EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Their urgency was obvious. Trailing, 21-10, at halftime — a margin that could easily have been wider — the Jets needed a tide-turner, a spark, anything to get them back into their biggest game of the year.
Another Patriots’ score might have flattened Gang Green for good. And nobody recognized that better than Tom Brady.
Just as obviously, Quinton Coples and Antonio Allen — a couple of second-year Jets defenders — had other ideas.
On the first play of the second half, 6-foot-6-inch, 290-pound outside linebacker Coples, out of North Carolina, bulled through Brady’s protectors and sacked him for a 6-yard loss back to his 14, forcing a fumble that the Patriots quarterback recovered.
Then it was Allen’s turn. The 6-1, 210-pound safety out of South Carolina got to Brady’s short second-down pass a step before intended target Rob Gronkowski, returning it 23 yards into the end zone, and changing momentum.
The Jets’ defense continued to step up and hold Brady down.
After a 21-point first half, the Jets limited New England to just two field goals the rest of the way.
It was Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith (17 of 33 for 233 yards, one TD toss, one TD run) who more than held his own against 14-year vet Brady. But it was the Jets’ defense that spurred 30-27 overtime upset.
Not only did the Jets, now 4-3 and one game out of first place in the AFC East, end a six-game regular-season losing streak to their biggest conference rivals, but they breathed life into their 2013 ambitions
“Allen, we knew he’d be challenged, but he’s a baller, the guy’s a football player,” lauded coach Rex Ryan.
Allen had five tackles, four assists, three deflections, and the interception before the game was finally decided on Nick Folk’s 42-yard field goal 9:48 into overtime.
“I just jumped the route and came up with the pick,” said Allen. “It gave us the spark I know we needed for the game.
“We just needed a turnover. Gronkowski’s a great tight end, everybody knows that. You can’t take anything away from him, he catches a lot of balls in the red zone. We needed to be physical with him at the line of scrimmage, we had to put our hands on him.”
Brady targeted Gronkowski 17 times, but completed just eight passes to him.
“He’s a big physical guy, but we did a good job on him,” continued Allen. “And that was key. We stepped up when we had to. We were desperate for a win.
“Who knows, maybe we can win on out. If we play with this intensity, who knows?”
Coples, who finished with three tackles and assisted on another, thought it was a step in the right direction.
“Some people have been saying some negative things about this team,” he said. “But we never pay attention to stuff like that. The guys writing that, they’ve got their job to do, I understand that. But we have our own jobs to do, and today we did. We’ve got to keep going forward.”