(TSX / STATS) — EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Snap back to reality.
The New England Patriots beat the New York Jets 24-17 on Sunday in front of 77,562 at MetLife Stadium to claim sole possession of first place in the AFC East for the first time this season.
The Jets (3-3) had their three-game winning streak snapped and are in last place.
Things seem … normal again.
But the ending of this one was far from ordinary.
After New England scored 24 straight points, the Jets nearly closed the deficit to three midway through the fourth quarter when tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins appeared to score his second touchdown of the game.
But after a review, referee Tony Corrente announced the call was overturned, ruling Seferian-Jenkins lost control of the ball before he crossed the goal line, resulting in a fumble out of bounds in the end zone, giving the Patriots possession.
“The final shot that we saw was from the end zone that showed the New York Jets’ runner, we’ll call him a runner at that point, with the football starting to go toward the ground. He lost the ball,” Corrente explained to a pool reporter. “It came out of his control as he was almost to the ground. Now he re-grasps the ball and by rule, now he has to complete the process of a recovery, which means he has to survive the ground again. So in recovering it, he recovered, hit the knee, started to roll and the ball came out a second time.
“So the ball started to move in his hands this way … he’s now out of bounds in the end zone, which now created a touchback. So he didn’t survive the recovery and didn’t survive the ground during the recovery is what happened here.”
Seferian-Jenkins said he believed he scored but took responsibility for juggling the ball.
“I’ve got to have better ball security and run through those defenders,” he said. “I let my team down.”
Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler was in on the tackle and immediately went into spin control — in the ear of the referees and his own coach.
“The first thing Malcolm told me was the ball was out,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. “That’s why ball possession is so important.”
Chandler Catanzaro kicked a field goal on the Jets’ next possession to make it 24-17 with 3:40 to play, and New York got the ball back on its own 27-yard line just inside the two-minute warning.
Josh McCown’s 32-yard pass to wide-open wide receiver Robby Anderson on fourth-and-12 kept the drive alive, but the Jets didn’t have any timeouts at that point and they went spike, incompletion, sack, incompletion on the final four plays to seal it.
“We had other plays in the game that we could have made to make up for that,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said about the fumble. “I’m not gonna blame this game on one play.”
New England (4-2), which has won the AFC East 13 of the last 14 years, won its 11th straight road game and has won six of its last seven against the Jets.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, after sitting out the Patriots’ win in Tampa two Thursdays ago with a bruised left thigh, scored two touchdowns, his first multi-touchdown game since the 2015 season opener.
The Patriots took the lead for good on Gronkowski’s 33-yard touchdown catch from Tom Brady to make it 21-14 with 11:22 left in the third quarter.
Gronkowski, who had six catches for 93 yards, caught a pass over the middle, outran Jets safety Marcus Maye and high-stepped into the end zone.
“Every time you come into New York, it’s gonna be a dogfight,” Gronkowski said. “They’re physical and they don’t back down. … Every win’s not pretty.”
The 40-year-old Brady, who had been sacked 16 times and hit a total of 32 times through the first two games, wasn’t sacked by the Jets and was hit four times.
Brady threw an interception for the second straight game — the first time he has done that since 2015 — but broke a tie with Peyton Manning and Brett Favre for the most regular-season wins in NFL history with 187.
Brady, who finished 20-of-38 passing for 257 yards, has 212 wins including the postseason, which was already an NFL record (Manning is second with 200).
“When you win a game like this, 24-17, there were some good plays we made but a lot we left out there,” Brady said. “We could have won 50-0 and it would be the same thing.”
Early on, it appeared the Jets might be able to spring the upset.
New York took a 14-0 lead with 12:18 left in the second quarter on Jeremy Kerley’s 31-yard touchdown catch from McCown, who finished with 354 passing yards. He became the sixth straight quarterback to have a 300-yard passing game against New England to start the season.
The Jets entered the game with only seven first-quarter points this season, but marched 88 yards in 13 plays on their opening drive, with Seferian-Jenkins making his second touchdown catch in as many weeks.
Kerley set up the Jets at the 1-yard line with a 30-yard catch on third-and-6, his longest reception of the season.
The Jets scored only three points the rest of the way, though many people thought it should have been more.
“You don’t want to be panicking (because) we’ve been in that situation before,” Gronkowski said. “You can’t score 14 points in one drive.”
That’s the reality of the situation.
NOTES: Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski missed his first field goal of the season, a 47-yard attempt in the second quarter, wide right. It was his first miss on a kick of less than 50 yards since last season’s game at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 27, when he missed a 39-yard attempt. … Patriots RB Mike Gillislee lost a fumble for only the second time in his five-year career. His other one was also at MetLife Stadium, in a 2015 season-ending win over the Jets when he was with the Buffalo Bills. … Patriots WR Chris Hogan was injured in the second quarter on a hit by S Marcus Maye, but returned to the game. … Patriots S Devin McCourty, a New Jersey native, had his first interception of the season and 20th of his eight-year career. … Jets CB Buster Skrine had a fumble recovery and an interception in the first half, and it was the first time he has had one of each in a game in his seven-year career. … Jets LB Darron Lee, the second-year man out of Ohio State, had the first forced fumble of his career. … Jets DE Leonard Williams hobbled off in the third quarter, but returned to start the fourth. … Jets WR Robby Anderson was injured on the last play of the game and his status was not updated postgame.