Oh the Jets and the Patriots—it never gets old. It’s uncanny how these teams have managed to keep things fresh, digging up new and obscure ways to get under each other’s skin.
Remember the Spygate whistleblowing of Patriots defensive coordinator-turned-Jets head coach, Eric Mangini? Cost the Pats a first round pick and $750,000 in fines. That was six years ago!
Things only escalated after the inauguration of the Rex Ryan establishment. Remember Rex Ryan’s supposed foot fetish? After that was reported far and wide in the papers—in toe-toe if you will—Wes Welker conducted a memorable interview:
These events are emblematic of the kind of gamesmanship we’ve come to expect, and even appreciate, from the Jets and Pats, and the kind we’re seeing again after the controversy swirling around their latest meeting, which ended in an unlikely Jets victory—thanks to Push-gate.
With the game tied 27-27 in overtime at the Meadowlands and the Jets lining up for a game-winning 56-yard field goal, no one could have predicted what would happen—because what happened had never happened before. As the kick sailed wide and short of the uprights, a mysterious yellow handkerchief flew to the turf.
The referee called a game-deciding unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Chris Jones. According to Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3, which was introduced this year, “players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation.” Push was exactly what Jones did and it cost the Patriots the game.
But the controversy was less about the interpretation of the rule, which Jones conceded in a post-game interview, saying, “But you, know, I made a mistake, and I should be more aware.” This was about the rivalry. The New York Daily News later learned that the Jets tipped off the referees in advance of the field goal attempt. Typical.
Days after the game, Belichick passive-aggressively returned fire, claiming the Jets did the same pushing during the game. “Well, I mean, since they were using the play themselves I don’t even know about all that,” he said. “But basically we’re just moving on here," he added, not moving on here.
Rex Ryan wasn’t moving on either. He said, "That's not true...He's got to make up his mind. Was he aware of this thing? Was it second-level, all this kind of jazz? Or now what the story is...we did it? OK, I got you. The fact is we're moving on, we earned that victory plain and simple, and we're focused on Cincinnati now."
Yet another classic example of “he said, she said” Pats-Jets posturing and silliness. But I suppose this is the stuff of a compelling rivalry, fully equipped with laser-targeted jabs and the occasional knockout dose of ribaldry.