For the past fifteen seasons in New England, the fourth quarter has been the domain of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Sunday afternoon was no different, as Brady orchestrated two ten-play scoring drives to lead his team out of a 20-16 hole in the final quarter of play en route to a 30-23 New England victory over the 4-2 New York Jets at Gillette Stadium, pushing the Patriots to 6-0 on the season.
Faced with their most challenging foe of the season in the tenacious Jets, who controlled the time of possession battle, outgained the Patriots 372 yards to 353, and garnered 25 first downs to New England's 20, responded as a perennial contender should.
The Patriots rattled off a ten-play, 80-yard drive concluding with an eight-yard touchdown connection between Brady and wide receiver Danny Amendola to grasp a 23-20 lead with 7:54 remaining in the fourth quarter before a ten-play, 68-yard touchdown drive, concluding in an 15-yard hook-up between Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski in the end zone to seal the victory for New England with 1:13 left in the contest.
Brady finished 34-of-54 for 355 passing yards and two touchdowns, hitting Gronkowski 11 times for 108 yards, Amendola eight times for 86 yards, and wideout Julian Edelman five times for 54 yards. The Patriots spend little time attempting to establish their rushing attack in the absence of starting running back Dion Lewis, with Brady leading the running game with four carries for 15 yards and a touchdown.
Running back James White received just two carries for four yards, while rusher LeGarrette Blount lost three yards on three carries.
For New York, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 22 of his 39 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns, hitting wideout Eric Decker on six occasions for 94 yards and receiver Brandon Marshall four times for 67 yards. The Jets struggled to activate their running game as well, with running back Chris Ivory gaining just 41 yards on 17 attempts.
The contest started out horrifically for New York, with Fitzpatrick being sacked and stripped by New England defensive end Chandler Jones on his first dropback of the game, his fumble recovered by Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower at the NYJ 19-yard line.
New England squandered the opportunity, however, settling for a 38-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski after losing a yard over three offensive plays, and the Jets responded with a 15-play, 78-yard drive ending in a 20-yarder by Nick Folk to tie the game.
Following a Patriots punt, Fitzpatrick pioneered another lengthy drive, this one traveling 83 yards in 14 plays over 7:35, ending in a five-yard touchdown pass to wideout Jeremy Kerley to provide his team with a 10-3 advantage early in the second quarter.
After forcing a Jets three-and-out following a punt of their own, New England's offense finally hit its stride. Taking over at the NYJ 47-yard line, Brady connected with Edelman for a first down before hitting Amendola over the middle for 23 yards, setting up an 11-yard rush of his own which set up the Patriots at the NYJ two-yard line.
Following three plays which resulted in one total yard, New England opted for a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal, and Brady obliged by converting on the touchdown opportunity, rushing in from one yard out to tie the game at 10.
New England then converted a Jets punt into a seven-play, 31-yard drive into a 46-yarder by Gostkowski, giving themselves a 13-10 lead heading into the half.
The Patriots then added to their lead to begin the third quarter, taking the opening kickoff 65 yards in 12 plays for a 24-yarder by Gostkowski, grasping hold of a 16-10 advantage early in the quarter.
Being forced to settle for a field goal after facing first-and-goal at the NYJ six-yard line came back to haunt New England, however, as the Jets proceeded to drive 80 yards in 13 plays on their ensuing possession, which concluded in a nine-yard touchdown pass from Fitzpatrick to Ivory to give New York a 17-16 advantage with 4:07 left in the third quarter.
After a failed possession by the Patriots, the Jets struck again, driving 71 yards on nine plays to set up a 30-yard field goal by Folk to garner a 20-16 lead with 12:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.
New York controlled the momentum after forcing a third-and-17 for New England at the NE 27-yard line with 10:46 left in the contest, however, Brady countered admirably to the Jets formidable defensive attack, hitting Edelman for a 27-yard gain. Brady then connected with Gronkowski for gains of 11 and 23 yards, respectively, leading his troops into the red zone.
Then, facing third-and-six from the NYJ eight-yard line, Brady found Amendola over the middle for an eight-yard touchdown with 7:16 remaining, giving the Patriots a 23-20 lead they would not relinquish.
The Jets offense then stalled at their own 46-yard line, forced to opt for a Steve Weatherford punt which Edelman returned for 11 yards to the NE 32-yard line with 5:32 left.
Cogniscant of the game clock, Brady then orchestrated another magnificent march to paydirt, hitting Amendola for gains of 11, 13, and seven to set up a 15-yard touchdown toss to Gronkowski with 1:13 remaining to provide his team with an insurmountable 30-20 lead.
New York was able to frighten the New England faithful, however, driving 43 yards in six plays over 55 seconds to set up a 55-yard field goal by Folk to cut the gap to 30-23 with 18 seconds left.
Folk's subsequent onside kick was recovered by Marshall at the NE 49-yard line, and Fitzpatrick proceeded to hit Decker for a 12-yard gain with 14 seconds remaining. As the game clock approached 0, Fitzpatrick attempted to spike the ball to set up one final pass attempt towards the end zone, however, a false start penalty on Marshall resulted in a ten-second clock runoff and the conclusion of a thriller of a contest.