EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The last time Tom Brady walked out of Giants Stadium a loser, it was Sept. 11, 2000, and he was a rookie sitting behind Drew Bledsoe (and John Friesz and Michael Bishop) who watched Vinny Testaverde and Wayne Chrebet lead the Jets over the Patriots, 20-19. In that game, the Jets were able to beat New England because of what one local columnist called “endless pressure” on Bledsoe.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
On Sunday, Brady and the Patriots were under almost constant pressure by the New York defense. They were able to harass Brady for much of the afternoon, bringing enough heat to make things difficult for the quarterback. He wasn’t sacked, but he was hit seven times by the Jets, who got after him — and the rest of the New England offense — enough to keep the Patriots out of the end zone all day.
“We just tried to make him feel uncomfortable, and tried to be in his face as much as possible,” Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis said. “We had him throwing off his back foot a lot.
“He looked frustrated,” Ellis added. “I could see it in his eyes. His eyes were wide open. I looked in his eyes a few times. He was trying to figure out where everyone was coming from.”
It was a tough afternoon for the Patriots, who did a lot of good things on both sides of the football — especially defensively, with the exception of New York’s opening drive of the third quarter — but were ultimately doomed when three first-half drives ended with field goals instead of touchdowns. Brady finished 23-for-47 for 216 yards, with one interception and no touchdowns, and it was the first time since December 2006 that the New England offense was held without a touchdown.
“It’s frustrating,” Brady said. “I think we had really high expectations for this game, and we just didn’t put it together very well.”
While the Jets celebrated like it was the Super Bowl, the loss that likely closed out the Giants Stadium era for the Patriots was one that will be remembered as a contest plagued by missed opportunities.
“We had our chances and didn’t take advantage of it. They had their chances and they did,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “That’s why it ended up the way it did.”
Here are nine other things we learned Sunday afternoon:
BEN ROETHLISBERGER NOW HAS SOME COMPANY
In his second NFL start, Mark Sanchez joined Roethlisberger (who turned the trick in October 2004) as the only two rookie signal-callers to beat New England under Bill Belichick.
Sanchez was miserable in the first half, going just 3-for-5 for 15 yards. But things turned around for him on the first series of the second half. After a 43-yard return from Leon Washington to open the third quarter, Sanchez put together a brief three-play series (one that included an impressive 45-yard strike to Jerricho Cotchery). It ended with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Dustin Keller that gave the Jets a 10-9 lead less than a minute into the third quarter.
“I think we opened things up,” Sanchez said when asked about the difference between the first and second halves. “We threw the ball a little more. It balanced out our attack — rushes and throws. The whole first half, we were gaining tough yards on the ground and not converting like we had the week before on third down. But we came back, and when we needed it, we had a great push up front and made some conversions.”
New York never trailed again, and Sanchez did a nice job of executing two more second-half scoring drives that ended with Jay Feely field goals. Like Roethlisberger did that afternoon in 2004 against the Patriots, Sanchez played a well-managed, efficient second half, keeping his head about him and coming away with the win.
“He looked good,” said Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas. “He managed the game well and they won.”
“Those two drives coming out of halftime were great for us,” said Sanchez, who finished 14-for-22 for 163 yards and one touchdown. “We really responded.”
THE PATRIOTS ARE GOING TO TRY TO DISGUISE THE FACT THAT JEROD MAYO ISN'T OUT THERE
For a good chunk of the game, New England ran a variety of defensive looks, but one of the most intriguing — and most used — was when New England was in a nickel package that included four down linemen (Ty Warren and Jarvis Green at end and Vince Wilfork and Mike Wright inside), two linebackers (Gary Guyton and Adalius Thomas) and five defensive backs.
The package took some of the pressure off Guyton, who was thrust into the middle linebacker role after Mayo went down last week against the Bills. On Sunday, Guyton had a good game. He was in on numerous plays and led the team with 10 tackles. Of the 53 players in the New England locker room who could be blamed for this loss, Guyton is nowhere near the top of the list.
“I felt comfortable. We worked pretty well today. We just have to come in and keep on working at what we’re doing,” Guyton said. “We all have things that we have to work on. There was a big play that was made. … We still have some things to work on.”
SETTING ASIDE THE FOURTH QUARTER AGAINST BUFFALO, THE 2009 PATRIOTS ARE HAVING A HARD TIME FINISHING OFF DRIVES
In the first half Sunday against the Jets, the Patriots moved the ball very well, gaining 197 net yards. They were able to make plays up and down the field in both the running and the passing game, and they appeared to be dominating New York. Brady had 150 yards passing at the half, while Julian Edelman had 60 receiving yards after two quarters.
But when it came time to close the deal, they couldn’t get it done. They were in the red zone three times in the first half — at the Jets' 17, 7 and 11 — and settled for field goals on all three occasions, an astonishing display for a team with so many offensive options. The points were nice, but those stops would come back to haunt them in the second half.
Against Buffalo in the opener, they were 3-for-5 in the red area, but two of those conversions were in the final 5½ minutes against the Bills. You take out that stretch, and the 2009 New England offense is truly awful when it gets inside the opposition's 20.
“We were in the red zone three times, and we came away with three field goals,” said tight end Chris Baker, who ended up with one catch against the Jets. “That’s not going to win in this league. We didn’t make the plays. We have to obviously correct that problem. We’ve had that problem two weeks in a row. We have to really focus in on it and get that problem solved.”
Said Randy Moss: “The offense has a job to do and that’s to go out there and put points on the board. So with the firepower that we’ve got, and we prepare every week, it is a little frustrating. I’m not going to sit here and lie. But at the same time, when things go bad, you’ve got to find ways to win.”
JOEY GALLOWAY AND TOM BRADY ARE NOT ON THE SAME PAGE
Let’s start with this: Brady and Galloway had some nice moments together against the Jets. Galloway caught five passes for 53 yards — more overall yardage on the day than Randy Moss — including a pair of really impressive back-to-back receptions at the end of the first half, one a 12-yard gainer and another an 8-yard reception. And he would have had a touchdown catch if not for a great pass breakup by New York cornerback Lito Sheppard.
But there still seems to be a fundamental disconnect between the quarterback and the receiver that seems to exist on multiple levels. On a third-down pass attempt with just under nine minutes left in the first quarter, Brady delivered a clean ball, but Galloway was looking the other way on what appeared to be a timing pattern. There were other errors here and there — some of them the fault of the quarterback, and some the fault of the receiver — including an incomplete pass toward the veteran receiver that ended the Patriots' chances.
In all — especially with Wes Welker sidelined — there seemed to be a concerted effort to get Galloway involved in the passing game. He was targeted an astonishing 12 times by Brady. (He had no catches the week before against Buffalo.) But even after spring practices, training camp and the preseason, the two still appear to no closer than they were back in the spring. Even the Jets noticed that something was off between the two.
“You could see a pass here or there, an important comeback route, maybe a timing route where Galloway is coming out of his break and the ball’s not thrown yet or it's thrown too early,” Sanchez said. “It just didn’t look quite right.”
YOU'RE NOT GOING TO INVITE DARRELLE REVIS AND RANDY MOSS TO THE SAME BBQ ANYTIME SOON
Revis probably got the better of Moss, as the Patriots receiver was targeted eight times and finished with four catches for 24 yards, most of them short routes over the middle. The one time when the two did truly lock horns was on a deep ball in the first half down the New England sideline. Brady overthrew the pass and Revis made a nice interception. Other than that, the marquee matchup was a bit of a letdown.
While there wasn’t much talking between the two during the game (both said there was no trash-talking out there) they did plenty of talking afterward. Asked if Revis was one of the toughest corners he's gone up against, Moss — while bending over backward to compliment the Jets defense — said no.
“All week, he was talking about how he was a shutdown corner, but there are really no shutdown corners in the league because they have help for most of the game,” Moss said. “I mean, I could probably play corner if I had [Brandon] Meriweather over the top for the whole game — I think I could be a shutdown corner.”
Countered Revis: “I just covered him. If he went to the bathroom, I went, too. I covered him any way I could. When he went to the sidelines, when our offense was on, and he sat down — I sat right across from him wherever he was sitting on the bench.”
THE BEST THING TO COME OUT OF SUNDAY'S GAME FOR THE PATRIOTS? JULIAN EDELMAN
With no Wes Welker in the lineup, Edelman drew his first career start and did very well, providing the Patriots with an offensive spark. He had four first-half catches, and three of them could be classified as the key plays in each of the three first-half scoring drives by New England.
His first career catch came on a screen pass that went for 10 yards in the first quarter to help get the Pats in position for Stephen Gostkowski’s 45-yard field goal. He caught a 29-yarder in the second quarter to set up Gostkowski’s 25-yard field goal. And he caught a 19-yard pass where he wriggled free from New York defensive back Donald Strickland to pick up some extra yardage and get into Jets territory during the Patriots’ final drive in the first half that ended in a 29-yard Gostkowski field goal.
There were drops — he couldn’t come up with a Brady pass near the goal line with just over 11 minutes remaining in the first half — but in the end Edelman was probably the Patriots' most dependable offensive option of the afternoon. He finished with eight catches for 98 yards.
“Julian’s worked hard. He’s been out for a couple of weeks with an injury, which sets you back a little bit, but he’s a tough kid,” said Brady, who threw 16 passes in Edelman's direction. “I think he had a good week of practice, and he’s going to build on this. He made some nice plays out there. He’s done a pretty good job for being an ex-quarterback. He’s kind of a tough competitor.”
ELEVEN PENALTIES ARE NOT GOOD
It was a messy, poorly played, emotional game, and that showed in the fact that there were 19 penalties on the day, 11 of them against New England (which ended up costing the Patriots 89 yards). There were plenty of candidates for worst penalty — Bart Scott’s personal foul on the first play of the second quarter for shoving Edelman is certainly at the top of the list.
But the five first-half penalties were particularly tough, including two holding calls — one on Stephen Neal and the other on Baker — on a first-quarter drive that had the Patriots marching in the wrong direction. (They started at the New York 17-yard line, and four plays later, they were on the Jets' 27. They settled for a 45-yard field goal from Gostkowski.)
“We kept going backward instead of going forward,” Moss said. “And when the offense is on the field, you want to move forward and put points up on the board, and the whole unit, we didn’t do that today.”
There were some penalties we are not used to seeing the Patriots take, like Galloway getting flagged for illegal formation. Then, there were the four delay-of-games penalties — three on offense, one on special teams (Chris Hanson). Brady, who was flagged for three of them, took responsibility for those.
“The delay of game calls, I’ve got to do a better job with those,” Brady said. “They don’t come up very often, but when they do, they hurt. And they hurt us today.”
UNDER NEW COACH SCOTT O'BRIEN, NEW ENGLAND'S SPECIAL TEAMS UNIT IS CAPABLE OF HAVING A LOUSY AFTERNOON
Gostkowski’s performance aside (3-for-3 on field goal attempts), it was a bad afternoon for the Patriots special teams unit. Hanson had a net punting average of just 29.3 yards. New England had just three total yards on punt returns, and eight of their 11 drives on the afternoon started at or inside their own 25-yard line.
In addition, they allowed what was likely the play of the game, a 43-yard kick return from Leon Washington at the start of the third quarter that electrified the Jets crowd and started the momentum swing over to New York. And special teamers Chris Hanson (delay of game), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (illegal block above the waist) and Sam Aiken (facemask) all picked up bad penalties.
SO MUCH FOR CLOSING OUT THE MEADOWLANDS IN STYLE
Barring a Pats-Jets playoff game here, Sunday marked the final trip to Giants Stadium for New England. Meadowlands Stadium, which will open next year, can be seen rising up over the far rim of the old place. New England ends up with a 17-10 record against the Jets and 2-1 against the Giants at the old place, not bad marks.
There have been some classics, including the 2007 regular-season finale against the Giants, a come-from-behind win over the Giants at the end of the 1996 season and dramatic December wins over the Jets in 2001 and 2003. But Sunday’s game ends things on a sour note for the Patriots.
“It was a tough loss — like it always is in the division. Give the Jets credit — they just did a better job today, and I don’t think there’s really a whole lot more to say about it,” Belchick said after the game. “They just outplayed us. They outcoached us. They just performed better than we did over the 60 minutes, and I think that was pretty much the story of the game.”