Patriots stun Jets in waning seconds with punt return TD, but both teams are rung below AFC East contention

For 59 minutes and 45 seconds of game clock, the New York Jets and New England Patriots spent turns rolling around in the mud. It was a fourth down with the game appearing to be headed to overtime when the first and only touchdown was scored.

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

Both defenses played out of their minds on a cold, windy day in Foxborough, and a special teams explosion ended up being the difference. The Jets finished the game with a paltry 44 net passing yards and averaged 2.6 yards per rushing attempt. Patriots quarterback Mac Jones was able to complete 85% of his passes for 9.1 yards an attempt, but New England managed only 13 first downs for the entire game and went 4 of 15 on third down. Neither of these teams deserved the win, but someone had to come through just for the sake of competition, and that person was Marcus Jones.

If the playoffs had started prior to this game, the entire AFC East would have made the postseason. However, it’s clear that even though these teams all have winning records, the Patriots and Jets are not quite playing where the Dolphins and Bills are — even with the Jets beating the Bills a few weeks ago.

Both of these teams have serious issues on offense. The Jets have maybe the worst quarterback situation in the league, which is obviously disheartening after selecting Zach Wilson with the second pick in the 2021 NFL draft. The Jets have been able to win in spite of Wilson, but that becomes increasingly difficult to do when the offense isn’t giving much production.

The defense did their job and held the Patriots’ offense to three points, but Wilson let them down. (Even if he doesn’t think so.) Forty-four net passing yards just isn’t going to cut it in the NFL, especially when the running game is shut down as well.

At some point, Wilson either needs to make plays or the Jets need to think about a quarterback switch. There’s no reason to tank your first playoff team in a decade over a quarterback that is just totally lost right now.

Star rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson thinks something needs to be fixed, too.

“This s— is not OK. Straight up, it is not OK,” he said. “How many total yards did we have? That s— is not going to fly. We got the dudes. It’s time to be consistent. It’s time to win the games we should win.”

The Patriots situation isn’t much better, but they at least had stretches where they looked like a legitimate offense. They just don’t have much juice overall. The offensive line got bullied today and they just don’t have many explosive playmakers. This group of players requires extreme precision to be able to move the ball, and that’s a difficult thing to find with an offense being run by Matt Patricia and Joe Judge.

Both of these teams are far away from the high-flying offenses of their division rivals. This game doesn’t mean the future is bleak for either the Patriots or the Jets, but they clearly need to ask themselves some tough questions moving 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 for Wilson be?

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

Marcus Jones had the punt return touchdown that lifted the Patriots past the Jets. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

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