FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Another game was slipping away from the Patriots down the stretch. This time, their opponent made the biggest mistakes.
The Jets' final failure came when Rob Ninkovich knocked the ball out of Mark Sanchez's hand in overtime and recovered the fumble, ending Sunday's 29-26 win to give New England sole possession of first place in the AFC East.
For the fourth time this season, a Patriots game was decided in the final two minutes. And, for the first time, they won.
"The whole time I'm thinking, 'Hey, this can't happen again. We've just got to fight all four quarters, hold them to a field goal at the end,'" Ninkovich said. "In overtime we said, 'Hey, it's overtime. We know we're going to get a chance, so let's go out there and finish this game.' "
The Pats took over first on a day that started with all four division teams tied at 3-3. The Jets and Bills lost; the Dolphins were idle.
"There's a lot of football left to be played," Pats coach Bill Belichick said. "I don't think anybody clinched anything today."
Stephen Gostkowski's 48-yard field goal put the Patriots ahead on the first possession of OT. 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 gone to overtime had the Jets capitalized on chances late in regulation.
"We made too many mistakes, but we had our opportunities," New York coach Rex Ryan said. "It just stinks being on this end of it."
Trailing 23-20, Sanchez threw a good pass to an open Stephen Hill that would have given the Jets a first down inside the Patriots 20 with just more than two minutes left. But Hill dropped it, so New York had to settle for Nick Folk's 43-yard field goal to tie it.
Then Devin McCourty fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Antonio Allen recovered for the Jets at the Patriots 18
"Our emotions were high and everyone was full of energy," Allen said, "but they took it right back."
Sanchez was sacked on third down and Folk kicked another 43-yarder for a 26-23 lead with 1:37 to go in the fourth. The Patriots drove 54 yards in 1:37 to set up Gostkowski's 43-yarder to tie it on the final play of regulation.
"In overtime, (Belichick) came to us and said we're going to need the rush," Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. "We all understood that we had to get after it."