EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — There is no truth to the rumor that Steve Harvey made the announcement that the Patriots would kick off to the Jets to start overtime.
The decision proved to be the final break the Jets needed as they went on to win, 26-20, on Sunday. It also positioned them for the playoffs, now needing only to beat the Bills next week.
After blowing a 17-6, second-half lead, the Jets seemed headed for another loss to their nemesis. Having lost nine of the last 10 regular-season meetings with the Patriots, the feeling at MetLife Stadium was a familiar one.
On this Sunday, however, the Jets had the last laugh — especially wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who led the Jets with two touchdown receptions.
Asked for his thoughts as the teams prepared for overtime, Marshall paused and smiled. "Stop them,'' he said, somewhat stumping some of those in the media room. "When the kicker [comes in] and I was like, 'What the hell?' I thought there was a big miscue. After the game I asked [Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels], 'What were you thinking?'
"Coach [Bill] Belichick is so smart; they're so smart over there. I guess because they had scored only one touchdown on offense they thought they would play the field position game, get the punt, [kick a field goal], and go home. It just had a bad ending for them.
"I wanted to beat them pretty good,'' Marshall added. "But that's hard to do.''
That had been especially hard to do against Tom Brady, who had been on the winning side as the starting quarterback in 21 of the last 26 meetings.
For all the games the Jets have lost to the Patriots in recent years, this one seemed destined to end like so many of them, with the Patriots taking advantage of the Jets being unable to finish, or simply blowing the game. For the Jets, it turned out to be a late Christmas gift.
"Nothing surprises you about the Patriots and strategy and what they think,'' Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald said. "We were excited to get the opportunity to get the ball and put them away.''
Especially since it's the Patriots?
"No. I think just in the context of our season and what this win means for our season; not necessarily who we played or who we did it against,'' Fitzpatrick said. "I think that's the feeling in the locker room right now and why it's so important to us and just the way we won the game.''
Not that the Jets didn't outplay the Patriots.
Fitzpatrick completed 26 of 41 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns. The Jets put up 428 yards of offense. Defensively, the Jets limited the Patriots to 284 yards, and New England converted only one third down in 10 attempts.
But for all the statistics, all the big plays, botched plays, what will be remembered most about this game was, "The Decision.''
"I didn't know what the situation was,'' Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson said about the overtime call. "We got the ball and that's all that matters.''
They got the ball and scored a touchdown, moving 80 yards in five plays; the killer being a 48-yard gain on a simple out pattern to Quincy Enunwa down the left sideline. A 20-yard completion to Marshall followed, and when Eric Decker hauled in a fade from the 6, it was Happy New Year for the Jets.
"I was a little disappointed,'' Marshall said, breaking into a smile. "I told the team before the game that when we win, don't act like we won the Super Bowl. But everyone stormed the field, fireworks were going off. I guess they enjoyed it.''
“Absolutely,” Decker said. “It’s a beautiful thing. Those are the moments you cherish and remember.’’