FOXBOROUGH — Sweet redemption for Chris Jones came Thursday night. The lineman who was flagged for the odd pushing penalty that gave the Jets a second chance in overtime last season blocked the Jets’ last-second, game-winning field goal attempt to preserve a 27-25 victory for the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
New England celebrated after Jones’s block, a game that also brought a measure of redemption to another teammate: Danny Amendola.
Amendola, an afterthought for much of the season who may have hit rock bottom after Tom Brady completed passes to 10 receivers against Buffalo on Sunday but none to him, caught what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown, making a twisting catch at the goal line, and then recovered the onside kick after the Jets scored to cut the Patriots’ lead to 27-25.
He also got his first crack at returning kicks for the Patriots and had a couple of solid returns.
“It was a big-time play that he made there,” Brady (20-for-37 passing for 261 yards and three touchdowns) said of Amendola’s touchdown. “That was a great kind of ad lib — he ran a little return route and then when he saw me scramble, broke it upfield like we talk about all the time and made a great catch.”
Amendola downplayed his role, saying, “It was a good night for our whole team. We came out with a win. I almost had a heart attack at the end, but the defense came up huge with the stop and the blocked field goal.”
It was a thrilling finish, and while the Jets left Gillette Stadium with the weight of a sixth straight loss hanging on their collective necks, they certainly showed they haven’t given up the fight, staying close to the Patriots all night on the scoreboard, dominating in time of possession (the Jets held the ball for 40:54), picking up a dozen more first downs, posting a better conversion rate on third downs, and outgaining New England by 100 total yards.
But staying close doesn’t soothe the sting of another defeat.
“We know this game was there; it was there for us,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “We just made a couple of costly mistakes, and it ended up costing us the game.”
Ryan, normally jovial at the podium, was visibly agitated and defensive.
After the Patriots went ahead, 27-19, Geno Smith led his team on an 86-yard, 12-play drive late in the fourth quarter, finishing with a 10-yard touchdown to tight end Jeff Cumberland.
Needing 2 points to tie, Smith overthrew rookie Jace Amaro on the conversion attempt. .
But after the Patriots’ punted on their final possession, Smith continued to show not-often-displayed poise in getting his team into field goal range; with the clock ticking down and the Jets out of timeouts, he completed 5 of 7 passes before ceding to kicker Nick Folk.
Folk had been a perfect 13 for 13 on field goals as he lined up for the 58-yard attempt, but Kyle Arrington came screaming off the edge, and while Arrington didn’t get his hands on the ball, second-year defensive tackle Jones did, sealing New England’s fifth win.
“I tried to drive it a little bit. I was told my line was at the 40, so I tried to give it a good ride,” Folk said. “I felt like I hit it pretty good — it’s just a bummer that it didn’t get past 8 yards.”
“It was so fitting he made that play; it was awesome,” Bill Belichick said, noting the unfortunate penalty against Jones last year at MetLife Stadium.
The Jets’ offense, much maligned, didn’t have much trouble moving the ball, though mistakes left the Jets on the wrong side of the score at halftime.
The Patriots led, 17-12, at the break of a game that didn’t have the heavy rains that were expected but was played in unseasonably warm and humid conditions.
Things got off to a rousing start for the Patriots. They got the ball first and were in the end zone in a mere four plays. The capper was a 49-yard pass from Brady to Shane Vereen down the right sideline. Vereen was wide open, dived for the ball, and jumped into the end zone for his first receiving score of the season.
In celebration, Vereen did Stevan Ridley’s “kick in the door” routine, a nod to his good friend and fellow running back, who was placed on injured reserve Thursday, ending his season. Ridley tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee last Sunday in Buffalo.
Vereen also had New England’s second touchdown of the half, catching a screen pass from Brady and freezing linebacker Demario Davis with a stutter-step before falling over the goal line.
The Patriots ended the half with a field goal, going 53 yards in a little more than a minute to set up a 39-yarder by Stephen Gostkowski.
The Jets held the ball for over 22 first-half minutes but came away with just four field goals.
There were a variety of reasons the Jets weren’t able to reach the end zone in the first half. On their first possession, they had a touchdown taken away: On first and goal, Smith found Jeremy Kerley in the end zone, but a holding call against Oday Aboushi not only took the points off the board, it backed New York up 10 yards,.
A second holding call, this one against guard Willie Colon on the edge of the red zone, killed the Jets’ second drive. Drops from rookie tight end Amaro hurt, and a first-down dump-off intended for high-profile free agent signee Eric Decker on their final possession of the half went off Decker’s helmet.
Folk was 4 for 4 in the first half, accounting for all of the Jets’ points.
The Jets began the second half with a run-heavy, 6:02-minute drive kept alive by a third-and-12 conversion, with Smith hitting Decker for an 18-yard gain. Two plays later, Chris Ivory (107 yards, 21 carries) dived over the pile for the score.
After totaling just 31 rushing yards against the Broncos five days earlier, the Jets ran for 218 yards on Thursday.
Part of that success was talent and solid play-calling by coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, and part of it may have been the Patriots shuffling their defense without Jerod Mayo, who suffered a torn patellar tendon against the Bills last Sunday and is also lost for the season.
Several members of the defense expressed displeasure with the unit’s performance against the run.
“We’re going to have to look at the film and see the things we did to give up over 200 yards rushing again,” Vince Wilfork said. “If I had to guess, it would be a lot of missed tackles and out of position plays and one or two guys might not be where they needed to be.
“I think we’ve made improvements, but we knew this team wanted to run the football and they ran the football basically the whole game. You run the ball 30, 40 times [the Jets ran 43] you’re going to have a little success, but . . . I’m very stingy when it comes down to the rush defense. That’s the one thing that I’m disappointed in.”
The Patriots reclaimed the lead with a field goal, aided on the drive by two defensive penalties. But the drive stalled when a first-down pass to Rob Gronkowski from the Jets’ 27 was incomplete, and a second-down carry from Vereen only picked up a yard.
After playing four games in three states and two times zones over just 19 days, Patriots players will have the weekend off to put their feet up and rest.