By: Bob George/BosSports.net
October 20, 2013

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Bruins fans who remember 1979 might remember "too many men on the ice".

Twice the umpires made bad calls in the 1999 ALCS against the Red Sox and apologized on both gaffes, but the Yankees still won the pennant.

Okay, this wasn't a playoff game. But the Patriots suffered a 30-27 overtime loss to the New York Jets on Sunday at MetLife Stadium thanks largely to a new rule which smacks of how the Oakland Raiders felt after the tuck rule, which has since been repealed.

The Jets lined up for a 56-yard field goal attempt by Nick Folk in the second possession of overtime, and Folk pushed the kick wide left. The Patriots were set to get the ball back at their own 38 for their second possession of overtime.

Except that umpire Tony Michalek threw a penalty flag. Defensive lineman Chris Jones, who up to that point had a pretty good game, was flagged for pushing Will Svitek into the long snapper. This is a new rule that was implemented for this season. The drive was allowed to continue, and Folk would later nail a 42-yard field goal to win it for the Jets.

Bill Belichick, obviously angered in his postgame press conference, gave brief and curt answers to questions in general. When pressed on the Jones penalty, he simply said "You can't push a lineman from the second level." Whether Belichick thought Jones was "second level" or not was never made clear. The call directly led to the Patriots losing the game, and it will now become the hot, chic topic of discussion across the NFL much like the tuck rule was when it helped the Patriots win their first Super Bowl eleven years ago.

Jones himself thought he was only "trying to block the field goal", but more or less took responsibility for the penalty. He had two sacks of Jones during the game, but more or less said that the penalty negated all he did prior to the call. Still, he sounded more like a player who didn't agree with the call and didn't want to pick up a fine from the league.

Mike Pereira, former head of NFL officiating and contributing analyst for Fox Sports, tweeted that the call was correct. Despite his retirement from officiating, his word is generally accepted as law around the league. If he says the call was correctly applied, then so be it and end of discussion.

But it put the onus of the game on the officials and not on what really happened on the field. The game was basically about how well the Patriots, especially on defense, could continue to overcome more injury issues, and how well Rob Gronkowski could play in his first game of the 2013 season. Yet this game will be remembered for the penalty on Jones than anything else.

For most of the game, both defenses played well. Geno Smith, the heralded rookie quarterback for the Jets, had some great moments both passing and running the football. Both he and Tom Brady suffered pick-sixes, but Smith basically played well and established himself as the definite quarterback of the future of the Jets. Smith finished with 17 of 33 passing for 233 yards, mostly to Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson, and had a 71.9 passer rating.

To be fair, Smith was lucky in that he didn't have to deal with Aqib Talib and Jerod Mayo, the latter now out for the season. Donte Hightower was forced to cover Jeff Cumberland and Hightower could not cover him well like Mayo could. Talib could have taken Kerley out of the game easily, and Kyle Arrington could not make up for the loss of Talib.

The other potent offensive weapon for the Jets was Chris Ivory, who rushed for 104 yards on 34 carries, only a 3.1 average. Most of those yards were in the fourth quarter and later, when the defense was starting to tire. Ivory was most effective on the final drive of the game, rushing nine times for 22 yards and helping with ball possession, though aided by the controversial Jones penalty.

Gronkowski had eight catches for 114 yards. At times he looked out of sync and dropped a sure touchdown pass in the fourth quarter by seeming losing the ball in the sun. But it was good to see him back in the lineup. He accounted for exactly half of Brady's 228 passing yards.

The Jet defense stepped up and handcuffed the Patriots for most of the game. Brady completed only 22 of 46 yards and a 53.5 rating. The front seven for the Jets did a good job in containing Brady all game long, as the Patriots converted only one of twelve third downs. Brady once again failed to complete a touchdown pass, the second time in three weeks that this happened. Both Patriot offensive touchdowns came on short runs by Brandon Bolden and Steven Ridley.

Both quarterbacks threw interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. Late in the first quarter, Smith tried to hit Nelson in the right flat, but rookie Logan Ryan stepped up and made the pick and returned it untouched 79 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-7 Patriots at the time. On the second play of the third quarter, Brady tried to hit Gronkowski in the left flat and did not see Antonio Allen, who jumped the route and returned the pick 23 yards to make it 21-17 Patriots. Both throws were ill advised and dangerously poor in nature.

The Patriots now fall to 5-2 and suffered their first loss in the division, which could hurt the Patriots later on in tiebreakers. This was a game the Patriots had control of early and seemed to be able to win, but the pick-six to Allen changed the game and the Jets dominated the rest of the way. It should not have come down to a controversial call on a rule which, like the tuck rule, nobody knew about but will now know full well.

The region in general will shake this one off and get ready for the World Series on Wednesday night. But if the Patriots wind up seeing their playoff seeding in January hurt because of this loss, then that call against Jones may turn out to be the key moment in the Patriot season. Whether the call was right or wrong, this is just the sort of thing that officials fear and that players and coaches don't want and that is a game or a season turning on an official's call.

Watch the play again, and judge for yourself. Was Jones lined up in the second level? Did he actually push Svitek? Was the play compromised by what happened? Did the Patriots deserve to lose the game this way?

Answer those questions, and get ready for some more October baseball.


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