Patriots stun Jets with punt return TD in dwindling seconds but both teams are below AFC East

For 59 minutes and 45 seconds of play, the New York Jets and New England Patriots took turns rolling in the mud. It was a fourth minus and the game appeared to be going into overtime when the first and only touchdown was scored.

Patriot rookie cornerback Marcus Jones returned a punt for a touchdown, leaving just 5 seconds on the clock, sealing a 10-3 win for the game and, more importantly, mercifully ending the game for all in attendance.

Both defenses went berserk on a cold, windy day at Foxborough and a special team blast finally made the difference. The Jets finished the game with a paltry 44 net passing yards and an average of 2.6 yards per rush attempt. Patriots quarterback Mac Jones was able to complete 85% of his passes for 9.1 yards per attempt, but New England only managed 13 first downs for the entire game and went 4 of 15 on third downs. Neither of these teams deserved the win, but someone just had to come through for the sake of the competition, and that person was Marcus Jones.

If the playoffs had started before this game, the entire AFC East would have made it into the postseason. However, it’s clear that the Patriots and Jets aren’t quite playing where the Dolphins and Bills are, even though those teams all have winning records — even if the Jets beat the Bills a few weeks ago.

Both teams have serious offensive problems. The Jets have perhaps the worst quarterback situation in the league, which is obviously disheartening after picking Zach Wilson with the second pick in the 2021 NFL draft. The Jets were able to win despite Wilson, but that becomes increasingly difficult when the offense isn’t performing well.

The defense did its job and held the Patriots offense to three points, but Wilson let them down. (Even if he doesn’t believe it.) Forty-four net passing yards just won’t do in the NFL, especially when the game in progress is down as well.

At some point, Wilson will either have to make plays or the Jets will have to consider a quarterback switch. There’s no reason to put your first playoff team in a decade over a quarterback who’s just lost outright.

Star rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson thinks something needs fixing, too.

“It’s not OK. Clearly, it’s not okay,” he said said. “How many yards did we have in total? The s— will not fly. we have the boys It’s time to be consistent. It’s time to win the games we should be winning.”

Marcus Jones had the punt return touchdown that sent the Patriots past the Jets, but neither team should be overly optimistic about beating Miami and Buffalo for the AFC East title.  (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

Marcus Jones had the punt return touchdown that sent the Patriots past the Jets, but neither team should be overly optimistic about beating Miami and Buffalo for the AFC East title. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

The Patriots’ situation isn’t much better, but they’ve at least had stretches where they looked like a legitimate offense. They just don’t have much juice overall. The offensive line was bullied today and they just don’t have a lot of explosive playmakers. This group of players requires extreme precision to move the ball, and that’s hard to find on an offense from Matt Patricia and Joe Judge.

Both teams are a far cry from the high-flying offenses of their divisional rivals. This game doesn’t mean the future isn’t bleak for either the Patriots or the Jets, but they clearly have some tough questions to ask themselves in order to move forward.

For the Patriots, how did we score three points despite Jones completing 85% of his passes for 9.1 yards per attempt?

For the Jets: how long should the leash be for Wilson?

Until these teams score, they’re clearly in the back seat as the Dolphins and Bills play with Super Bowl aspirations this year.

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