Patriots Shock Jets at Home, 37-16: Post-game Breakdown

This one really, really hurts.

The division was there for the taking, and like the Jets of the pre-Rex Ryan era, the Jets just did not take something they were being handed. I hate to pull it out, but it feels like “Same old Jets” applies here.

There are so many things to be frustrated about that it’s hard to know where to begin. All the mistakes seem to blur together into one huge mess of pretty bad football – in our own building, no less. In his post-game press conference, head coach Rex Ryan apologized to Jets fans. He should, after this debacle on national television.

[caption id="attachment_329" align="alignleft" width="184" caption="Plaxico Burress hauls in a catch in the first half. Burress had three receptions for 39 yards. Photo by Julio Cortez // the AP."][/caption]

Let’s start with the opening drive, which was brilliant. Mark Sanchez marched his team right down the field. But like last week against Buffalo, the Jets ended it with no touchdowns. It didn’t even end with points. The Jets didn’t convert on third down and kicker Nick Folk missed a 24-yard field goal. Score some points on that first drive, maybe it’s a different game. Maybe the crowd’s in it, instead of staring in disbelief. For once, the Jets aren’t down right out of the gate. It feels like they’re always down when they start games – last week being a rare exception to that rule.

There was the fumble by Joe McKnight on special teams, which Donald Strickland then failed to recover. There was Tom Brady’s fumbled snap, which somehow Mo Wilkerson did not wrestle from Brady’s hands. There were the penalties and the mental mistakes.

There was the blown coverage on defense AND offense. There was Matthew Mulligan completely failing in his role as a blocker and letting Sanchez get sacked at least twice. There was the offensive line’s overall bad game – they struggled with the three man rush and Sanchez was sacked a total of five times and pressured far more often.

There was Sanchez’s uber!failure at time management at the end of the first half (and while this was SO dumb, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask your “great defense” to stop the Patriots from going all the way down the field in 1:20, Brady or not, since your defense is supposed to be, you know, great).

There were SO MANY things that the Jets just failed at this game. New York was lucky to be in it by the fourth quarter, which is when they totally lost it, considering all the chances they gave the Patriots.

There were a couple of reasons the Jets lost this game that had nothing to do with mistakes and everything to do with the game plan.

To win this game, in my eyes, the Jets had to do two things. First, they had to do the “ground-and-pound."

It was working! In the first half and early on, Greene was running the ball pretty well. It was really helping Sanchez on the play action, it was setting up short yards on second and third down. Then, they went away from it and, well, the Jets lost 37-16. So why, exactly, did they stop running? Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called a good game last week, and this week he made us remember, yet again, why he has to be gone.

The Patriots have a terrible defense, but Mark Sanchez, even though he’s not as bad as Jets haters like to believe, is not at a stage where he’s going to win the game all by himself with his arm. He might never be at that stage, but everyone with eyes and any football knowledge at all knows that he’ll be all right if the running game is also there. The running game was there. Why did the Jets abandon it?

[caption id="attachment_328" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Tom Brady (12) throws against the Jets' defense in the second quarter. Photo by Bill Kostroun // the AP."][/caption]

The final line on Sanchez was 20-for-36 for 306 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions and a 64.7 rating. He also rushed for a touchdown. One of the interceptions was kind of a lucky bounce for the Patriots off Shonn Greene’s face, but it still counts. The other interception was far more devastating than his poor time management (which was minor compared to everything else that went wrong for the Jets) – Rob Ninkovich returned it for a touchdown, putting New England up three scores and effectively ending the game.

The second thing the Jets had to do was hit Brady. And no, rolling around on the ground and taking some swipes at his feet does not count as hitting him. Seriously. How do you not find a way to get to him and rattle him? It can be done. The Steelers did it and the Giants did it. The Jets should have done it.

You could say this loss was a direct result of New York's turnovers. All their turnovers led directly to Patriot scores. The defense, which looked so incredible last week, looked like a sieve this week, letting people through. Why were Eric Smith and Donald Strickland covering guys who were so much bigger than they were? Why is Matthew Mulligan still on this team (every time you see him, he's screwing up and being yelled at)? Why did they abandon the running game? Why, why, why.

The Jets were quiet this past week. They acknowledge a big game, but didn’t do much trash talking. It was so uncharacteristic for them, you’d think they were busy preparing for the game instead. They just did not execute, in the first half especially, and it killed them, because they had a chance to really put some points on the board.

As everyone knows, Jets did some serious damage to their chances of winning the division. They’re effectively two games behind, considering if they tie with New England, the Patriots hold the tie-breaker. It’s hard to see New England losing at least two more games this season. They have the NFL’s easiest schedule from here on out, but then again, the 2011 Patriots might remember they’re not the 2007 Patriots against other teams, which is what the Jets have to hope for in order to have a shot.

In fact, the Jets have done serious damage to their chances of making the playoffs at all, even as a wild card. There are a lot of teams in the hunt for the wild card in the AFC this year. Off the top of my head, I’d say New York needs ten wins to get in with help, eleven to get in safely. It’s not impossible, they don’t have an incredibly difficult schedule either, but which team is going to show up from here on out? From week to week? You never know.

Now, in a stunt only the NFL would pull and the Jets should be furious about, the Jets are scheduled for a Thursday night game in Denver.  So that’s, what, 72 hours to prepare after a Sunday night game? Less, including flight time and such? Yes, really. Terrible.

But even in this ridiculously short week, even in Denver with the high altitude and the time change, they should win. The Jets are more talented than the Broncos. And for everything that Mark Sanchez isn’t, he’s still better than Tim Tebow. Tebow was 2 for 8 in his game this week. Yes, in a full game. He didn’t complete a pass in the first half. He’s somehow 3-1 as a starter, but it’s really, really, really hard to believe that he can go on this way and continue to win football games.

So the Jets should still win. We’ll see. Everyone thought they were going to dig deep and finally complete the changing of the guard, taking the AFC East in a shining moment of glory, and whatever else that turned out to be the football world jumping the gun.

At least Jets fans only have to listen to sports radio talk about this game for a short time before moving on to the next one.

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