Foxborough, Mass. • Rob Ninkovich knocked the ball out of Mark Sanchez's hand in overtime and lifted the New England Patriots into sole possession of first place in the AFC East.
The undersized defensive end got around right tackle Austin Howard and hit Sanchez high while Jermaine Cunningham got him low for a sack, sealing a 29-26 overtime victory over the New York Jets on Sunday.
New England had gone ahead on Stephen Gostkowski's 48-yard field goal on the first possession of overtime. With the Jets trying to drive for at least a tying field goal, the ball came loose from Sanchez's hand, Ninkovich pounced on it and Patriots coach Bill Belichick went out and patted Ninkovich on the helmet.
After a required replay, the ruling was upheld and the Patriots escaped with a win after blowing a 10-point lead in the last six minutes of the fourth quarter.
The day started with all four teams in the AFC East tied at 3-3, but the Patriots (4-3) edged the Jets (3-4) and the Buffalo Bills lost, while the Miami Dolphins were idle.
In overtime, each team gets the ball unless the first team with it scores a touchdown. So the Jets had a chance after the Patriots managed just a field goal. New York moved from its 15 to its 40 before Sanchez lost the ball.
Gostkowski had tied the game with a 43-yard field goal on the last play of regulation.
The Jets rallied from a 23-13 deficit on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to Dustin Keller and 43-yard field goals by Nick Folk, his third and fourth of the game, for a 26-23 lead with 1:37 remaining.
But Tom Brady marched the Patriots downfield after starting at his 21-yard line to put Gostkowski in position to force overtime.
Brady completed 26 of 42 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski. Sanchez was 28 for 41 for 328 yards and one touchdown.
The Patriots led 16-10 at halftime, scoring on offense, defense and special teams.
Trailing 7-0 after Shonn Greene's 1-yard touchdown run, the Patriots scored on the next play when Devin McCourty returned a kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown, second in team history only to Ellis Hobbs' 108 yard kickoff return. Both came against the Jets.
Then the offense came through on Brady's 17-yard scoring pass to Gronkowski. And the defense followed with a safety two minutes into the second quarter when Sanchez deliberately kicked a loose ball beyond the back of the end zone. Greene had fumbled it when he was hit by 330-pound tackle Vince Wilfork.
The Jets nearly reached the other end zone midway through the second quarter when Stephen Hill got open in front of the right corner of the end zone, but Sanchez's long pass came up short and rookie Alfonzo Dennard raced back and intercepted the ball at the Patriots 2.
Folk kicked a 54-yard field goal with two seconds left in the first half and a 21-yarder on the first series of the third quarter when the Jets stalled after getting a first down at the Patriots 11.
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N.Y. Jets 7 3 3 13 0 26
New England 14 2 7 3 3 29
NYJ • Greene 1 run (Folk kick), 8:51.
NE • McCourty 104 kickoff return (Gostkowski kick), 8:39.
NE • Gronkowski 17 pass from Brady (Gostkowski kick), 4:11.
NE • Team safety, 13:10.
NYJ • FG Folk 54, :02.
NYJ • FG Folk 21, 9:33.
NE • Gronkowski 2 pass from Brady (Gostkowski kick), 2:39.
NYJ • Keller 7 pass from Sanchez (Folk kick), 5:44.
NYJ • FG Folk 43, 2:06.
NYJ • FG Folk 43, 1:37.
NE • FG Gostkowski 43, :00.
NE • FG Gostkowski 48, 11:02.
Attendance • 68,752.
First downs 26 26
Total Net Yards 403 381
Rushes-yards 33-106 31-131
Passing 297 250
Punt Returns 3-22 2-21
Kickoff Returns 4-116 8-222
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 1-0
Comp-Att-Int 28-41-1 26-42-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 4-31 1-9
Punts 3-56.7 6-44.8
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 8-60 6-40
Time of Possession 35:49 31:43
Rushing • N.Y. Jets, Greene 16-54, McKnight 7-23, Hilliard 3-14, Tebow 4-12, Kerley 1-2, Grimes 1-1, Sanchez 1-0. New England, Ridley 17-65, Vereen 8-49, Woodhead 6-17.
Passing • N.Y. Jets, Sanchez 28-41-1-328. New England, Brady 26-42-0-259.
Receiving • N.Y. Jets, Kerley 7-120, Keller 7-93, Greene 6-34, S.Hill 4-55, Reuland 1-11, Hilliard 1-8, Cumberland 1-4, Grimes 1-3. New England, Gronkowski 6-78, Welker 6-66, Hernandez 5-54, Woodhead 4-29, Edelman 2-7, Vereen 1-10, Branch 1-9, Lloyd 1-6.
Missed Field Goals • None.