EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Patriots gave the Jets the ball, and New York might carry it right into the playoffs.
Eric Decker's 6-yard touchdown catch on the first drive of overtime — after New England stunningly chose to kick off — lifted the Jets to a 26-20 victory Sunday that put New York in position to make the playoffs.
A victory next week at Buffalo gives the Jets a wild-card berth.
"It was thrilling," Decker said. "Those are the moments that you cherish."
New England (12-3) won the OT coin toss and elected to kick to the Jets (10-5). Patriots coach Bill Belichick said there was "no confusion" on the call; he'd done it once before in 2013, but a hefty wind was involved against Denver. That decision worked; this one flopped.
Special teams captain Matthew Slater called heads and won the toss. He told referee Clete Blakeman the Patriots wanted to kick in a specific direction. But once he said they wanted to kick, whatever followed didn't matter, according to NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino.
"I just thought we would be able to choose the direction we kicked off from," Slater said.
It was the third time since the 2012 rule change a team chose to kick off for OT. The other times, New England and Minnesota, were winners.
New York used a career-long 48-yard reception by Quincy Enunwa and a 20-yard pass to Brandon Marshall to move into scoring position. And then, Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Decker on a fade behind Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler for New York's fifth consecutive victory.
"The last five weeks, they've all kind of been do-or-die games for us, so that's how we've approached each one," Fitzpatrick said. "We've got to get the next one to get in."