Somehow, this game became a 3-ring circus
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - It’s the alternate universe. It’s the new world order in the NFL.
You can talk trash about the Patriots and live to talk some more.
You can tug on Superman’s cape. And get away with it.
The New York Jets yesterday beat up the New England Patriots, 16-9. The big mouths played smashmouth. They forced Bill Belichick to fall on his whistle. Three times in his postgame eulogy, Belichick made reference to his team being “outcoached.’’
“It starts with me and goes for everybody that was involved in the game,’’ he said.
Think about how much that must have killed his Hoodiness. All summer long Belichick had to live with Rex Ryan, the Round Mound of Soundbite, talking about Bill’s jewelry. The new Jets coach said he did not intend to kiss Belichick’s rings. He said he would not be intimidated.
And he wasn’t.
And Belichick said he was outcoached.
And he was (gulp).
Hard to swallow that one. Outcoaching Belichick is like outrunning Usain Bolt. It’s like outclassing Harry Belafonte. It’s just about impossible.
It’s also galling. Especially after the way the Jets ran off at the mouth all week.
We laughed when Jets tackle Kris Jenkins said this was like the Super Bowl. We scoffed when safety Kerry Rhodes said the Jets wanted to “embarrass’’ the Patriots. We mocked Ryan’s doofus voicemail begging fans to bring their A game to the Meadowlands.
And after all that, the Jets came out and embarrassed the Patriots. They shut down the Brady bunch. They kept the Patriots out of the end zone. They forced Brady to miss on more than half of his passes. Brady finished with 23 completions in 47 attempts and one interception. His passer rating was a hideous 53.1. This must have been what it was like watching Ted Williams hit .200 in the 1946 World Series.
It marked the first time a Brady-led Patriot team lost a regular-season game since December of 2006. That’s almost three years. It’s also the first time Brady ever lost to the Jets in the Meadowlands. The last time the Patriots dropped a game here was in Belichick’s maiden season (2000) when Drew Bledsoe was the franchise quarterback.
Clearly, these are not the same old Patriots. They are one Leodis McKelvin brain cramp from being 0-2. And the undefeated Falcons are coming to Foxborough Sunday. Bob Kraft’s army of suckups will shift into overdrive if the Patriots lose that one.
There are red flags all over the place. Yellow flags, too. The Patriots were smacked for 11 penalties yesterday. Reminded me of one of those Pete Carroll teams when we all said the Patriots lacked discipline.
New England’s vaunted offense is several bricks shy of a load. Wes Welker (knee) was unable to play and this attack (no running game, lots of short passes) can’t afford to lose any weaponry. Brady closed fast in Week 1, but he has not been sharp. Take away those two touchdowns in 66 seconds at the end of the opener and you’ve got one TD over eight quarters.
“To not get the ball in the end zone is not acceptable,’’ said Brady, who was accompanied by his internationally-famous bride when he walked to the bus late in the afternoon. “We did the same thing last week until the last five minutes. I’ve got to do a better job. You don’t get in the end zone, it’s not a good day for the quarterback.’’
On the other side of the ball it’s going to take some time to replace all the experience that’s been erased. There is no pass rush and the injury to Jerod Mayo could be the defensive equal of Brady’s knee in 2008. The Kool Aid crowd is still madly applauding the Richard Seymour trade, but it made the Patriots weaker defensively in 2009 and it was really noticeable yesterday. The Patriots may have lost too many players at one time.
There were a couple of true knee-slappers in Belichick’s postgame session. When someone started to ask about Welker’s absence, the coach said, “He was inactive because he wasn’t able to play.’’
And as for the delay of game penalties?
“We didn’t get the play off in time.’’
That’s sort of like saying, “We lost because they scored more points than we did.’’ Or “I’m broke because I have no money.’’
But Coach Bill gets a pass on everything after this one. I mean, it just doesn’t get any worse than letting the Jets talk trash and get away with it.
This might have been the New York franchise’s happiest day since Joe Willie Namath guaranteed victory in Super Bowl III, then delivered.
“I think it was good,’’ Jenkins said when asked about the bravado.
“We’re a football team that should be respected,’’ said Ryan. “Sometimes we talk a little bit, or something like that, but only because we have confidence in our football team. We believe it to be true that we are an outstanding football team.’’
“We are not the same old Jets that people are used to,’’ added New York linebacker Bart Scott.
Apparently that also goes for the Patriots.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.