Monday, October 21, 2013

New England Patriots 27 at New York Jets 30 (OT) - October 20, 2013

New York is to be my home once this trip is finished, so it was a homecoming of sorts when I drove into Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon. After securing parking for my car in lower Manhattan, no easy task I can assure you, I spent five days enjoying the East Village neighbourhood, a collection of bars and restaurants that belie the city's reputation as overpriced and haughty. I particularly enjoyed Kelly's Sports Bar on Avenue A, which is a Buffalo bar that shows all Sabres and Bills games and has $3 pints until 7 pm.  Every night had some sort of sporting event in the area, but I needed the time to rest up as the busy part of the trip starts this week, with seven games and nearly 5,000 miles on the road between here and Minneapolis 17 days hence.

Thus when I made my way to East Rutherford, NJ, on Sunday morning, it would be to see a game after 5 days of relative inactivity, the longest stretch without attending a sporting event on the trip. The streak would be broken by the rematch of the Week 2 Thursday game in Foxboro, won by the Patriots 13-10 with the second half being playing in a torrential downpour. Thankfully, Sunday was a perfect fall day, and the resulting game was perhaps the most exciting on the trip.

MetLife Stadium

MetLife Stadium has been the home of both the Jets and Giants since it opened in 2010, but today it was dressed in green for the AFC team. The venue is located in the middle of the Meadowlands Sports Complex, which makes it a pain to get to from New York City. There are transit options, including trains from Penn Station, but expect long waits on the return trip. Parking in one of the many lots requires pre-issued permits and there is no free parking around. Well, that is not quite true. The Sheraton Meadowlands runs a shuttle for $5 each way, and there are parking lots within walking distance that you might be able to use. I was staying in a nearby hotel, which helped a lot. Do not park at the Sheraton as it costs $30, but perhaps you could mention that you are a guest.

Once I was dropped off, I did the tour around the exterior, which was demarcated by fencing along the entire perimeter. You can still complete the lap without any problem, but it can be confusing at first as some areas look out of bounds and at some points you are walking along with traffic, so pay attention. The Jets drumline, known as "The Aviateurs" (above), were marching around to get fans pumped up.

The stadium is not particularly attractive from in close, there is a lot of metal stripping that blocks any view inside, except that of corporate sponsors, a recurring theme.

There are five entrances, each named after a different sponsor; this motif continues once you are inside. Below you can see the Pepsi entrance on the left, the second shot was taken inside the MetLife entrance, where much of the pregame festivities take place, including some statues of Peanuts' characters, as that once-sacred comic is now associated with the insurance behemoth.

Inside, the seats are a neutral colour, as you can see in many of the shots below. There are four levels: a lower plaza level inside the MetLife entrance that leads you to sections 133-144, which includes the MetLife 50 Club, an area that requires a very expensive Personal Seat License, but which can be accessed before and after the game for a couple of pictures.

The seats are a little better than those elsewhere, but nothing special.

The rest of the stadium is divided into three seating levels, but only the 300 level has a complete concourse, as the 200 level has club seats along both sidelines.

Below are a few other shots taken from various locations. Compare these to the pictures from the Giants game on Monday night, the stadium seems like a completely different place.

The Ring of Honor is obviously portable, as the names change depending on which team is playing.

Before the game, there is a Jets chant, where fans come out of the field with white cards and stand in a formation to spell JETS. They then yell J-E-T-S Jets-Jets-Jets!, which is the team's rallying cry. Very cool and simple enough so that most fans can remember even after a few beers.

As usual, I took a picture of the field goal kickers warming up, below is Nick Folk who had already kicked two game-winning field goals this season.

The big news was the return of Patriot tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had suffered a serious forearm injury last season. You can sort of make out the large brace on his left arm below; he was not as effective as he could have been as on at least two occasions it seemed like his left arm wasn't able to effect its normal range of motion.

The game was not particularly well-played, each team had a pick-six and Tom Brady did not throw a TD pass for the second consecutive road game. The Jets ran the ball 52 times, compared to just 37 pass plays, with Chris Ivory (#33 below) gaining 104 yards on a gritty 34 carries. This allowed them to control the clock, and Brady just never got in sync with his receivers.

Geno Smith was solid with 17 completions for 233 yards, and looked much more composed than he did in New England. That's him below after getting a pass away in time while Jamie Collins dives in.

Interestingly, the Patriots had essentially the opposite split between the ground and air games, with only 20 runs and 50 pass plays. When the Patriots tried running themselves, the Jets defense was moderately successful in slowing them down, as David Harris shows below with a tackle of Brandon Bolden. However, the Pats averaged 4.5 yards per carry, so perhaps they should have tried doing this a bit more.

The Jets were down 21-10 at the half but used their pick-6 on the first possession of the second half to energize their defense and forced the Pats into 3-and-outs for the rest of the quarter. When Smith scrambled for a touchdown late in the frame, the Jets had the lead at 24-21, and extended that to 27-21 after a late Folk field goal. Never count New England out though, and sure enough the Jets stumbled in the fourth quarter, punting on their two possessions despite holding the ball for over 8 minutes. Brady drove the Pats close enough for a couple of field goals, with the second coming with just 16 ticks left. For the second week in a row, I had overtime!

The Patriots won the toss, and after a 16-yard pass to Gronkowski, Brady threw 3 consecutive incompletions, forcing them to punt. The Jets took the ball from their 20 and used ten plays to get 38 yards, a true grinding drive. Folk came on to win the game but he missed the 56-yarder and it looked like the Pats would have good field position. Except there was a penalty! The Pats committed unsportsmanlike conduct when Chris Jones pushed a teammate into the offensive formation. This was a new rule instituted in the offseason and it was the first time it had been called in NFL history. It was a 15-yard penalty that Bill Belichick vehemently (and incorrectly) disagreed with, and the Jets used their new set of downs to run the ball a couple of times before Smith took a knee. Folk came in again, and make no mistake this time (above), winning the game and splitting the season series between the two rivals. That's the final below.

Another exciting game, and those stinkers that I saw early on are forgotten. This wasn't particularly well-played, but a home-team OT win over a divisional foe is tough to beat for thrills.


The Jets were selling obsolete Reebok gear (Nike is now the supplier) at 80% off, which meant $5 hats and t-shirts, such as those above. I couldn't resist the opportunity to look like a real fan for a change, as you can see below. J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets! I wish every team had this sort of sale, I could actually afford it and it would complete my wardrobe for the next few years.



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