Boy, do the Jets stink or what?
And so with all due respect to the Patriots, who breezed in and out of MetLife Stadium on Thanksgiving as if it were a drive-thru window, we all know what happened here. Sometimes you deserve to win. Sometimes you deserve to lose. And sometimes all you have to do is show up because your opponents throw up on themselves like college freshmen during orientation week.
The final score: Patriots 49, New York Jets 19.
And the game never felt even remotely that close.
For the Patriots, the questions this morning are simple and clear: how much of this was the Jets? And is New England sufficiently improving, particularly on defense, to make us wonder whether the Patriots' early-season issues are permanently a thing of their past?
Let's start with the obvious. What the Jets did to themselves was one of the most extraordinary examples of self-destruction in the history of the sport. Watching an abandoned Mark Sanchez plant his face squarely between the cheeks of right guard Brandon Moore will go down as one of the great NFL bloopers of all-time, a Pisarcik-like moment that somehow evoked memories of, incredibly, Shaquille O'Neal.
How's my [butt] taste?
Wow. Talk about a humiliating, embarrassing play that will live in infamy. And for the Jets, that was only Step Two of a three-touchdown avalanche that continued just seconds later, when kickoff returner Joe McKnight spit up as if Devin McCourty had performed the Heimlich maneuver on him, the football popping out of of McKnight's grasp (and into the hands of a serendipitous Julian Edelman) as if it were a piece of popcorn chicken.
Just like that, the Jets went from potentially driving for a game tying score with a fourth-and-1 on the Patriots' 31-yard line to a 28-0 deficit, the kind of spontaneous combustion that left Jets coach Rex Ryan with a predictable, profanity-laced reaction.
Indeed it was. Two series and a few minutes later, after Tom Brady effortlessly dropped a 56-yard touchdown pass into the hands of Edelman as if he were tossing an apple core into a dumpster, the Patriots had a 35-0 lead and everyone from Plymouth Rock to Alcatraz was ridiculing the Jets.
Now, if you're looking for reasons to feel better about the Patriots, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, there were still a few in the earlier parts of the game, before the onslaught. Yes, the Patriots gave up some yardage. Yes, they continued to be surprisingly vulnerable on the ground. But there were still a handful of developments that suggested progress, both in terms of philosophy and execution.
On Jets' very first offensive play of the game, for instance, the Patriots blitzed linebacker Dont'a Hightower and sacked Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez for a six-yard loss. That alone was a marked contrast from the Week 7 affair in which the Patriots blitzed Sanchez just five times on 45 dropbacks - and a further sign of Patriots aggressiveness following a Week 11 game in which the Patriots blitzed Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck a season-high 17 times.
In the second quarter, in fact, the Patriots recorded their only other sack of the game on another linebacker blitz - this one by Jerod Mayo. Yes, the score was 28-0. But the Jets had moved from their 18-yard line to the 43 when the Patriots sent Mayo on a third-and-6, resulting in a nine-yard loss that forced the Jets to punt. Four plays later, Brady threw the apple to Edelman, and it was time to send in the clowns.
Beyond that, the Patriots had a pair of key stops - yes, actual (it)stops(end) - that should continue to build the defense's confidence. Of course, there was the fourth-down stop of Shonn Greene on the New England 31-yard line early in the second quarter, perhaps the biggest play of the game, at least in retrospect. But prior to that, with the game still scoreless roughly midway through the first quarter, the Jets had a second-and-6 at the New England 23-yard-line when safety Steve Gregory picked off Sanchez, a play far more revealing than we might otherwise give it credit for.
Two weeks ago, after all, the Buffalo Bills faced a fourth-down play in which receiver Stevie Johnson lined up against cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. As Globe football columnist Greg Bedard noted, Dennard bit on a fake to the inside despite the fact that he safety help there, ultimately leaving Johnson wide open on the outside for a simple conversion.
So what happened on Thursday night? As NBC color analyst Cris Collinsworth noted, nickel back Kyle Arrington angled receiver Jeremy Kerley to the inside of the field. Safety Gregory than made a read from the opposite side of the field and aggressively jumped Kerley's route, resulting in an interception that deprived the Jets of any points.
Of course, this is Sanchez we're talking about, and no quarterback in the league kills his own team's scoring drives quite like the QB of the NYJ. Still, the Patriots held Sanchez to just a 59.1 rating in the first half (which is all that mattered) and limited the Jets to just a combined 4-for-13 on third- and fourth-down conversions, both of which reflect a significant improvement over the same opponent in Week 7.
Savor those pearls, Patriots fans.
Because, unfortunately, you won't see the Jets again until 2013.
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