EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Patriots’ struggles in the second half of Sunday’s 30-27 overtime loss mirrored the play of quarterback Tom Brady, who failed to throw a touchdown pass for the second time in three weeks, after going 52 games with at least one.
Actually, one of Brady’s passes against the Jets reached the end zone. But when it did, the ball was being held by Jets safety Antonio Allen, who returned an interception 23 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the third quarter, cutting the Patriots’ lead to 21-17.
Brady was sacked four times, completed less than 50 percent of his passes (22 of 46) for the third time this season, and fumbled twice. Both were recovered by the Patriots, but it was evident that Brady and the offense couldn’t generate much momentum in the second half.
“Everyone has to look at themselves and do a better job, because what we’re doing right now isn’t good enough,” Brady said. “We had a great opportunity to take control of the game and we didn’t. We fought hard. We just didn’t do what it takes to beat a good defense.”
Brady finished with 228 passing yards, exactly half going to tight end Rob Gronkowski. The throw he’d like back is one intended for Gronkowski, but Allen stepped in front of the crossing route and picked it cleanly. Once Allen got past a diving Julian Edelman, he had clear sailing to a key defensive touchdown.
“The guy made a good play,” Brady said. “That’s a ball I shouldn’t throw. You can’t do that, throw interceptions for touchdowns. That’s one way to get you beat.”
Stephen Gostkowski was perfect with both of his field goal attempts, kicking a 39-yarder early in the fourth quarter, then a 44-yarder with 16 seconds left that forced overtime. It extended Gostkowski’s streak to 13 field goals, a career high. He’s 16 for 17 on the season, his only miss coming in the Week 2 win over the Jets.
Gostkowski wasn’t in the mood to talk about personal streaks, though.
“It was nice to be able to help force the team into overtime, but it doesn’t feel very rewarding coming away with a loss. It stinks, it stinks to lose, and to lose a division game,” Gostkowski said. “I would rather have scored a touchdown at the end there instead of me making that kick, because it’s all about winning here.
“If I can make kicks and help the team win, that’s good, I don’t really care about stats or personal records or how many I’ve made in a row. That’s never really interested me.”
Gronkowski’s return deserved its share of headlines, but the Patriots also received a boost from having Matthew Slater back in uniform. Slater, a special teams ace and a team captain, had missed the last four games after breaking a bone in his hand during the first game with the Jets, on Sept. 12.
Slater wasn’t put on injured reserve, but he didn’t return to practice until Oct. 4, in a limited capacity. In rare moves, he traveled to games at Atlanta and Cincinnati despite being ruled out prior to game day.
He played Sunday wearing a small cast and was credited with one special teams tackle.
“I was just so thankful to be out there. It was tough to be away from my teammates,” Slater said. “I thank God for strengthening my body and spirit. I was blessed to be back out there.”
The two players added to the inactive list on Sunday were rookie receiver Josh Boyce and guard Chris Barker, both of whom were healthy scratches. They joined defensive tackle Tommy Kelly (knee), running back Leon Washington (ankle), and receiver Danny Amendola (concussion), who were ruled out on Friday, and defensive backs Aqib Talib (hip) and Tavon Wilson (hamstring), who were downgraded Saturday.
For the second time in three games, the Patriots were held to only one third-down conversion, going 1 for 12. That’s the same success rate — or lack thereof — as they had two weeks ago against the Bengals. No surprise: Those are the two games they’ve lost this season.
The only successful third-down conversion on Sunday came in the fourth quarter. On third and 5 from the 25, Brady hit Gronkowski for an 11-yard completion. But the Patriots eventually punted.
The Jets converted their first six third-down plays into first downs, and were 11 for 21 overall.
“We’ll have to go back and look at the film to pinpoint what we didn’t do on those plays,” said safety Steve Gregory, a New York native who had four tackles. “In the end, we have to find a way to stop them and we didn’t, so we’ll have to do a better job.”
Better than average
Edelman reclaimed the NFL’s career punt return average record after taking three kicks back for 58 yards, a 19.3-yard average. Edelman gave the Patriots a short field midway through the second quarter with his longest return of the season, a 38-yarder that pushed the ball to the Jets’ 28-yard-line. The Patriots cashed that in, scoring on a 17-yard run by Stevan Ridley.
Edelman is now averaging 12.87 yards per punt return in his career, slightly better than the 12.77 by George McAfee.
Rob Ninkovich and Devin McCourty, named defensive captains last week to replace the injured Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork, walked to midfield with Logan Mankins and Slater for the coin flip both before the game and after regulation. “The title doesn’t really change the way I’m going to be on the field or in the locker room,” said Ninkovich, who had six tackles. “I’ve been doing the same thing since I’ve been here, and that’s going on the field and leading by example.” . . . Ridley carried 11 times for 50 yards. The number of rushing attempts helped put him in the team record book, because it qualified Ridley for the highest average per carry. He’s averaging 4.45 yards per rushing attempt as a Patriot; the mark had been shared by Corey Dillon and Craig James (4.22). It took 450 carries to qualify, and Ridley needed six to reach that number . . . The Jets had drive-starting gains of 25, 25, and 17 yards the first three times they had the ball . . . Rookie punter Ryan Allen had eight kicks for a 50.5-yard average, including a long of 62. But three of his punts went for touchbacks, which left his net average at 37.5 yards . . . The game had been finished barely an hour and work already had started on changing the end zones. The Giants host the Vikings at MetLife Stadium on “Monday Night Football” . . . Zach Sudfeld served as a Jets cocaptain and played sparingly on special teams. Sudfeld was originally signed by the Patriots as an undrafted rookie, released on Oct. 3, and then signed with the Jets. He is still looking for his first NFL reception . . . Only three players failed to get into the game: both backup quarterbacks — Ryan Mallett and Matt Simms — and Jets offensive lineman Caleb Schlauderaff . . . The Patriots now lead the series, 54-52-1.Michael Whitmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.