FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Mark Sanchez threw for a season-high 328 yards and had some good moments. It was the plays that gained nothing that had a bigger impact.
The New York Jets quarterback deliberately kicked Shonn Greene's fumble out of the end zone for a safety. His long pass to an open Stephen Hill near the New England Patriots' end zone fell short and was intercepted.
Hill later dropped a critical throw. And the game ended Sunday — a 29-26 defeat — when Sanchez lost the ball while being sacked, and Rob Ninkovich recovered in overtime.
"It stings," Sanchez said. "I was feeling good (in overtime). We had driven the ball down those last few drives. ... I thought our plays were really working."
The Patriots (4-3) moved into sole possession of first place in the AFC East. The day started with all four teams tied at 3-3, but the Jets (3-4) and the Buffalo Bills lost, while the Miami Dolphins were idle.
"This is a tough place to play, a tough opponent to play," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "We had our opportunities, but didn't get it done."
Stephen Gostkowski's 48-yard field goal put the Patriots ahead on the first possession of overtime. But each team gets the ball unless the first team with it scores a touchdown. So, the Jets weren't done.
The game might not have reached overtime had they capitalized on their chances late in regulation.
Trailing 23-20, Sanchez threw a good pass to Hill that would have given the Jets a first down inside the Patriots 20-yard line with just over two minutes left. But Hill dropped it and New York settled for a 43-yard, tying field goal by Nick Folk.
"I think he was trying to make a big play," Ryan said. "You've got to catch the ball first, then worry about making the run."
Then, Devin McCourty fumbled the kickoff and Antonio Allen recovered for the Jets.
"Our emotions were high and everyone was full of energy," Allen said, "but they took it right back."
Sanchez was sacked for a 10-yard loss on third down and Folk kicked another 43-yarder for a 26-23 lead with 1:37 to go in the fourth quarter.
So all the Patriots needed to force overtime was a field goal, not a touchdown, and Gostkowski kicked a 43-yarder on the final play of regulation.
After Gostkowski's overtime field goal, the Jets moved to their 40 before Ninkovich got around right tackle Austin Howard and hit Sanchez high while Jermaine Cunningham got him low for a sack. The ball came loose, Ninkovich pounced on it and Belichick went out and patted Ninkovich on the helmet.
"We got pressure inside and I didn't feel Ninkovich on the outside," said Sanchez, who threw for only 82 yards but had two touchdowns in his previous game, a 35-9 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Tim Tebow, who played sparingly, said, "Mark had some great throws and really had things going. Even on that last drive, before the sack and fumble, I thought things were going pretty well."
After a required replay, the ruling was upheld and the Patriots escaped with a win after blowing a 10-point lead in the last six minutes of the fourth quarter.
In their other losses, Gostkowski missed a 42-yard field goal attempt on the next to last play of a 20-18 loss to Arizona, Justin Tucker kicked a 27-yarder on the last play of a 31-30 Baltimore win and Sidney Rice caught a 46-yard touchdown pass with 1:18 left in Seattle's 24-23 victory.
"It comes down to a few plays," Tom Brady said. "When you make the plays, you win the game."
The Jets rallied from a 23-13 deficit in the last six minutes of the fourth quarter on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to Dustin Keller and Folk's third and fourth field goals.
But Brady marched the Patriots downfield after starting at his 21-yard line to put Gostkowski in position to force overtime.
Brady completed 26 of 42 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski. Sanchez was 28 for 41 with one touchdown.
Trailing 7-0 after Greene's 1-yard touchdown run, the Patriots scored on the next play when McCourty returned a kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown.
Then the offense came through on Brady's 17-yard scoring pass to Gronkowski. And the defense followed with a safety two minutes into the second quarter.
The Jets nearly reached the other end zone midway through the second quarter when Hill got open on the right side, but Sanchez underthrew him and Alfonzo Dennard intercepted at the Patriots 2.
Folk kicked a 54-yard field goal with 2 seconds left in the first half and a 21-yarder on the first series of the third quarter.
Brady then threw a 2-yard scoring pass to Gronkowski for a 23-13 lead late in the third quarter.
"We did a good job of it when we needed to," Brady said. "It's nice to pull out a close one."
Notes: The Patriots gained at least 350 yards for the 16th straight regular-season game, tying the St. Louis Rams of 1999-2000 for the most in NFL history. ... Sanchez's 328 yards passing were the fourth most of his career. ... Gronkowski scored two touchdowns in a game for the first time this season and 10th in his career.
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