This one was a microcosm of the Rex Ryan era in New York. The Jets got off to a hot start, had a great gameplan against their arch rivals, but still found a way to lose once the game was over. The final score read Patriots 17, Jets 16, but if the Jets had actually taken full advantage of the opportunities before them, they could have won this game convincingly. So is the life of the Jets.
The Jets baffled Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. They sacked Brady four times, hit him a dozen times, and confused him throughout the day. On one of those rare occasions, Brady actually looked rattled. He didn't know where the Jets were coming from as they dazed him with different blitzes from all over the field. Yet, it wasn't enough.
Why? Because the Jets anemic offense couldn't put the Patriots away when there was a chance to do so. The Jets held a 10-7 halftime lead, because they were aggressive offensively to go along with their intense defensive scheme. Geno Smith was actually accurate with the football, completing 8-of-11 for 103 yards and a touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland. Where that Geno Smith went to in the second half is anyone's guess.
If there is one person to blame for this loss, it is offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. His play calling in the second half was not only conservative, it was atrocious. At the start of the third quarter, the Jets could smell blood in the water. The Patriots had just went three and out on their first drive, and the Jets could have punched it in for six points to take a commanding 10-point advantage. Instead Mornhinweg tried to reel Geno Smith in after he completed a 25-yard pass to Jeremy Kerely, and put the Jets offense in a position where they could only fail.
On first and 10 at the Patriots 11, the Jets tried a short pass. Incomplete. On 2nd down they tried to run it up the middle. Nowhere. On third down they decided to dump it off in the flat. Gain of six, fourth down. Result: the Jets settled for three points to take a 13-7 lead, and you could feel the air come out of the Jets sails at this point. The game was over, the Jets were going to lose. Instead of going for the win, the Jets played not to lose.
Soon the Jets mistakes came back to bite them. Early in the fourth quarter, the real Geno Smith showed up and threw a terrible interception off his back foot, giving the Patriots great field position at the Jets 38. New England quickly turned it into six points when Jonas Gray scored from one-yard out to put the Pats up 17-13.
Later, on an extensive 12 play 59-yard drive the Jets made there way to the Patriots 12-yard line only to watch the mistakes and conservative play calling killed them again. For whatever reason Smith ran up the middle for only two yards on first down, then took a horrible 9-yard sack to put the Jets in an unmanageable third down. The Jets once again had to settle for three points to cut the Pats lead to a single digit, 17-16.
Even when the Jets defense gave New York life after Marcus Williams picked off Brady at the Patriots 30, the Jets offense still found a way to screw it up. Too bad Williams didn't try harder to stay up and score a touchdown on that pick, it would have been the Jets only shot.
The loss is especially detrimental to Rex Ryan, who probably felt a strong finish would give him a shot at keeping his job in the eyes of flip-flopping owner Woody Johnson. Instead this almost certainly means Rex will be canned. Hopefully he takes Mornhinweg, Geno and Idzik with him in a couple weeks.
Merry X-Mas Jets fans.
No matter who the head coach and general manager will be in 2015, the Jets schedule has come into focus. In addition to facing their division, the Jets will face the AFC South (Tennessee, Jacksonville, at Indianapolis and at Houston) and NFC East (Philadelphia, Washington, @ NY Giants and @ Dallas) next season. Since New York finished in last place they will also welcome the Cleveland Browns into the Meadowlands, and will travel to Oakland to play the Raiders.