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Todd Bowles has the Jets believing in themselves again

Doormats for the Patriots over the years, a 26-20 win over the Patriots proves that the Jets really have changed under first-year head coach Todd Bowles.

Al Bello/Getty Images

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Patriots have stomped the Jets so thoroughly in recent years -- they had won three in a row and eight of the last nine meetings -- that Jets coach Todd Bowles addressed "belief" with his players before they tangled here on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Bowles told them player for player and all across the field that they matched up with the Patriots. He told them they had become a better team since their 30-23 loss on Oct. 25th at the Patriots. He told them they had been losing to the Patriots for so long that they simply lacked belief they could beat them.

But Bowles hummed a different hymn after his team toppled the Patriots 26-20 in overtime.

He said he was not trying to "portray" the Patriots at all. He chirped about New England only being the next team in the way of the Jets' march to the playoffs. He said the Jets just had to win a ballgame. He said his team has been in survival mode for a couple of weeks. Just a good win against a good team, you know, dutiful stuff.

This is Bowles' method. He never seeks to bowl over the outside.

He saves his biggest bite, his meatiest view for his players.

"Coach Bowles told us we didn't have the type of belief against the Patriots that he wanted us to have," Jets rookie defensive end Leonard Williams said. "He stressed to us how important it was to develop that. I think as the game went on, we kept coming back to that theme."

Jets four-year linebacker Demario Davis explained: "You look at the really good teams, the great teams, the dynasties in NFL history and they have that feeling that no matter what happens in a game, they will win it. It's sort of a belief factor that Coach Bowles has been instilling in us."

The Jets led 10-3 with 1:57 left before halftime and the Patriots did not catch them until it was 20-20 with 1:55 left in the game.

"And you have that thought, `Well, here they go again,' that feeling you always have with them, that they are going to find a way to come back and beat you," Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson said. "You can't help but feel that way with them because of who they are and what they have done, the quarterback (Tom Brady), the coach (Bill Belichick)."

Not this time. Jets belief won. Jets coaching won. Jets players won. Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick outdueled Brady. The Jets receivers outfoxed the Patriots coverage. The Jets defense limited the points by the Patriots offense to only 13. The Jets looked faster, quicker, stronger and certainly played with definitive urgency.

It all fell in the Jets favor here on Sunday. They are back in control of their playoff dreams. One, final regular season victory and they are in the AFC postseason.

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The Jets are 10-5. The Patriots are 12-3. The Patriots have beaten the Jets 59 times in this series. The only NFL team the Patriots have beaten more is Buffalo (69).

It takes a lot for the Jets to beat the Patriots. And this victory offered a touch of fortune for the Jets that by Patriots standards was misplayed, risky, odd and -- especially considering the outcome -- dumb.

Players from each team met at midfield for the overtime coin toss, among them Jets cornerback Buster Skrine and Patriots receiver Matthew Slater. Referee Clete Bakeman tossed the coin in the air. Slater called heads. It was heads.

From there, confusion reigned.

The Jets got the football first and made it last, driving piercingly downfield for the winning 6-yard touchdown pass from Fitzpatrick to receiver Eric Decker.

Slater clarified: "Before we went out for the toss, coach told us if we won the toss that we wanted to kick off. Obviously, as a player, you ask three or four times just to double check because you want to make sure you got it right. So, we went out there and won the toss. The only confusion was whether or not we got to choose which direction we get to kick the ball."

This is the way Skrine described that midfield scene:

"They called heads. They won the toss. Slater said kick. Then the official asked us which way to receive. Then Slater said no, he meant kick it to them, they wanted the ball. I started immediately complaining to the ref that he already said kick! The ref told him he already said kick and that was it."

So what was it? An authoritative plan or a colossal blunder?

Belichick said he thought kicking to the Jets first "was the best thing to do." Of course, it would have been had the Patriots stopped the Jets offense, forced a punt, blocked it or returned it to set up a winning field goal. But to allow a touchdown by the Jets on that first overtime drive meant game over. It was the one thing the Patriots defense could not let happen. It did.

The Jets believed they would make the Patriots pay for having the audacity to kick it to them first in overtime. They were stunned that the Patriots took that risk.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski succinctly summarized: "You always want a shot to score."

Skrine had his view of it. Slater had his. But listen to Jets receiver Brandon Marshall's insight: "There was some confusion over there. So, when they won it (the coin toss), my first reaction was "Stop them." Then I saw the kicker once they said they wanted to kick off, I I saw the kicker say, `No, no, we want to receive.' So, I thought there was a big miscommunication there."

Belichick might have been gambling for field position. Or maybe something was lost in Patriots translation.

Clearly, the Jets exhibited fight, gained belief, poured that into their play and finally beat the Patriots.

"We were excited to get the opportunity to get the ball and have a chance to put them away," said Fitzpatrick, who passed for three touchdowns and finished with a passer rating nearly 20 points higher than Brady's.

"On the final score, it was a run/pass option play and we got just the look we wanted for that pass. We had practiced that pass for that defense in that situation, so it was good work by the entire offense. It's a crazy circumstance -- that's what it's going to come down to in Buffalo."

Yes, Buffalo. The Jets finish the regular season at the Bills on next Sunday. If the Jets win, they are 11-5 and are in the playoffs. Fitzpatrick used to play in Buffalo. Other Jets have connections there. And of course, Bills coach Rex Ryan coached the Jets last year to a putrid 4-12 season. Buffalo is already eliminated from playoff contention. Ryan would love making the Jets that kind of company.

"I know that's what everybody is going to talk about, Rex and us meet again with so much on the line," Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson said. "It's not about Rex. It's not about that. It's about us believing in ourselves. It's about our passion and energy and confidence in ourselves. That is how we have won our last five games in a row. Rex is not going to be the thing that gets inside our heads. It's about this new belief."

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SB Nation presents: The Pats' inexplicable coin toss gaffe against the Jets