FOXBORO -- The Patriots had the game won. Or at least it appeared that way.
With just under a minute left in the fourth quarter and the Patriots down 20-18, Danny Woodhead scampered into the end zone untouched for what looked like a 30-yard touchdown run.
But almost immediately, instead of celebrating, Tom Brady's hands went to the top of his helmet. Something was wrong. There were flags on the field. The play was coming back.
Rob Gronkowski was called for holding as Woodhead was headed toward the goal line. The touchdown was nullified.
After the call was announced, Gronkowski was demonstrably upset with the officials. He maintained his innocence in the Patriots locker room after the game.
"I felt like it was a clean block," Gronkowski said. "My hands were right inside. I gotta look at the film. You guys saw it, too. You guys probably saw a replay so you can tell me if my hands were outside or not."
The Patriots were back within field goal range after a 12-yard pass to Wes Welker. But after another Gronkowski penalty -- this time it was a false start -- and two knees, the Patriots were backed up to the Arizona 24 yard line.
Stephen Gostkowski missed the ensuing potential game-winning kick, and the Patriots walked off with their first loss in a home-opener since 2001.
"It's frustrating," Gronkowski said of his penalties. "You saw me out there. They were not good. You can't have penalties."
FOXBORO -- Say this for Malcolm Butler: Since his rookie season he's proven time and again to be an utterly resilient player.
Go back to Super Bowl XLIX. He was beside himself on the sidelines after Jermaine Kearse somehow came up with an acrobatic grab on a pass he deflected in the fourth quarter. Moments later he was back on the field to make the play of life.
Against the Jets on Sunday, he had to make another -- albeit less dramatic -- turnaround.
Early on, it wasn't pretty. He allowed a third-and-long conversion when he played well off of Robby Anderson during a first-quarter touchdown drive. He allowed 31-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley when he made a bad gamble to try to break up the throw.
Yet without Butler's interception at the end of the first half, and without his strip of Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the fourth quarter, the Patriots might be 3-3 headed into a Super Bowl rematch with the Falcons.
The competitive streak that Butler has exhibited to make game-changing moments regardless of what has happened earlier in the game is something that Bill Belichick has grown accustomed to.
"Since the first rookie minicamp," Belichick said. "He’s a very competitive player, whatever it is. Practice, games, trash ball in the locker room. Whatever it is. He’s a very competitive player."
Earlier this season, in Week 2 against the Saints, Butler was briefly demoted to the No. 3 cornerback role. After the fact, he was open about how he wasn't playing up to his own lofty standards. Since then, he's been the only regular for the Patriots at his position as Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe have dealt with injuries.
It's been far from perfect, as moments like his breakdowns during the Jets game exhibited. But his aggressiveness rarely wanes. Even during down moments in the Patriots locker, apparently.
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