EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Backup quarterback Kellen Clemens had just been hammered to the ground and fumbled. The Jets somehow managed to maintain possession. Just about everyone on the field was ready to turn and start running, trotting, or walking toward the tunnel leading to the locker room and get out of Giants Stadium. Three-quarters of the fans already had beaten them to it. That's when Eric Mangini called time out. Fifty-six seconds remained in a long-decided football game in which Mangini's Jets got manhandled, 38-14, by the Patriots.
Mangini, however, wanted to see more football. Somehow, he was able to look past the final score in this humbling loss to his former boss, Bill Belichick, and focus on the positive.
"I thought there were a lot of positive things that we can take away from this but we've got to be more consistent," Mangini said. "We had a very specific game plan that we liked and there were a lot of positive things from the game. Anytime you give up the big plays the momentum shifts, and then the approach dramatically shifts. That's never a situation you would like to be in."
Mangini was referring to Ellis Hobbs's 108-yard kickoff return that started the second half and help push the Patriots to an easy victory. But there was more reasons for the Jets' loss than Hobbs's electric return.
--The 431 yards the Jets' defense surrendered, including 6.6 yards per play.
--Failing to put any pressure on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, allowing him to complete 22 of 28 passes.
--Nine catches for Randy Moss for a 183 yards (Jets defenders admitted after the game, their defensive plans put no special emphasis on Moss).
--Five sacks, including one by Jarvis Green that sent quarterback Chad Pennington to the sideline with what was described as a lower leg injury.
--Only 60 yards rushing.
Despite all that, Mangini sounded positive and his locker room backed him up.
"We're a good team," said safety Kerry Rhodes. "We'll be able to bounce back. Now, it's Baltimore [this week] and we've got to think about that."
Cornerback David Barrett, who looked like a target the Patriots were shooting at, sounded no different. "We've got to correct our mistakes and play better next week," he said.
These teams met in the playoffs last season (a 37-16 Patriots victory) but they also split two games in the 2006 regular season. Something seems to have changed.
"I don' t know anything about a gap [between the teams]. We're going to get to play them again," said Jets receiver Laveranues Coles with an intonation that the result would be different next time. "Whenever that time comes, we have a lot of ball games in between where we have an opportunity to play. This was one ball game, one out of 16."
The Jets were quick to defend their coach, too.
"[The loss] has nothing to do with our coaching staff, that's for sure," said Coles. "They had a great plan and put us in great positions to make plays. As players we have to look at ourselves individually and ask, 'Did you play the best game that you could play today?' "
Jets fans seemed ready to second guess their coach on the team's first drive of the day when he elected to punt on fourth and 1 from the Patriots' 46. The Jets had moved the ball 34 yards in decent fashion at that point. Kevin Faulk called a fair catch at the 9-yard line. The Patriots offense then went 91 yards in 12 plays for the first touchdown of the game.
"You make a lot of decisions like that during a game," said Mangini. "We thought it would be better to punt. We downed it at the 9-yard line. Then you've got to transition into defensive mode."
Once again, Mangini's players backed him up.
"He's the coach, he makes those decisions," said Coles. "We support him regardless."
"We trust Coach Mangini with decisions. We don't second guess those things," said Pennington.
The quarterback was injured early in the fourth quarter when he was sacked by Green. He hobbled off the field, throwing his helmet to the ground as he crossed the sideline. ("Yeah, I was frustrated," he said.)
"New England has a really good pass rush," he said. "They have unique defensive linemen because they can play the 3-4 in a two-gap way to stop the run but they also have the ability to push the pocket and get upfield."
The crowd cheered when Pennington's backup, Clemens, ran onto the field (There seems to be a quarterback controversy in the stands). "When I was the backup and I came in, they cheered me," Pennington said. "I hope our fans would support anyone who's playing quarterback. So I was glad they cheered him."
That can only be classified as another optimistic attitude in the losing locker room. However, in a final analysis Pennington was one of the few who saw the defeat in raw terms.
"They beat us in all three phases of the game," he said, "and that's why the score was the way it was. When you're playing against a really good team, you've got to find an edge and take advantage of it. We didn't find an edge to take advantage of."
Joe Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com.