EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — As Nick Folk’s 56-yard field goal sailed wide left in overtime Sunday afternoon, those rooting for the New York Jets in the crowd of 76,957 at MetLife Stadium had to be thinking the same thing: Here we go again.
But a new rule gave the Jets a second chance and spared them a familiar fate against the archrival New England Patriots.
A flag on the New England Patriots’ Chris Jones — penalized 15 yards for pushing a teammate into the pile on Folk’s attempt — gave the Jets a new set of downs. Folk’s 42-yard field goal four plays later gave the Jets a stunning 30-27 come-from-behind victory over the Patriots.
“Saw (the flag) right away, but I was like ‘Please be on them, please be on them, please be on them,’” Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. “I think my reaction was just like our fans, because I think I heard the whole stadium say ‘Please be on them. Please be on them.’”
The pushing the pile penalty — which was instituted this year — on Jones ensured a stirring 11-point second-half comeback by the Jets would not go for naught and saved Ryan the second-guessing that surely would have resulted had the Patriots taken advantage of the short field and driven for the winning score.
“Any push,” referee Jerome Boger told pool reporter Mike Reiss after the game. “It could be with the body, not necessarily with the hand, but with the body into his teammate, into the formation. It’s any type of pushing action.
“The umpire’s flag went up almost instantaneously as he observed the action. We just enforced it as he called it.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick vociferously argued the call and said afterward he thought Jones’ action was a legal one.
“We weren’t on the second level when they pushed him,” Belichick said. “You can’t push on the second level. I don’t think we did that.”
Ryan said afterward he didn’t regret putting the game on the right foot of Folk — who is 16-of-16 on field goal attempts this season but has yet to officially try a kick from beyond 50 yards — by going conservative during the Jets’ overtime possession. The Jets ran the ball on nine of the 10 plays prior to Folk’s first kick, including on the last play from scrimmage, a two-yard loss by Chris Ivory on third-and-5.
But umpire Tony Michalek threw the flag before Folk’s field goal fluttered to the ground and the penalty put the Jets firmly into Folk’s comfort range.
“A teammate cannot push a teammate into the opponents’ formation,” Boger said.
The Jets ran the ball three times to set up Folk’s second attempt, including a flop to center the kick by Geno Smith. The game-winner sailed through the uprights with 5:07 left in overtime and vaulted the Jets (4-3) into second place, a game behind the Patriots.
“I was fairly happy about (the penalty),” Ryan said in a deadpan voice. “I was like, you know what, it’s about time we got a break. It just worked out.”
For Ryan and the Jets, Sunday was a welcome change from the usual script against the Patriots. New England had beaten New York six straight times entering Sunday — including 13-10 in Foxborough on Sept. 13 — and was particularly dominant when seeing the Ryan-coached Jets for the second time in a season. The Patriots outscored the Jets 162-52 in winning all four rematches from 2009 through 2012.
The Jets didn’t seem likely to break either streak when the Patriots raced out to a 21-10 halftime lead and opened the second half with the ball. But Antonio Allen, who had been burned repeatedly by Rob Gronkowski in the first half, jumped a route on the second play of the third quarter, picked off a pass intended for Gronkowski and raced 21 yards for the Jets’ first defensive score of the season.
Allen’s return jumpstarted a 17-point outburst by the Jets, who took the lead on Smith’s 8-yard touchdown run with 3:36 left in the third and went up 27-21 on Folk’s 37-yard field goal a little more than two minutes later.
The Patriots went three-and-out on their final three drives of the third quarter but forced overtime with a pair of lengthy fourth quarter drives that ended with field goals by Stephen Gostkowski.
New England won the toss in overtime and seemed ready to mount another unlikely win — last Sunday, the Patriots came back to beat the Saints, 30-27, on Brady’s last-second touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompkins — when Brady found a wide-open Gronkowski for a 16-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage.
But Brady’s next three passes fell incomplete and the Patriots never got the ball again, thanks to an unlikely rule that had an unlikely beneficiary.
Smith finished 17 for 33 for 233 yards and threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley in the first quarter. Kerley finished with eight catches for 97 yards while Ivory had 34 carries for 104 yards, including nine rushes for 23 yards in overtime.
Brady (22-of-46 for 228 yards) failed to throw a touchdown for the second time in his last three games. Gronkowski, who made his season debut after undergoing multiple offseason surgeries, led the Patriots with eight catches for 114 yards. He was targeted on 17 of Brady’s pass attempts.
“Everybody on offense has to look at what they need to do better and certainly make it a point of emphasis,” Brady said.