In the end, the Patriots picked up the win. But it was an ugly trip to get there.
New England needed a final-second block of a 58-yard field goal attempt to put away the lowly Jets in a surprisingly narrow 27-25 win over their AFC East rivals on Thursday.
A 19-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to unlikely target Danny Amendola on third-and-goal with 7:49 left gave the Patriots their winning score. But the Jets exposed some holes in a Patriots defense that could not seem to stop New York’s 30th-ranked offense throughout much of the game.
The Jets rushed for a whopping 218 yards, including 124 in the first half. They scored on their first five drives, though they only reached the end zone once. It wasn’t until the third quarter that the New England defense stiffened and was able to force the Jets to punt.
The Patriots then stopped the Jets on three straight drives that allowed them to turn a 19-17 deficit into a 27-19 lead. Still, the Jets added a touchdown and then a final-minute drive that nearly breathed life into their season before Chris Jones blocked Nick Folk’s field goal attempt.
Their third straight win leaves the Patriots at 5-2 with a 1.5 game edge in the AFC East ahead of Sunday’s games by Buffalo (3-3) and Miami (2-3). The Jets (1-6) have lost six straight after winning their opener.
Other quick-hit notes from Thursday’s game:
■ The Patriots offense, which averaged 40 points over their last two games, failed to develop a rhythm on Thursday. The Jets forced four three-and-outs by New England.
■ Julian Edelman, normally a lynchpin for the Patriots, had an off-night with two drops in the fourth quarter. But Edelman, who finished with four receptions for 44 yards, did have a key catch on the Patriots’ go-ahead drive.
■ The Jets’ inability to close hurt them. They ran 15 plays inside the Patriots’ 30-yard line in the first half, but had no touchdowns. Settling for field goals on their first four drives was disappointing, especially on their first two drives when poorly-timed penalties doomed their chances of reaching the end zone.
■ The Jets basically gave the Patriots a field goal at the end of the first half when Antonio Allen committed a 32-yard pass interference penalty. That led to a Patriots field goal as the half expired, and those 3 points were critical to the Patriots’ winning margin.
■ Likewise, the Jets threw away – literally – another chance when Geno Smith’s pass on the two-point attempt after their final touchdown fell too deep in the end zone and prevented New York from tying the game.
■ Amendola had one of his most impactful games with the Patriots. In addition to catching the winning touchdown, he recovered the onside kick attempt that followed the Jets’ final touchdown. Amendola also took over the Patriots’ kick-returning duties and took back four for an average of 26.3 yards.
■ The stronger second half by the Patriots defense helped make up for a porous first half. Still there’s clearly improvements to be made in the long term. The Jets ran more plays - 80 - than the Patriots had allowed an opponent to run all season.
■ There were no turnovers by either team. It was the type of game where it felt like a turnover would decide who wins. And the blocked field goal as time expired was sort of like a turnover, in that it stunted a possession and decided the game.
■ Tom Brady had three touchdown passes – two to Shane Vereen – to improve to 7-0 all-time as a starter on Thursday. He was sacked once. The Patriots offensive line showed some weakness around him in the second half.
■ The closeness of the game may look odd on paper given the teams’ records. But the familiarity of the Patriots and Jets often leads to close games, despite where they sit in the standings. Four of the teams’ past five games have been decided by three points or fewer. The Patriots are 3-1 in those contests.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter @leahysean