One of the biggest reasons the New England Patriots have been an elite team for over a decade is turnover differential. They protect the ball, and they force takeaways. In fact, its one of the oldest truths in football: turn the ball over and you will lose. It’s a simple fact that’s applicable from Pop Warner to the NFL.
Unfortunately for the New York Jets, they have struggled to protect the football in recent years. They overcame their mistakes in Week 1, but they were not so lucky against the Patriots last night. I wrote in my game preview about the importance of protecting the ball, and it proved to be the Jets’ undoing yet again. 3 interceptions and 2 fumbles (1 lost) is a good way to lose to any team, and the Pats take advantage of their opponent’s mistakes better than most.
Things got off to a rough start when Stephen Hill fumbled and the Patriots picked up a field goal. The Jets then played a clean game until the fourth quarter, when Geno Smith imploded. He threw three interceptions in the fourth, and they cost the Jets a chance to win the game. The first was a ball in the red zone that should never have been thrown. The pass was late and behind Santonio Holmes, and it cost the Jets a chance to kick a game-tying field goal.
Following that, the Patriots could not move the ball at all, and they game Smith two more chances to win the game. However, he was intercepted twice more, ending any hope the Jets had of a miraculous comeback for a second straight week. I think it is very safe to say that if the Jets had not turned the ball over in this game, they would have won.
Unfortunately for them, the risk of playing young players is that they will make mental mistakes, such as not protecting the football. The Jets will learn from this experience, and they will get better from it. However, this is a tough loss, because the Patriots are not likely to be this vulnerable again.
The Jets had a chance to win, but they blew it by doing the one thing they knew they had to avoid: turning the ball over.