Did We Just Witness A Turning Point For This Franchise?

By Ernie Palladino
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The Jets won a game Sunday on a call an official may never favor them with again in 2013.

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So, ya wanna throw it back?

Of course not. These are the breaks of the game. Sometimes they eat you up. Sometimes they raise you up.

In the Jets’ case, they got a heck of a break when the flag went down on Chris Jones at 7:11 of overtime, on a penalty that would not have been called at all last year. That’s because it wasn’t even on the books.

It’s a new wrinkle the competition committee added for 2013 to make placements safer. Where once it was perfectly legal to cave in the middle of the kicking team’s front line by ramming your teammate into the center, thus clearing the gap for a looping defensive lineman, now you can’t do it.

Unfortunately for Bill Belichick’s invaders from the north, Jones did it. And the officials called him for it, thereby nullifying Nick Folk’s failed 56-yard field goal attempt and setting the Jets up at the New England 23. Four plays later, he hit a 42-yard field goal, a comparative “chip shot” to beat the Patriots 30-27 and send Monsieur Belichick back to New England redder than a Jersey farm tomato.

It was the Jets’ first win over the Pats after losing six regular-season matchups, and they needed a freak call to get it done. But perhaps that is a good sign. Perhaps, despite Geno Smith making another big error with a first-quarter throw to David Nelson that Logan Ryan turned into a 79-yard pick-six, the call represents a turning of this franchise. Perhaps it means bad things don’t always have to happen to the frat boys in Rex Ryan’s “Animal House.”

Not that the Jets didn’t try. One might take offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to task for having Smith throw on second and third down, even as Chris Ivory was chewing up yardage at the end of a 34-carry, 104-yard day. Ivory had been stopped for a 1-yard loss on first down, but perhaps one more try would have produced a moderate gain and eaten up a few more seconds to force New England to start calling timeouts.

Instead, Smith was faced with a third-and-11. His throw to Jeff Cumberland was incomplete, and New England took over, albeit in horrible field position at its 8 with 2:10 left.

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Granted, New England had a full complement of timeouts left, and would have had that one it used with 1:08 left. But the mind wonders whether the offensive line might have done just enough to allow Ivory a six or seven-yard gain to make it easier for Smith to find the tight end or receiver on third-and-4. If nothing else, he would have improved his chances of icing the game right there.

Instead, Tom Brady had just enough time to maneuver his team downfield for the tying field goal. And had Jones not pushed his teammate into the line, Brady would have had perfect field position for a short drive to his own potential victory.

That would have ruined a pretty decent day for Smith who, despite his mistake, looked solid enough going 17-of-33 for 233 yards with a touchdown, an interception, and a rushing touchdown of his own. It would have wasted a 97-yard receiving performance from Jeremy Kerley, and defensive back Antonio Allen’s first career first interception return for a touchdown. That’s all in addition to the defensive effort Muhammad Wilkerson, Calvin Pace, Sheldon Richardson, and Antonio Cromartie led in holding the Pats to 295 yards of total offense.

Enough bad has happened to these 4-3 Jets in the past. Enough madness has afflicted this organization since Mark Sanchez contracted an incurable case of the turnover in 2011. For once, something good happened, and their young quarterback came away with yet another comeback victory.

“We finished it this time,” Ryan said.

Actually, the officials finished it by throwing a flag on a rookie defensive tackle who apparently never got the memo on the 2013 rules changes. Give Jones credit for taking it like a man. He stood up afterward and took responsibility, saying he didn’t know the new statute.

Dem’s da breaks. Sunday, they went the Jets’ way. Now they’re a game behind the 5-2 Pats in the AFC East, and that’s not a bad position.

Perhaps things are turning around after all.

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