EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Brandon Marshall was already rooting on the New York Jets' defense when New England won the overtime coin toss. Then Patriots coach Bill Belichick surprisingly ordered his team to kick off.
"My first reaction was, 'Stop 'em!'" said Marshall, thinking Tom Brady and the offense would have the ball first since the Patriots won the toss.
Not so fast.
"They took the ball out of (Brady's) hands and I'm grateful they did that," defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson said after the Jets' 26-20 victory Sunday. "We're on to next week."
Eric Decker's 6-yard touchdown catch from Ryan Fitzpatrick on the first drive of overtime lifted the Jets (10-5) to their fifth straight win and into position to make the playoffs with a victory next week.
Meanwhile, the Patriots (12-3) lost a chance to clinch the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC playoffs.
"I thought it was the best thing to do," Belichick said of his decision to kick off.
Belichick had done it once before, in 2013, but a hefty wind was involved against Denver. That decision worked. This one flopped, and Fitzpatrick and the Jets made the Patriots pay. It was the third time since the 2012 rule change a team chose to kick off for OT. The other times, New England and Minnesota, were winners.
"The only confusion was whether or not we got to choose which direction we get to kick the ball," said Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater, who was out for the toss.
According to audio from the CBS broadcast, referee Clete Blakeman said: "Heads is the call. … It is heads." He then turned to Slater and asked: "You want to kick?"
Slater responded: "We want to kick, that way."
But then, a puzzled-looking Slater, asked Blakeman: "Hey, we won. Don't we get to choose?"
Slater acknowledged that he was simply trying to get clarification from Blakeman on not being able to choose the direction of their kick.
"We wanted to kick the other way, but we weren't able to make that decision because we won the toss and we chose to kick off," Slater said. "That was the end of our decision making."
The Jets are on the verge of their first postseason appearance since the 2010 season. With a win next week against former coach Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills, New York is in.
Ryan coached the Jets from 2009-14, leading them to the AFC title game in each of his first two seasons. He was fired after last season and replaced by Todd Bowles.
New England entered having already clinched a first-round postseason bye but could have also earned home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs as the No. 1 seed with a win.
A victory next week at Miami still gets the Patriots the top spot. But a loss and two wins by Cincinnati would put the Bengals at No. 1 and the Patriots No. 2.