FOXBOROUGH — All the Patriots had was 1:42 to either tie or take the lead Sunday against the Jets.
They had surrendered 13 points in the fourth quarter, allowing for the Jets to take a 26-23 lead. They needed their offense to come through in the clutch, again.
And the Patriots did.
Tom Brady led New England on a six-play, 54-yard drive, recording three straight first downs on throws to Rob Gronkowski and Danny Woodhead before running out of time for a shot at the end zone. The Patriots settled for a 43-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski to send it into overtime.
In the extra period, they weren’t nearly as good. It took the Patriots 12 plays to go 54 yards, helped in part by a pass interference on Jets corner Kyle Wilson. Brady had a couple of misfires as well, failing to connect with Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez.
The latter, a throw to Hernandez on 3rd-and-6, stopped the Patriots cold in their tracks, forcing them to kick a 48-yard field goal — the eventual winner by Gostkowski.
“At some point, it’s going to be tight coverage and you’ve got to make a tough play and they’re close and we’ve got to hit it,” said Brady. “I think that’s what it comes down to. I mean, it’s not like guys are going to be open by five yards with that kind of time left on the clock, that important part of the game. It’s close. They either make it or they don’t – or we either make it or we don’t, and we didn’t.”
The defense bailed out the team, forcing a Mark Sanchez fumble in the Jets’ overtime possession to give the Patriots the win.
But what’s more, the Patriots offense could have put the game away much earlier at the start of the fourth quarter. But the offense was stalled by a pass interference flag on Brandon Lloyd.
“Well, it was first and 10 and then we got a pass interference, and then it’s first and 20 and then it’s incomplete and then it’s a run and then its third and 16,” Brady said. “So that’s not the way to play offensive football. I don’t think there’s going to be a high percentage playing that way. We can’t really put ourselves in that situation. We’ve all got to do a better job executing our plays. There’s no easy way out. It’s not like there’s a magic, special play that you save for those situations. It’s about doing your job and doing a better job of it.”
The Patriots have made a habit of making it hard on themselves, letting teams stick around. Brady was asked if this team has the mental makeup to deal with these close fourth quarter games.
“I hope so. You know, I sure hope we do,” Brady said. “That’s part of our mental toughness and I think we’re coached very hard and we prepare for tough situations. That’s the kind of pressure our coach puts on us every day in practice to perform and perform consistently. It’s not like in the seventh week of the year you have all the answers. You never really have all the answers. There’s only one team that’s really happy at the end of the year, and I think it’s a building process and playing your best football at the most important times.”