EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Hold on ... weren't the New England Patriots supposed to be toast?
Battered, injured and doubted, the Patriots this week were football's version of Mickey Rourke. They had lost two straight, their defense was mocked, and Bill Belichick's drafting acumen was questioned. Their receivers are old and slow and shrimps and Rex Ryan was running his yapper again. It looked bleak.
Dead Pats walking. That was the narrative. Sorry, old, decrepit, done. Here come the Jets. They were going to steal New England's milkshake.
The score was 37-16 Patriots. Joe Namath did not walk through that door. Neither, apparently, did the entire Jets team.
"I apologize to our fans," coach Rex Ryan said.
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This was a classic example of Belichick taking someone to school. Belichick has done that many times to many different coaches just as Brady has obliterated many different defenses. The combination of Belichick and Brady is the best in NFL history, but they were supposed to be on the tail end of their dominance, and this was supposed to be New York's time.
Not now. Not yet.
There was a great scene at the end of the game before a stunned MetLife Stadium crowd. Brady tossed a touchdown pass to Deion Branch. Then Branch went to the section where the most obnoxious fan in America resides, Fireman Ed, and mocked Ed's entire routine.
Superman's cape -- tugged. Face stomped in.
"It's tough, because this really for the first time in the last three years since Rex has been here, it's right here," safety Jim Leonhard said. "If we win this game, we have a stranglehold on the division and you let it slide [away]. Obviously, there is a lot of frustration. It was a big goal of ours to ... win this division and we put ourselves in a hole again. I'm not saying it can't happen, but it's unlikely to happen at this point."
Late in the game, as Sanchez was getting sacked twice in a few minutes, and LaDainian Tomlinson was slammed head first into the ground, you wanted to yell: stop the fight.
|New England Patriots|
|The Patriots put relentless pressure on Mark Sanchez, and tackled well when he completed passes. The defense forced two interceptions. The offense kicked into high gear when it went hurry-up. Special teams recovered a fumble deep in Jets territory. The Patriots did all this with injuries at linebacker, safety and cornerback. A total team victory that gives them a sweep of the Jets and a stranglehold on the AFC East race.|
|By Greg Bedard |
|New York Jets|
|The Jets won the time of possession battle in the first half. However, they were unable to capitalize on it and headed into the second half down 13-9. In the second half, QB Tom Brady implemented the no-huddle and a tired and seemingly confused Jets defense was no match for it. A missed field goal by K Nick Folk and a muffed punt by RB Joe McKnight were rare mistakes for the special teams unit.|
|By Lisa Zimmerman |
Call them no-names and draft idiots if you want. But what the Patriots did in beating New York was make a statement: We're still here.
This game was billed as Jets vs. the Evil Empire. If so, this was Revenge of the Sith. The Patriots have taken control of a division in shambles. The Bills are once again floating to the bottom as the most fraudulent team in football and the Jets remain the biggest talkers in the sport yet to win anything.
Actually, taking control isn't the correct phrase. The Patriots, barring a crazy collapse, are going to win it (again) and the Jets, after spending much of the season saying how they were going to win a Super Bowl (again) have little shot at doing so. All of this means that an AFC East that looked upside down with the Bills dominating it is now, thanks to Belichick and Brady, settling into the norm.
If you want to see what good, sound tactical coaching can do, look closely at this game. Belichick used the no-huddle and quick counts to confuse the Jets, and Ryan's staff couldn't find an answer. "We got caught," Leonhard said.
Then what the Jets did at the end of the first half absolutely buried them. Sanchez, inside Patriots territory, called a timeout with 1:24 remaining in the first half. You could see Ryan's expression on the sideline afterward. He was sick to his stomach because he knew what was coming.
Following the timeout, New York scored on the next play to make it 9-6. But the extra seconds saved by the Jets timeout allowed the Patriots to go 80 yards in 71 seconds in a vintage Brady drive and take a 13-9 halftime lead. In one of the few instances where a sideline reporter actually gets an interesting quote, Ryan told Michele Tafoya the timeout was "the stupidest play in NFL history."
There have been many thousands of stupid plays in NFL history. This is not near the top, but it was pretty dumb.
Ryan took the blame, but the failure was a massive one on all levels. That's one of the problems with the Jets. As good a coach as Ryan is, his antics and mouth sometimes overpowers his actual skills. That timeout call is the kind of detail that can either save or wreck a season.
Patriots defensive lineman Andre Carter had a team-record 4½ sacks. At one point, it was just humiliating for the Jets. He blew by single blockers and double teams equally. Not bad for a member of a defense that was supposed to be terrible on a team that was supposed to be done.