The New England Patriots and The New York Jets are on a very tight schedule this week due to their Thanksgiving primetime showdown at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. The game is scheduled to be nationally televised to a turkey stuffed audience.
One of the more stranger occurrences in this AFC East rivalry occurred off the field and literally in the Shea Stadium stands during halftime of a 1979 game. Apparently, someone from the New York Jets promotional department had the ill-fated notion to fly remote controlled airplanes within the stadium during the halftime festivities.
Innocent entertainment turned into tragedy when the individual manning the remote lost control of the RC aircraft and errantly flew it into the stands, striking two spectators, fatally injuring one. Since then, one can only hope RC airplanes have been banned from use within the confines of stadiums filled with patrons.
Although the Patriots and Jets have been playing at least two games a season for over the past fifty years, the games in this rivalry have pretty much been a turkey. In 1978, there was Jets K Pat Leahy missing a field goal in the final seconds at Shea which would have given the Jets a come from behind victory.
In 1985, Pats QB Tony Eason engineered a playoff win over the Jets at Giants Stadium. New England would go on to become the first Wild Card playoff team to win all their road playoff games and for the first time reach the Super Bowl. The big game at the Superdome would see the Patriots get thrashed by the impenetrable Chicago Bears 46 defense coached by Rex Ryan’s dad, Buddy Ryan.
More recently, on a 2010 Monday Night game, the Patriots throttled the Jets 45-3 perpetuating the Jets checkered history with prime time. New York would exact their revenge during the AFC Division Playoffs that season when they went into Foxboro and beat the Patriots 28-21, sending them to their second consecutive AFC Championship Game.
Thursday’s game will see a Patriots offensive unit which blew out scoreboard circuits this past Sunday, posting 59 points against an allegedly improved Indianapolis Colts team. For New England, the win was costly, as Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski suffered a fractured forearm.
Even with a healthy Gronkowski, this is a game which should give the Patriots trouble. The All-Pro Gronkowski is key to the New England offense, as New England QB Tom Brady often takes advantage of mismatches against smaller opposing defenders. There have been issues with the Patriots defense which has kept Bill Belichik on his toes all season.
The Jets are coming off one of their best all-around performances of the season, where they head butted the inconsistent St. Louis Rams. The win put the Jets back into AFC Playoff contention, and more importantly, gave them a much needed boost of confidence. The close overtime loss by the Jets at Gillette Stadium a few weeks back had sent the Gang Green and their confidence reeling, until they were able to correct the ship this past Sunday at the Edgar Jones Dome.
From a motivational standpoint, the Jets need this game a little more than the Patriots need it. Even with a loss on turkey day, the Patriots should still cruise to yet another AFC East Division title, a position which they have dominated over the past dozen years. Gronkowski should be back for the playoffs, so the Pats cannot be too concerned at this juncture.
On the other side of the field, a loss by the Jets would give them little margin for error during the last five games of the season for their playoff push. Although New York’s schedule may appear to be soft down the stretch, a defeat against the Pats would probably have them losing control of their own destiny.
And losing control, as we saw with the tragic RC airplane incident at Shea, is something which should try to be avoided at all costs.