It was so close Rex Ryan and company could nearly taste it. Sole possession of first-place and a picture perfect 3-0 divisional record went by the wayside as Gang Green squandered golden red zone scoring opportunities late in the fourth quarter and then again in overtime, suffering a gut-wrenching 29-26 defeat in Foxboro.
While Mark Sanchez's 90.3 quarterback rating and 328 passing yards might jump off the stat sheet, New York's fourth-year signal-caller came up short in the game's biggest moments. A seesaw contest featured New England building a ten point lead entering the fourth quarter of play with the Jets' storming back in the final stanza. Sanchez and the Jets clawed their way back into contention; marching 92 yards on 14 plays capped by Dustin Keller's seven yard touchdown reception.
With the deficit shrunk to just three-points, Ryan's defense forced a three-and-out and gave the offensive unit a chance to tie or win the game on its ensuing possession. The Jets drove down to New England's 25-yard line and faced a critical 3rd-and-4 with just 2:10 remaining in regulation. Sanchez slung the ball in the direction of rookie wideout Stephen Hill who attempted to make a move toward the end zone before securing the catch with the ball squeaking out of his hands and to the turf for an incompletion.
Placekicker Nick Folk connected on a 43-yard field goal to knot the game at 23 with just 1:37 remaining. On the ensuing kickoff return fullback Lex Hilliard stripped return man Devin McCourty with Jets' safety Antonio Allen recovering the football at the Patriots' 18 yard-line. After consecutive running plays produced just three yards, Sanchez inexplicably took a ten yard sack, forcing Folk into a 43-yard attempt from the right hash mark. Folk connected on his third field goal of the afternoon propelling the Jets to their first lead since 7-0 in the first quarter.
Tom Brady wasted little time in leading the Patriots on a six play, 54 yard drive punctuated by Steven Gostkowski's 43-yard field goal at the gun to force overtime. The Patriots would win the coin flip in the extra session and charged into Jets' territory before their drive stalled at the 30-yard line with Gostkowski blasting through a 48-yarder to give New England a 29-26 advantage. Sanchez had one last chance to direct Gang Green on a game-winning touchdown scoring drive or put his squad in position for a game-tying field goal to extend the overtime period. New York's man under center wasn't able to do either, as New England's Rob Ninkovich flew through for a strip-sack as Sanchez desperately tried to heave the ball downfield from his backside.
For the second time in three games, Sanchez had the football in his hands with an opportunity to silence his critics and rally his teammates with a touchdown-scoring drive, but came up short in the end. As the Jets set their sights on another critical divisional contest in Week Eight with the Miami Dolphins coming to town, Sanchez and crew will need to wipe this painful loss from their memory bank if they hope to hit the bye week on a high note.