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Game Of Football’s Dignity Salvaged By Late Punt Return

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 20: Owner Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots looks on prior to a game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on November 20, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Billie Weiss/Getty Images|

This game doesn’t deserve a lead image of its thrilling final play. Instead you get a pregame photo of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is looking at something that is apparently hilarious. I almost didn’t include this photo because it does have some redeeming qualities: Look at the fit on the woman in the back! I wish sideline reporters dressed like that. I guess Howard Eskin kind of does.

A game this terrible didn’t deserve to have an ending this great. The Jets and Patriots slogged through nearly 60 minutes of football without producing much of value. The teams punted 16 times. The Patriots missed two field goals. The Jets turned it over on downs. There were 11 three-and-outs. Zach Wilson completed nine passes. It was just above freezing, and a little windy, in Foxborough. It was not a pleasant afternoon for anyone there. Only the warmth at home put television viewers in a better situation.

And then! The game rewarded fans who stuck with it with a heck of an ending: Marcus Jones, the rookie defensive back, scored on an 84-yard punt return with five seconds to play to give the Patriots a 10-3 win. A guy whose first name begins with the letters “Ma” and whose last name is Jones won it for the Patriots, just as pundits predicted.

I would’ve kicked it out of bounds. (Note: In reality I would not have been able to do that.)

Look at those fans celebrating! Even though they’re fans of the supervillains known as the New England Patriots, it was pretty fun to watch everybody go wild. I think I saw a guy in a Drew Bledsoe jersey jumping up and down.

The Jets tried to have it both ways on their final drive: After a defensive holding call, they had the ball at their own 25 with 1:33 to play. A Michael Carter run got eight yards, and the Jets dawdled before Carter ran for a yard on second down. They were trying to run some clock, and move the ball down the field. If you’re going to do this, don’t leave so much time on the clock that you have to punt the ball away anyway. Or punt the ball out of bounds. There are a few options. Come on. This is basic stuff you could do all the way back in Madden 92.

Not that the Jets did much to deserve the win anyway. Wilson threw for just 77 yards. To be fair to Wilson, he did pick up the slack in the rushing game—he was the team’s leading rusher with 26 yards. The Bills won, so the Jets are now tied for last in the AFC East with the Patriots holding the tiebreaker.

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