Bill Belichick’s decision to kick off after winning the overtime coin toss came back to haunt the Patriots as Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker 2:37 into overtime to give New York a stunning 26-20 victory.
The fifth successive win by the Jets (10-5), coupled with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 20-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, vaulted the Jets ahead of the Steelers for the final AFC wild-card spot.
The Jets will qualify for the playoffs if they beat the Buffalo Bills next Sunday.
“That’s all you can ask for,” Jets rookie head coach Todd Bowles said.
The topic of conversation following the game was all about Belichick’s curious decision after New England scored 17 of the final 20 points of regulation to climb out of a 17-3 deficit and force overtime.
“Nothing surprises you about the Patriots and strategy and what they think,” said Fitzpatrick, who finished 26 of 41 for 296 yards and three touchdowns but had had a fumble returned for a touchdown by Jamie Collins to begin New England’s second-half comeback.
“So we were excited for the opportunity to get the ball and have a chance to put them away.”
Belichick said he had no regrets about kicking off.
“I thought that was the best thing to do,” Belichick said before adding that his team’s performance in the final few moments of regulation had not helped.
“There was a pass interference penalty on third down, they got the stop, we get the ball back where we want it,” Belichick said.
“Then we get picked, beat on two flag patterns. We just didn’t play good enough defense.”
The Jets collected just four first downs in their final four drives of regulation but needed just five plays to end the game.
After a two-yard gain by running back Chris Ivory, Fitzpatrick hit wide-open wide receiver Quincy Enunwa — who dropped a potential game-winning touchdown pass with 37 seconds left in regulation — for a 48-yard gain down the left sideline.
Ivory gained four yards on the next play and Fitzpatrick then connected with wide receiver Brandon Marshall for a 20-yard gain.
On the next snap, Decker beat Butler into the right corner of the end zone, caught the winning touchdown pass and leaped into the stands to celebrate with fans.
“Those are the moments you cherish and remember,” Decker said.
“It’s never really the stats you remember, it’s those moments with your teammates in the locker room, the excitement.
“The way we’ve been playing the game the past five weeks is what it’s all about.”