EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - It's been awhile since MetLife Stadium felt like this for a Jets game. It's been so long that fans can be forgiven for forgetting what this energy felt like, but just walking into the stadium you could feel the excitment pulsating through the crowd.
The players confidence has been growing for weeks and today it was infectious as the crowd had the stadium jumping all game long and the players did not let the fans down. They came close by letting the Patriots tie the game up and send it to overtime but it took the Jets only five plays to go 80 yards to score the game-winning touchdown.
Of course this only happened because after winning the coin-toss Bill Belichick elected to kick the ball off instead of receiving the ball. This lead to a whole lot of confusion as everyone in the press box was left scratching their heads trying to figure out what Belichick was thinking?
"I thought it was the best thing to do," Belichick said. Many were wondering if it was disrespect for the Jets offense but by that logic you could just as easily flip it and say it was respect for the Jets defense. The Patriots struggled to get anything going on offense all game, only scoring one touchdown, maybe Belichick didn't think they could score another touchdown against the Jets defense.
Belichick said he was, "looking at field position," when he chose to kickoff. He was hoping to stop the Jets quickly then just have to worry about kicking a field goal. Obviously the end result was not what he was hoping for but Belichick said he doesn't regret the decision.
"No. There was a pass interference penalty on third down, they got the stop, we get the ball back where we want it," Belichick said. "Then we get picked, beat on two flag patterns. We just didn't play good enough defense."
The Jets controlled this game from the beginning. For most of the game the Jets receivers were able to do whatever they wanted against the Patriots secondary and the only thing that prevented the game from turning into an early blowout were a handful of just off target passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick finished the game going 26-41 for 296 yards and three touchdowns, he did however have a strip-sack fumble that the Patriots recovered and returned for their first touchdown of the game to cut the Jets lead from 17-6 to 17-13. The Jets tacked on another field goal before James White caught the game-tying touchdown to send the game into overtime.
"We don't want to surrender a lead, but we fought back," Todd Bowles said. "The guys have been fighting for weeks now. We've grown since the middle of the season and are finding ways to pull these games out."
After the passing game was clicking because of Brandon Marshall for most of the game (eight catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns) it was a huge play by Quincy Enunwa that put the Jets in position to cap the drive off with a six yard touchdown to Eric Decker.
"The one to Quincy was a slant on the outside and Quincy just ran a flat route. The way they played it, Quincy is just a game changer in terms of the stuff he does for us in the run game, so they were playing off coverage on him and press outside," Fitzpatrick said. "Quincy was able to get to the flat and you saw his strength and his athleticism on that play when he took off down the sideline. We missed the one at the end of regulation and he knew he was going to have another chance to make a play and he did. He made a great day.
"The one to Deck (Eric Decker) was just a great route by Eric. Eric did a tremendous job today of staying patient. I missed him on a few throws and he didn't have a lot of balls come his way, but then he makes the biggest catch of the night. He's obviously a true professional the way that he approaches it and a great team player as well."
To make this big win, over the hated Patriots even bigger, the Jets got a little help from the Ravens as they were able to knock off the Steelers and put the Jets playoff destiny squarely in their own hands.
The Jets have now won five straight games, something they haven't done since 2010. In order to ensure they get into the playoffs the Jets will need to win their sixth straight next week in Buffalo, the last time the Jets won six straight was to close out the 1998 season on their way to the AFC Championship game.
A win against Rex Ryan in Buffalo next week and the Jets will be in the playoffs and this team remains focused on the task at hand.
"I'm glad we got (our) fate in our own hands," Sheldon Richardson said. "We don't need to depend on anyone (else), this is my first time ever being in the driver's seat for my own playoff future and I want it. I want it bad.
"It's bittersweet (smiling), I love the guy. I love Rex, love his coaching staff too, but he's in the way right now. We got to get past him."
Chris Nimbley is the Editor-in-Chief of JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)