EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New England got Rob Gronkowski back on Sunday. It wasn’t quite enough.
Gronkowski, who missed the first six games after having offseason surgery on his back and broken left forearm, had eight catches for 114 yards, and one big miss, in the Patriots’ 30-27 loss to the New York Jets.
His attempt at a one-handed circus catch with 36 seconds to go in regulation failed, and the Patriots settled for a tying field goal.
“I’m still mad about that one,” Gronkowski said. “I had it, I brought it in and I dropped it.”
Tom Brady, who had completed just nine passes to tight ends coming into the game, finished 22 of 46 for 228 yards. He targeted Gronkowski 17 times.
Gronkowski’s drop, with a clear path to the end zone, left Brady without a touchdown pass for the second time this season after a near-record 52-game streak.
“He ran a great route and we gave him an opportunity and he probably makes that 99 out of a hundred, but it was just one of those days where it didn’t happen for us,” Brady said.
The Patriots sent the game to overtime on a 44-yard field goal. Then Brady opened overtime with a 16-yard pass Gronkowski. But the Jets stopped the Patriots and forced New England to punt.
The Patriots didn’t get the ball back, even after the Jets’ Nick Folk missed a 56-yard field goal attempt.
Folk was wide left, but the miss was negated when New England’s Chris Jones was called for unsportsmanlike conduct on a 15-yard penalty that had never before been called in an NFL game.
Referee Jerome Boger explained that Jones was called for pushing his teammate “into the opponents’ formation.” Umpire Tony Michalek threw his flag “almost instantaneously as he observed the action,” Boger said. “We just enforced it as he called it.”
Patriots’ Coach Bill Belichick disagreed with the application of the rule.
“You can’t push in the second level,” Belichick said. “I didn’t think we did that.”
New York (4-3), given new life, ran the ball three times to set up Folk’s winner and send the green towel-waving fans at MetLife Stadium into a frenzy.
“It was something that we talked about probably in camp and stuff, and it just skipped out of my mind,” Jones said. “It was my mistake and nobody else’s. I’ve just got to man up to it and fix it next time.”
“I was like, `You know what? It’s about time we got a break,'” Jets Coach Rex Ryan said, smiling. “That’s really what I was thinking. It just worked out.”
New England had defeated New York in six straight regular-season meetings, and saw its 12-game winning streak against AFC East opponents come to an end.
Smith, who threw three fourth-quarter interceptions in a Week 2 loss at New England, was 17 of 33 for 233 yards. He had a first-quarter interception returned 79 yards for a touchdown by rookie Logan Ryan.
Ryan was playing for Aqib Talib, part of a list of injured Patriot defenders that also includes Jarod Mayo, Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly.
“We don’t believe in those excuses,” Ryan said. “That’s why they drafted me, to come in and play and do my job along with other guys. Talking for myself, I need to make a couple more plays out there to help my team win.”
Brady also had an interception returned for a touchdown by Antonio Allen.
Smith gave the Jets a 24-21 lead in the third quarter on an 8-yard run that left the crowd chanting “GEE-NO! GEE-NO!” On third-and-14 from the 24, Smith took off left and was met by Marquice Cole, who slammed into the quarterback. But Smith reached out as he was going down and got the first down.
He again had all receivers tied up when he sprinted right, faked out Cole and dived into the corner of the end zone.
Folk kicked a 37-yard field goal late in the third quarter for a 27-21 lead. Stephen Gostkowski’s 39-yarder cut New York’s advantage to 27-24.
The Jets, in a 21-10 hole, scored 17 consecutive points before Brady made a bid for a 39th come-from-behind win.
“We were close a lot, we’ve just got to start making ‘em,” Brady said. “The balls have to be better thrown. Everyone has to look at themselves and do a better job, because what we’re doing now isn’t good enough.”