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THE NFL / 1996

Patriots Rally to Defeat Jets, 31-27

AFC: Down by 21 points, Parcells challenges team and it responds, winning on pass from Bledsoe to Byars.

November 11, 1996|From Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — With his team deep in a hole, New England Coach Bill Parcells issued a challenge. He got exactly the response he sought.

The Patriots spotted the New York Jets a 21-point lead, then rallied to win, 31-27, on Drew Bledsoe's two-yard touchdown pass to Keith Byars with 4:03 remaining Sunday.

"I told them there still was time to win the game, and they needed to decide if they still wanted to be champions," Parcells said. "I'm real proud. We escaped today and showed a lot of class."

New England's winning drive stayed alive when Ben Coates was given a very generous spot on a short reception on fourth and two to the Jets' 49 yard-line. Coates didn't appear to even reach midfield, but was given the first down by line judge Charles Stewart.

"I went to where the ball was and where I thought he was," Stewart said. "I went to where I thought the ball was at."

The Jets (1-9) didn't think so.

"It was blatant," New York defensive end Hugh Douglas said. "When you are 1-8, those things happen. You don't get those calls."

The victory was the fourth consecutive in the AFC East for the Patriots (7-3), who remained tied for the division lead with Buffalo.

"That's what playoff teams do," Byars said of the comeback. "If you panic now, in November, you won't get a chance to panic in January, when they hand out the awards."

The Jets got to the Patriots' 11 in the final minute before four incompletions ended the game.

New England climbed out of its big hole and tied the score on Bledsoe's 17-yard pass to Coates early in the fourth quarter. Curtis Martin's 31-yard run with a short pass, on which four Jets missed tackles, sparked the drive.

The Jets responded with a 48-yard pass from Frank Reich to Richie Anderson, setting up Nick Lowery's 32-yard field goal. But losing teams don't get the breaks, and the Jets fell short again, losing their ninth in a row at home.

"You've got to play hard for 60 minutes," Reich said. "If you're playing hard with a big lead, you have to try to make it a bigger lead."

Bledsoe finished 24 for 34 for 297 yards and three touchdowns.

Adrian Murrell rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown for New York.

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