that’s it. We had an opportunity to win the game, and unfortunately didn’t get it done.”
Ryan lauded the fact that the Jets kept fighting in a difficult place to play against a difficult team. But in the end all that mattered were the miscues.
Asked if he thought they helped the Patriots, Ryan said, “Yeah, I’d say so.”
“We let them off,” safety LaRon Landry said. “We created that. It’s nothing they did special.”
Even the good things, such as Nick Folk’s go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter, were marked by mistakes. The Jets had just tied the game, were kicking off, and recovered the fumble from McCourty.
As Jets linebacker Calvin Pace said, “I just knew in my heart we had 7 right there. I really did. But it didn’t happen for us. That would have been it right there. It just wasn’t meant to be, I guess.”
Instead, on that possession, which lasted four plays, the Jets lost 7 yards, turning an easy field goal into a 43-yarder, and giving the Patriots the ball back with plenty of time for a tying drive.
“There’s no room for error and we let them off the hook,” Landry said. “We created that madness, and we didn’t finish. We didn’t execute the last drive.”
The Jets played more zone defense on that drive, the one in which Tom Brady led the Patriots down the field, giving Stephen Gostkowski a chance at a 43-yard field goal of his own, which he converted to send the game to overtime. That was the one that most stuck out to the Jets.
There was also the play that seemed like it might lead to an early takeover of the game by the Patriots. After the Jets had started strong with a touchdown on their opening possession, the Patriots answered 12 seconds later as McCourty took the ensuing kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown.
“We just over-pursued,” said the Jets’ Antonio Allen. “Through the whole week we were reading the wedge and seeing where it was going. It was a special teams breakdown. We were trying to be No. 1 coming out of this week, but we fell a little short.”
Perhaps more than a little.
After the game, Ryan was trying to take some good even from the bad points, praising his team for forcing a three-and-out immediately after the Jets allowed a safety.
But that safety?
Vince Wilfork blasted through, causing Sanchez to fumble, then kick the ball out of the end zone. Two points, Patriots.
There were dropped balls, most notably by young wide receiver Stephen Hill. There were questionable penalties, most notably on cornerback Kyle Wilson. There was too much time left on the clock, too many field goals, and too few touchdowns.
Asked if this game represented a chance lost, Pace said, “Yes. We missed a golden opportunity. A bunch of shoulda, woulda, couldas. We just didn’t get it done.”
They were close. They just couldn’t stop making mistakes, big ones and little ones, and that’s not a formula that results in a win on the road, against a team like New England.
“Were we at our best?” Ryan asked. “Maybe not. Wish we had a few things back. But you have to give them credit. They made the plays at the end.”