For the simple, unexpected reason that those three were the best pass-rushing defensive linemen the Pats had available.
And the game was far from decided. When Vinny Testaverde, Wayne Chrebet, Curtis Martin and the rest of the Jets offensive starters came on the field for that final drive with 3:07 left, they trailed by only a touchdown, 23-16.
Jarvis and The Rooks were on the field because the list of injuries to key Patriots defensive performers continued unabated, like some runaway defensive end in search of a quarterback.
Ted Washington, arguably this team’s most indispensable defensive player, went down with a fractured leg on the game’s first series. On the final play of the half, Ty Law, who has always been in the top two when voting for the team’s defensive MVP comes up, suffered an ankle injury that kept him on the sideline until late in the fourth quarter.
Then, just about the time when Law came back, linebacker/pass rusher Mike Vrabel went to the sideline with a right arm injury. He didn’t get on the field again until well after the game, and when he did he was wearing either a cast or a brace on his arm.
With another team, at another time, a scenario like yesterday’s could have been curtains. Particularly if the defense wasn’t getting a lot of assistance from the offense (294 total yards) or special teams (called for five penalties). Most especially since the Pats were already without their defensive captain (Lawyer Milloy), best run-stopping linebacker (Ted Johnson) and $26 million pass rusher (Rosevelt Colvin).
The Patriots reserves didn’t let the collapse take place. They stepped in and made sure the Jets didn’t come back.
—Kevin Mannix, The Boston Herald “Game 3: The Jets; The NFL; Backups get down and dirty.”