Patriots vs. Jets: New England's Biggest Winners and Losers from NFL Week 7

Oliver Thomas@OliverBThomasContributor IOctober 21, 2012

Patriots vs. Jets: New England's Biggest Winners and Losers from NFL Week 7

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    The New England Patriots needed five quarters worth of action to defeat the New York Jets in Week 7. And yet, the 29-26 final score does not do this AFC East battle justice.

    This contest had its ups and downs. And without question, things would have panned out much differently if it wasn't for some polarizing plays on New England's side of the ball.

    Here are the Patriots' winners and losers from the Oct. 21 tilt in Foxboro.

Winner: Rob Gronkowski

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    New England tight end Rob Gronkowski was an X-factor against the Jets defense.

    In the first quarter, quarterback Tom Brady dialed Gronkowski's number on an excellent throw into the end zone. No. 87 did not disappoint, as he came down with a sensational reception for six.

    In the third quarter on 3rd-and-2, Brady tossed another score to Gronkowski, which put the Patriots up 23-13.

    The Arizona product shed his coverage and made the plays he needed to make for the Patriots' offense. Gronkowski finished the game with six catches for 78 yards and two much-needed scores.

Loser: Brandon Lloyd

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    Brandon Lloyd didn't look like himself versus the Jets.

    The veteran wideout known for coming down with spectacular catches dropped three catchable balls. In total, Lloyd was targeted eight times yet only managed to haul in one catch for six yards.

    It was certainly an uncharacteristic day for New England's top free-agent acquisition, but credit must be given to the Jets for shutting down his routes.

Winner: Stephen Gostkowski

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    Stephen Gostkowski missed the game-winning field goal against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2, but that wasn't the case against the Jets.

    Gostkowski converted on both of his kicks in Week 7, and both were critical in deciding the Patriots' fate.

    When New England was down 26-23 in the fourth quarter with five seconds remaining, the Memphis product saw his 43-yard attempt go through the uprights. Gostkowski's first field goal of the game gave the Patriots new life and sent the game into overtime.

    In overtime, once again, it was Gostkowski who answered the call. His 48-yard field goal proved to be big, as it was the final points New England would score against the Jets.

Winner and Loser: Devin McCourty

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    For a lack of a better word, Devin McCourty was exciting as a kick returner against the Jets.

    In the first quarter, McCourty sparked the Patriots on a 104-yard kick return, which tied the game up at 7-7. The return was New England's second-longest in history, preceding Ellis Hobbs' 108-yard return in 2007.

    The celebration was short-lived, however, because the former first-round pick fumbled a return in the fourth quarter with 2:01 left. Consequently, the Jets took a 26-23 lead on a Nick Folk field goal.

    McCourty impressed, but he also hampered the Pats' hopes. Fortunately, Stephen Gostkowski's game-tying field goal let McCourty off the hook to some extent.

Loser: New England's Secondary

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    Usually, it's the Jets' running game that poses the greatest threat to opposing defenses. But it was the Jets' passing game that made the headlining plays on Sunday. 

    Quarterback Mark Sanchez completed 28-of-41 passes for 328 yards and a touchdown. Down the field, Jets wide receivers Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill found success retreating to the ball.

    New England's cornerbacks, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling and Alfonzo Dennard, couldn't turn around in time, and plenty of catches over 20 yards were the byproduct.

    When there weren't completions, there were penalties. The officials flagged the Pats for illegal contact and holding on multiple occasions, which kept drives alive for New York.

    It may have been a new week, but the same old struggles were on display in the Patriots secondary.

Winner: Jermaine Cunningham and Rob Ninkovich

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    As the Jets were moving the chains and seeking a sudden-death touchdown, defensive ends Jermaine Cunningham and Rob Ninkovich came through.

    It was 2nd-and-10 at the Jets' 40-yard line when Cunningham and Ninkovich notched the game's biggest play, a sack-fumble on quarterback Mark Sanchez.

    Ninkovich was credited with the forced fumble and recovery. After review, the Patriots were awarded with the ball and a victory.