New England was also coming into Sunday night's game at New Jersey's Meadowlands with an injury-depleted defense after releasing lineman Albert Hainesworth (who was eventually picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
Jim Davis- Boston Globe photoThe Jets opening drive got off to a promising start, beginning on their own 33 and moving down the field to inside the New England 10 yard line while taking barely two minutes, but after a 3 yard rush at the Patriots 10 and 2 straight incompletions from QB mark Sanchez at the 6, the Jets had to settle for a 24 yard FG attempt, which Jets kicker Nick Folk missed.
For their first two possessions, the Patriots would make their way into Jets territory, but be held to FG attempts each time (Gronkowski would make both attempts- one from the 50 and one from the 36 yard line- to make it a 6-0 Patriots lead).
The Jets would get on the board at the 4:44 mark of the 2nd period after Pats QB Tom Brady fumbled on their own 8 yard line, then get assessed a 5 yard penalty on their own 5 for a Jets safety to make it a 6-2 game with New England on top.
The Jets would then start their next drive from their own 35, taking all of 1:18 off the game clock to find the end zone to take a brief 9-7 lead over the Patriots when Sanchez ran the ball in from the Patriots 2 yard line.
However, even in some of their earlier losses, the Patriots offense has demonstrated a certain resiliency and ability to strike quickly and the final minute and 20 seconds of the 1st half on Sunday night's game was no exception. Starting on their own 20, New England managed to drive all the way down to the Jets 16 yard line when they found the end zone for the first time in the evening when Brady connected to Rob Gronkowski with 9 seconds left in the half to go up 13-9.
New England would get the ball to start off the 2nd half, although the Pats and Jets would trade 3 and outs on their first possessions. The Patriots managed to pad their lead on their second possession after Joe McKnight fumbled a Zoltan Mesko punt and New England recovered, coming away from the Jets 9 yard line with another Gostkowski FG to show for it to make it 16-9 New England.
The Jets followed that up by starting on their own 40 yard line and getting as far as the Patriots 37 before linebacker Rob Ninkovich intercepted a thrice-tipped Mark Sanchez pass and ran it back for 18 yards, giving New England the ball back on their own 43. With the shorter field, New England marched right down and Brady found Gronkowski for another TD pass to really start to break things open with a 23-9 lead with 4:44 to go in the 3rd. The Jets would come right back with a lengthy drive of their own to make it a 23-16 game early in the 4th. However, the Patriots offense would answer with another scoring drive of their own, hitting paydirt when Brady connected with Deion Branch for an 8 yard TD run to make it a 30-16 game.
The backbreaker would come on the following possession when the Jets were pinned deep in their own end and Ninkovich picked off Mark Sanchez again, returning the INT 12 yards for a pick 6 to put the game away at 37-16 with 7:45 to go in regulation.
This was a pretty big road win for New England, breaking a deadlock in the AFC East and regaining some momentum that had been missing for nearly a month. Just when it looked like the rest of the NFL seemed to have Brady figured out, he goes 26-39 with 329 yards and three TD passes and no interceptions.
Sunday night's win puts Brady and Belichick as the winningest coach & QB tandem since the AFL/NFL merger in 1966, breaking a tie with Miami's Dan Marino and Don Shula. New England also has not lost three consecutive games since 2002.
For next week's matchup, the Patriots find themselves in the prime time limelight when they host the Kansas City Chiefs and former Pats QB Matt Cassel at Foxbourough, MA on Monday night football.
NCAA FOOTBALL: For better or worse, all eyes were on Happy Valley Satuday afternoon for some actual football amid the Penn State sex abuse scandal when the Nittany Lions would take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the first time in 46 years without Joe Paterno.
Nebraska got out to an early 10-0 lead in the first half before adding to that lead in the 2nd half to make it 17-0. The Nittany Lions would get on the board late in the 3rd to make it 17-7 and close the gap to 17-14 with 6 minutes to go in the 3rd, but the Lions final drive sputtered and fell flat on a 4th and 1 on Penn State's own 46 as time expired.
AP PhotoACC: Speaking of low-scoring NCAA Football games, both Boston College QBs played a role in the Eagles 3rd win (2nd against an ACC opponent) of the season on Saturday against the North Carolina State Wolfpack. Backup Josh Bordner got BC on the board in the first with a 3 yard TD run to make it 7-0. After the Wolfpack fot on the board with a 32 yard FG, Eagles starting QB Chase Rettig then returned to the game and connected with WR Colin Larmond for a 17 yard TD catch.
Surprisingly, that was all the would need. Although they allowed an NC State touchdown early in the 3rd quarter, the Eagles defense pitched a shutout and Boston College hangs on to win by a 14-10 final.
Next week, the BC Eagles will travel to South Bend, IN to take on #24 Notre Dame on Saturday. The Fighting Irish won the last contest between the two Catholic institutions last year at Chestnut Hill by a 31-13 final.
Babineau/Bruins.com photoNHL: Wow- so much to love about Saturday night's affair at the Garden that the game itself seemed like a mere afterthought.
For the pregame ceremony before the Sabres and Bruins got underway at the Garden. the Bruins arranged for Daron and Lori Jacobs of Pembroke, MA do the ceremonial puck drop. Their son is a Lieutenant in the Massachusetts National Guard and had recently deployed to Afghanistan, but unbeknownst to them was in the building Saturday night to join them in time for the pregame ceremony. For those of you who missed it, NESN thoughtfully tweeted a link to this embeddable video over the weekend.
Both Buffalo and Boston were going into Saturday night's game riding a 4-game winning streak. The Sabres got the only goal of the first period on a Thomas Vanek tally 5 minutes and 38 seconds. However, the most talked about moment from the first period was Milan Lucic's hit on Ryan Miller when he ventured out of the crease to play the puck as it bounced off the boards. The hit sent Miller on his backside and his mask flying while earning Lucic a trip to the sin bin for charging.
At the 7:40 mark of the 2nd period, Rich Peverly got Boston on the board, beating Ryan Miller to tie the game at 1-1. Boston would then score two goals in sixteen seconds from Tyler Seguin and Nathan Horton to make it 3-1.
The Bruins would then blow it open in the 3rd, scoring three more goals (including Seguin's second of the night) while Buffalo would get a late power-play goal after the game was basically decided. The Bruins go on to win their 5th in a row and are above the .500 mark after downing the Sabres 6-2.
The postgame talk, however, centered around not only Lucic's hit on Miller, but Buffalo's response- or lack thereof. There was no retaliation from any of Buffalo's enforcers and on Monday, it was announced that there would be no further punishment from the NHL against Lucic for the hit.
The 8-7-0 Bruins homestand continues on Tuesday night against the 8-6-1 New Jersey Devils. Puck drops at 7 PM and the game will be televised on NESN.
MLB: Just 51 hours after his abduction, Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was freed from his captors after a prolonged shootout between his kidnappers and police at a remote hideout.
Washington Post ImageAccording to a statement from Venezuelan investigators, six suspects were taken into custody when Ramos was freed and five Colombian nationals- thought to be accomplices- were held for questioning on Monday.
The rescue operation took place in a remote area of western Venezuela's mountainous Carabobo state where police and soliders either had to hike in or be flown in by helicopter. Ramos was reuinted with his family in Valencia by 3 AM the following morning.
Also on Monday, it was announced that Ramos finished 4th overall in balloting for National League Rookie of the Year.
RED SOX: The Jonathan Papelbon era in Boston has officially come to an end with the free agent closer reaching a 4 year, $50 million deal that includes a vesting option for 2016. This would be the most lucrative contract for a closing pitcher on record.
CARDINALS: After interviewing Ryne Sandberg, Terry Francona and Jose Oquendo, the St Louis Cardinals have named former catcher Make Matheny as their new manager. Matheny was behind the plate for St Louis when they were swept by the Red Sox in the 2004 World Series. The catcher won 4 gold gloves- all of them with the Cardinals- before signing with the San Francisco Giants in 2006 as a free agent and ultimately retiring as a player due to post concussion syndrome.
MARLINS: Amid much fanfare, the Marlins unveiled their new 2012 uniforms and official name-change to the Miami Marlins to coincide with the scheduled opening of their new ballpark in Little Havana.
The Marlins have also reportedly been in talks with free agent 1B Albert Pujols, although there's no indication that those talks have gone anywhere yet.
ASTROS: There could be another realignment in the works as prospective Houston Astros owner Jim Crane has reportedly agreed to switch from the National League to the American League as early as 2013.
The move must get the approval of other MLB franchise owners, but it's thought the move could save Jim Crane a discount of almost $50 million on the Astros purchase price.
NBA: As negotiations between the team owners and Players association continue to wither on the vine, Yahoo Sports is reporting that a number of disgruntled players gathered for a clandestine conference to decertify the NBA Players association.
As it stands, even if the dispute were resolved tomorrow, there would be no NBA games until mid-December at the earliest. However, it looks like the season is pretty much dead as it is.
Reuters PhotoNCAA HOOPS: As indifferent as I am about College hoops, I still thought this was pretty cool.
Before a crowd of about 7000 including President Obama on board the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, the NCAA Basketball season got underway when #1 North Carolina took on Michigan State on a basketball court set up on the carrier's deck while she was in San Diego.
Play was a little sloppy because there was intermittent wind and drizzle, making the court slick and 3 pointers problematic at times, but North Carolina bested the Spartans by a 67-55 final.
The game drew favorable comparisons to the NHL's now-annual New Year's Day Winter Classic outdoor game, and there is talk of not only a second 'Carrier Classic' next November, but also making it a doubleheader or adding some women's games.