Leading by 10 halfway through the fourth quarter, the New York Jets were in a prime position to secure their first win of the season. All they had to do was hold off Cam Newton and the reeling Patriots for the final seven minutes on Monday night.
For the winless Jets, however, that was simply too tall of an order.
New England finished the fourth quarter with 13 unanswered points, clinching a victory at MetLife Stadium 30-27 with a game-winning 51-yard field goal as time expired.
Falling to 0-9 on the season, the Jets are now off to their worst start in a single season in franchise history.
The Jets led from early in the second quarter all the way through the final minutes of the fourth. They were putting points on the board in bunches, containing Newton and for a moment there, it really seemed like New York was going to finally get the job done. Nonetheless, costly mistakes down the stretch and an inability to make a stop when they needed one on defense casts a shadow on an otherwise promising performance.
Here are three takeaways from New York's debilitating loss on Monday night:
Without their best, New York put together a solid performance
No excuses here, but the Jets had the odds stacked against them due to injury.
Not only were starting quarterback Sam Darnold and defensive lineman Quinnen Williams sidelined, but rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton—one of this team's lone bright spots all year long—was forced to leave the game in the first quarter with a chest injury.
So, without three of this team's best players, and subtracting the pieces dealt at last week's trade deadline as well, how on earth did this team even hang around in this game? Well, it started with healthy wide receivers.
Monday night marked the first game of the season where New York's top wide receivers—Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims—were all healthy enough to play. Darnold wasn't out there, but backup quarterback Joe Flacco took full advantage of the weapons at his disposal.
Perriman reeled in two touchdown passes, reminiscent of his days snagging darts from Flacco when the two donned Baltimore Ravens uniforms. He led Jets receivers with 101 yards on five receptions.
Mims was targeted eight times, setting a new career-high with 62 receiving yards. The second-rounder continued to show his quickness, range and ability to serve as a deep threat in his third game this year.
Crowder, New York's leading receiver this season, was the recipient of Flacco's third touchdown pass on the night. He extended his streak of two-or-more catches in every single game he's played in a Jets uniform dating back to the start of last season.
On defense, the Jets did a good job putting pressure on Newton and preventing him from finding a rhythm rushing the football. There were several stops in the first half to establish momentum, including a fumble forced by defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi that resulted in a turnover on downs.
Rookie safety Ashtyn Davis also showed flashes of brilliance on defense. Another member of New York's 2020 draft class, Davis flattened Newton in the backfield with what would've been a sack. Instead, he was called for roughing the passer. Davis had five tackles in the game, the most he's had in a single game this year.
In the end, however, New York couldn't stop Newton through the air. The former MVP was 27-for-35 with 274 yards and extended plenty of drives by firing bullets through holes in the Jets secondary. New York had no answer for Jakobi Meyers as New England's wideout led the way with 169 receiving yards on 12 catches.
Flacco was tremendous, but got too greedy at the end
Between Flacco and Darnold leading up to Monday night, the Jets had thrown for four touchdown passes all season. Flacco nearly doubled that total on Monday night.
The veteran quarterback, filling in for the third time this season, went 18-for-25 for 262 yards and three scores. His 20-yard touchdown pass to Crowder at the end of the second quarter simply couldn't have been a better throw. He was aggressive in targeting Mims. His 50 and 15-yard scores to Perriman were both dimes.
Flacco's lone mistake of the night, however, proved to be the difference.
Losing by 10, the Patriots marched down the field on a 17-play drive (the longest by both teams), putting three on the board with a field goal. On the very next play from scrimmage, Flacco tried to force one to Mims over the top, a deep ball into double coverage. Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson came down with the interception, the only turnover of the night between both teams.
That led to Newton's second rushing touchdown of the game four minutes later. After Flacco and the Jets managed a three-and-out with just over one minute to go and a chance to win in a tie game, New England set up Nick Folk's game-winner.
New York is now 0-9 when Darnold doesn't play since he debuted back in 2018. Flacco was close to flipping the script, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
Another loss gets this team closer to its goals one way or another
When Jets fans look back at this season decades from now, perhaps they'll be grateful that New York blew a late lead and allowed a victory to slip away.
This may have been a gut-wrenching loss, but it does keep the Jets in position to secure the first overall pick of next spring's draft. For the players in the locker room Monday night, that certainly doesn't make the last-second loss sting any less.
Every loss up to this point had been by eight points or more and only one loss had been in a one possession game. Therefore, this was a valuable experience for young players that hadn't gotten a taste of an NFL game coming down to the wire yet.
Once again, however, the Jets didn't make the necessary adjustments in the second half. That's a persisting trend that's plagued this team all year long, especially of late. New England finished the game with four second-half drives, each resulting in points.
New York now heads into its bye week still in search of answers. Monday proved, however, that this team is still competing each week. That's what head coach Adam Gase and general manager Joe Douglas had preached in the week leading up to this game. Draft aside, this team is trying to win.
Then again, perhaps there is no answer for this team that found yet another way to lose. Finishing the season 0-16 is becoming more of a feasible outcome with each passing week.