Smacked back into reality
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Tom Brady was steaming.
"We just sucked," said QB 12 after yesterday's 28-14 beatdown at the hands of the hated Jets in the New Meadowlands Stadium.
Brady's been around since 2000, but none of us ever saw him this mad at himself and his team after a loss.
Words we never heard in the Bible.
Say it ain't so, Tom.
After last week's easy win against Cincinnati, Brady reminded us that this year's Patriots team is "different" from the 2009 edition. None of that was in evidence in the swamps of Jersey. The Patriots were a 2-6 road team last year and are now 0-1 away from Gillette Stadium. The Patriots were a weak second-half team last year, and they have been outscored, 39-14, in two second halves this year. Brady was unable to trigger late-game comebacks in '09 and yesterday he threw two interceptions and coughed up a fumble in the final two quarters.
The whole thing was particularly galling in the wake of the snack-talk, smack-talk antics of the Jets.
When the Patriots dominated the opening moments (New England had the ball for 13:58 out of 15 minutes in the first quarter), it looked as if the Jets were on the fast track to Fraudville, USA. Randy Moss turned Darrelle Revis into a slouch potato with a ballet-like, one-handed touchdown catch to give New England a 14-7 lead in the second quarter. At halftime, the Patriots led, 14-10, Revis (hamstring) was done for the day, and New York's sophomore quarterback Mark Sanchez was being fitted for a J.P. Losman hairsuit.
Football America and metropolitan New York were ready to bury the blowhards from Exit 16W.
Then it all came apart like a comb-over in a hurricane. Brady stopped going with what was working (stuff over the middle to the tight ends and anything to Wes Welker) and tried forcing the ball to Moss (two catches on 10 balls thrown his way). The Patriots had 80 yards of offense in the second half.
Meanwhile, Sanchez and the Jets exploited the smurfs in the Patriots' defensive backfield. It was pathetic watching Jets receivers picking balls off the helmet of poor (5 foot 10 inch) Darius Butler. Braylon Edwards is a half-foot taller than Butler. When he snatched a 2-point conversion pass, it looked like he was eating candy off Butler's head.
So maybe we can hold off on those early February flights to the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. Everything looked too easy at home against Cincinnati. This was the real world, New Jersey. Issues we worried about in the offseason and preseason came forward with full fury. New England has been outscored, 52-28, since streaking to that 24-0 lead against the Bengals.
"It's disappointing to come down here and have the game turn out the way it did," said coach Bill Belichick. "Obviously we've got a lot of work to do. They did a better job than we did."
Mr. Glum knows what he's got here and he knows what he doesn't have, too. It had to sting to watch his team dissolve in the haunted acreage where so many things have happened through the years. There is nothing manufactured about the Patriots-Jets hatred. A Jets executive once questioned Belichick's mental stability. It was here that Spygate was launched. Curtis Martin is on the Jets' ring of honor. It goes on and on. And now Belichick has to live with the fact that Rex Ryan is 2-1 against him (plus two playoff wins to Belichick's zero) since becoming a head coach in the NFL. It's a hard knock indeed.
"They're a little cocky and annoying at times," conceded Moss. "But they went out and walked the walk. You've got to hand it to them. The Jets handled adversity the right way and we handled it the wrong way. This one hurts. They wanted it more."
Give Moss his props. After last Sunday's quarter-hour, self-serving granfalloon in the bowels of Gillette, he said all the right things yesterday. He gave the Jets credit and pledged to do better. His touchdown catch at the expense of Revis winds up being a footnote, but it was one of the greatest grabs anyone ever has seen, and Moss's insistence on keeping his left hand entirely off the ball was reminiscent of Muhammad Ali. It was an "eat my dust"' statement by Moss. Unfortunately, it was the last score of the day for the Patriots.
Which brings us back to the angry Mr. Gisele Bundchen, the celebrated driver of the Audi S8.
Asked if yesterday's game ran counter to his contention that this team is "different", Brady said, "No. It's about playing consistently. We can do a better job. We had way too many third-and-longs today. That was a joke."
He spoke of "our level of toughness." He said, "I've got to do a better job leading this team."
Brady was the last Patriot to appear at the podium. He answered questions honestly, with fire in his eyes. When longtime Patriots publicist Stacey James tried to wrap things up, announcing "two more questions," Brady decided he was already done. He turned, walked through the door, and strode toward the team buses.
Good thing the friendly cousins from Buffalo are visiting Foxborough this weekend. Maybe that'll make everyone forget how horrible this was.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.