Reality Check

19 09 2010

As quickly as the doubts shifted from the Patriots to the Jets after their respective week one debuts, it all shifted back as a second half collapse allowed Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez to throw a career-high three touchdowns on his way to a comeback victory. The Patriots, who looked dominant in week one, were shutdown in the last 30 minutes in what may quickly become the team’s Achilles heel.

Tom Brady, who threw for 248 yards and two first half touchdowns, threw two interceptions in the second half allowing the Jets to come back and even their record with a 28-14 victory Sunday afternoon at New Meadowlands Stadium.

After the game Brady bluntly laid out New England’s problems.

“We couldn’t do anything in the second half,” he said. “We couldn’t run it, we couldn’t throw it. We just sucked.”

The Jets managed to stifle the Patriots without Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis who left the game after the first half with a hamstring injury suffered on a spectacular one-handed Randy Moss touchdown catch that made it 14-10 going into halftime. Revis or not, the Jets dominated in a second half that saw  two third quarter passes intended for Moss intercepted and their time of possession jump from 12 minutes to 30 keeping a tired Pats defense on the field longer than it should have.

That was made painfully evident in the Jets final scoring drive. Second-year cornerback Darius Butler committed two costly pass interference penalties in a drive that allowed Sanchez to march 63 yards downfield for the touchdown that twisted the knife already stuck in the Patriots hopes for victory.

“It’s frustrating at times,” Butler said. “You’re not making plays, especially when they start calling some penalties you don’t agree with. Obviously, that gets frustrating. That’s gonna happen, but I still got play my game.”

It was a rough day for Butler, who was victimized by Jets receiver Braylon Edwards twice, one for a second quarter touchdown and later for a third quarter two point conversion before he committed the game-changing penalties.

There was a ray of hope in the fourth quarter when Brady finally found a rhythm hitting Sammy Morris, Aaron Hernandez, and Brandon Tate on a 49 yard drive that got the Pats to the red zone with a chance to make it a one possession game.

Enter Jason Taylor.

On a first and 10 with the ball on the Jets 16 yard line Taylor caught Brady on his blind side forcing a fumble that the Jets recovered and returned 16 yards. The fumble sparked their final scoring drive and quickly snuffed any flame the Patriots had left.

“I think when it comes down to the second halves of these games, our level of toughness, we have to go out and play tougher,” Brady said. “There were times where I think we had opportunities to do a better job out there and we didn’t. That’s all of us, starting with me. I have to do a better job leading this team and certainly executing better when it’s crunch time.”

It was an ugly reminder of the team’s second half struggles on the road dating back to last season. Including tonight, New England has been outscored 116-41 in their last eight road games exposing an old problem that may not be in the Patriots rear view mirror yet.

“You start 0-0 the next game you play, home or away, whatever it is,” head coach Bill Belichick said. “The score will be 0-0 at the start of the next game.”

Even in their win over Cincinnati the Pats allowed Carson Palmer and Co. to run wild in the second half. But the Jets were not the Bengals and did allow to Brady to have the same comfortable cushion he did last week. Where the Jets were able to soar over their opening struggles, the Patriots could not handle the fresh weight of their new expectations.

“They’re a little cocky and annoying at times,’’ Moss said. “But they went out and walked the walk. You’ve got to hand it to them. The Jets handled adversity the right way and we handled it the wrong way. This one hurts. They wanted it more.’’

After blowing their chance to put the Jets in an early 0-2 hole and take shared control of the AFC East, the Patriots head back to Foxboro at an even 1-1. Luckily, they will face an 0-2 Buffalo Bills team while the Jets head down to Miami to face the surprisingly undefeated Dolphins in an AFC East race that has quickly opened up.

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