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.

Patriots rookie cornerback Marcus Jones returned a punt for a touchdown with just 5 seconds left on the clock, sealing a 10-3 win and more important, 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 completed 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 came through, 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 disheartening after selecting Zach Wilson with the second overall pick in the 2021 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 its job and held the Patriots' offense to three points, but Wilson let the Jets down. (Even if he doesn't think so. Which his teammates do.) Forty-four net passing yards 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 who is totally lost right now.

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

"This s*** is not OK. Straight up, it is not OK," Wilson 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."

Marcus Jones had the punt return touchdown that lifted the Patriots past the Jets, but neither team should feel overly optimistic about beating out Miami and Buffalo for the AFC East title. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
Marcus Jones had the punt return touchdown that lifted the Patriots past the Jets. Neither team should feel overly optimistic about beating Miami and Buffalo for the AFC East title. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

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 Sunday and New England just don’t have many explosive playmakers. This group of players requires extreme precision to be able to move the ball, and that’s difficult 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 need to ask themselves some tough questions.

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 be for Wilson?

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