E. RUTHERFORD, NJ — New England went into the locker room down 13-0 at halftime against the New York Jets on Sunday knowing full well that they needed to come out playing better in the second half if they wanted to have any hope of staying in the playoff hunt.
They did just that.
The Patriots defense stepped up in the second half, and held the New York Jets to just 3-second half points, allowing quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense to put up 17 of their own en-route to a 17-16 upset over the Jets on Sunday.
Brady had a rough first half, finishing 5-of-11 for 53-yards passing and was sacked twice, one of which came on his first offensive play of the game. He was under constant pressure and both he and the offense seemed as though they were out of sync.
“We just weren’t on the field very much [in the first half],” said Brady after the game. “When there were chances to keep those drives alive with some third down plays we didn’t execute.”
“It goes to show it’s a 60-minute game, it’s who’s ahead after four quarters not who’s ahead after two quarters. We learned that lesson a few times when we were winnning those games [and lost], so it was good to win that one.”
But Brady showed a lot of poise and rebounded in the second half. He came out and completed 15-of-17 for 160-yards, and also rushed for a first down to secure a victory in the final moments of the game. Facing a 3rd-and-2 at their own 41-yard line, head coach Bill Belichick called Brady’s number on a quarterback sweep. Though he was sore with a rib injury that he suffered after falling on the ball in the third quarter on a tackle, he headed back on the field and ran the play. While it wasn’t pretty, Brady spun up inside and gained a little over a yard and a half to convert a third down play that allowed him to run the clock out to end the game and send his team home with a win.
The game began with Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde connecting with Laveranues Coles on a 34-yard touchdown strike to give New York a 7-0 lead. To make matters worse, when Brady took the field to begin his quest to get New England back into the game, he found himself sacked the first time he dropped back to throw and walked off the field in disgust two plays later while his team forced to punt.
The Jets came right out on their ensuing possession and connected on a flea flicker to Coles for 24-yards which helped set up a 19-yard field goal by John Hall to increase the lead to 10-0.
They later added another field goal, and Brady went into the locker room thouroughly frustrated as his team was able to do so little. They were held to only three first downs in the first half, and also had the ball for only 10:36 compared to New York who held the ball for 19:24.
But after a 3-and-out on their first possession to start the second half, New England linebacker Mike Vrabel helped spark the Patriots offense after intercepting Testaverde to give New England the ball at thier own 43-yard line. Two plays later facing a 3rd-and-3, Brady found Fred Coleman on a slant pattern for a 46-yard gain which set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Antowain Smith, and suddenly the Patriots found themselves down by only six early in the third quarter.
New York came right back however on their ensuing possession following a 34-yard kickoff return by Craig Yeast who wasn’t brought down until kicker Adam Vinatieri ran him down and made the tackle. John Hall later connected on a 50-yard field goal and the Jets lead 16-7.
Despite New York’s attempt to stop the Patriots momentum, New England simply wouldn’t back down. They came right back and put together a 9-play, 82-yard drive that ended when Marc Edwards plunged in from 4-yards out for a touchdown, and now the game was in sight for the Patriots who now saw themselves down only 16-14.
They stopped the Jets on their next possession, and then Brady found wide receiver David Patten on three pass plays of 12, 15, and 17-yards to help set up a 28-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri which proved to be the game winner.
With his team now sitting at 7-5, Belichick and the Patriots are currently a half a game behind the Jets (7-4) for second place in the AFC East and have the 8-3 Dolphins in their sights with the Browns, Bills, Miami, and Carolina left on their schedule. Sunday’s win has put them in position to control their own destiny in a season in which many had thought after their 0-2 start would have left them out of the playoff picture.
“We’re 7-5,” said Belichick. “I know a lot of people didn’t think we’d be in this position, this was a tough game down here, a division game, and we came from a long way back.”
“It was a long fight uphill, but it was pretty satisfying to see everybody play as hard as they did and for it to come out the way we wanted for it to come out.”
New England will return home to face the Cleveland Browns next Sunday in Foxboro.
Posted Under: 2001 Patriots Season