FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Tom Brady and the New England Patriots needed three quarters to figure out the New York Jets.
Trailing by four midway through the fourth quarter, Brady led the Patriots on back-to-back touchdown drives and the defending Super Bowl champions remained unbeaten with a 30-23 victory Sunday over the Jets.
”The offense wasn’t clicking the whole time, which we need to be,” said tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had 108 yards on a career-high 11 catches. ”But in the fourth quarter we just dig down, dig deep.”
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The Jets, who had won two in a row, had hoped to tie the Patriots (6-0) for the AFC East lead and take control of a division that has been dominated by the four-time Super Bowl champs. But now they must wait for the Dec. 27 rematch in New York, when the Jets (4-2) will try to beat New England for just the second time in 11 regular-season tries.
”It’s week seven,” said Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who played in New England last year. ”We knew what this game meant in terms of being on top in the division. But we’re fine. We’ve got a long season.”
Here are some other things we learned in Sunday’s game:
LATE BRADY: Brady was sacked three times in the first half, including a strip-sack in which he recovered his own fumble. But he completed 14 of 17 passes in the final quarter to overcome a 20-16 deficit.
”I thought we played better as the game went on,” said Brady, who was 34 of 54 for 355 yards overall. ”We made the plays when we needed to make them,” Brady added. ”I think that was the important thing.”
LAFELL DOWN: Brady’s numbers would have been even better if not for 11 drops by his receivers – six by newly activated Brandon LaFell.
LaFell, who spent the first five games on the physically unable to perform list with a foot injury, caught just two of the eight passes thrown his way, for 25 yards. Brady and coach Bill Belichick refused to single LaFell out, but he was harder on himself.
”If I had to give myself a grade it would be F. I let the ball get out of my hands too many times,” he said. ”First game, last game, I expect a lot of myself. I’m just really down on myself right now.”
DEFENSE: The Jets came into the game with the No. 1 defense in the NFL. They sacked Brady three times in the first half; one resulted in a fumble, but the ball bounced back into the quarterback’s hands when he was on the ground.
The Jets held the Patriots to 16 yards rushing. Brady had 15 – the first time in his career he was the team’s leading rusher. The nine total rushes for New England tied the NFL record for the fewest for a winning team, last accomplished by the Patriots in 2007.
But eventually Brady figured it out.
”It’s frustrating,” Jets linebacker Calvin Pace said. ”That’s why one day, that guy will be in Canton.”
TOO LATE: Trailing 30-20 with 23 seconds left, the Jets kicked a 55-yard field goal on first down to make it a one-score game. Brandon Marshall recovered the onside kick, giving New York the ball just over midfield.
Fitzpatrick found Eric Decker over the middle for 12 yards, and the Jets rushed to the line of scrimmage to spike the ball and stop the clock. But Marshall moved, resulting in a penalty that ended the game.
”There is no quit in us,” Fitzpatrick said. ”There is a lot of fight in this team. We know the effort we put in every single day, not just on Sunday. … A loss is a loss, but I still love coming to play with these guys on Sunday.”
BIG WIN: It was the fifth consecutive time that the teams have played a one-score game.
The previous four meetings between the teams ended with margins of victory of 3, 3, 2 and 1 point. In 2012 the first game went into overtime before the Patriots kicked a field goal to win, but the second matchup that year was a 49-19 New England victory.
”We didn’t come here to play them close,” Fitzpatrick said. ”We came here to win, so we weren’t able to achieve that.”
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