EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 13: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots celebrates after catching a touchdown pass over Donald Strickland #30 of the New York Jets in the third quarter at MetLife Stadium on November 13, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
The Jets fell to 5-4 tonight with a 37-16 crushing defeat to the Patriots. New England now has control of the AFC East. The Jets have a long climb to get back into the AFC Playoff race. The Jets had chances early to take control of the game, but they never found a way.
More after the jump.The Bad:
Coaching: This is kind of general, but there were just trends that defied description tonight. The Jets got confused lining up defensively no less than four times. Once was coming out of a timeout. That is coaching. Twice Matthew Mulligan got matched up with a defensive end one on one in pass protection. Everybody gets on Mulligan, but he has no chance when that happens. That should never happen. Consistent blown assignments are coaching. So are constant stupid penalties. Tom Brady was a step ahead of the Jets' coaches the entire second half. The Pats expertly changed their personnel to create favorable matchups. I usually like to avoid intangible stuff like this, but the Jets did not seem prepared for this game.
Eric Smith: We have been saying it all year. Smith is a limited player getting starter snaps. If there is a worse coverage starting safety in the league, I have not seen him. Rob Gronkowski destroyed the Jets tonight with 7 catches for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns. Much of it was on Smith. He just cannot cover.
Offensive Line Pass Protecting: It was just brutal. Andre Carter beat D'Brickashaw Ferguson like a rented mule. The Pats registed 5 sacks. Carter had 4.5 of them. Wayne Hunter was not very good either. Everybody wants to jump on Brian Schottenheimer, but there is only so much he can do. I think Schotty has to go, but I do not think tonight was his fault. For the Jets to gash the Pats through the air, the quarterback needed more time. Want to know why Dustin Keller was so silent? One reason was the Jets had to start leaving extra guys in because of how bad the protection was. Even then, guys would blow their assignments, which led to stuff like Mulligan getting a defensive lineman without help.
Mark Sanchez: With that said, Sanchez has to take a heaping portion of the blame. It was not a terrible game. He threw for 306 yards. The first interception was not his fault. He hit the receiver in the hands. You know what, though? The Jets took him fifth in the Draft because they needed him to step up in games like this. I read something this week on the New York Times' football blog that hit the nail on the head. The Jets need Sanchez to become the reason they win instead of just a reason they do not lose. Sure, the protection could have been better. Great quarterbacks overcome those things. They lift their teams in big games. Sanchez is not there right now. The Jets need him to be. It does take a lot of guys longer than three years. I do not think starting back at square one is the right move. I do think we need to see some changes, though. Mark also did not bleed the clock as much as he could have before the Jets took a timeout near the end of the first half. The Pats used this extra time to help them score a touchdown.
Kyle Wilson: This was a brutal night for a guy who had been rock solid to this point. It started when he dropped an easy interception, leading to a Pats field goal. Normally I cannot get on somebody for a dropped pick, but that hit him in the hands in stride. It was like he was running a route as a receiver. He might have taken that all the way back. There was also a penalty when he got beat as a punt return blocker. He got lost in his assignment a few times. He was also toasted on a fourth quarter touchdown.
Shonn Greene's Drop: The first Sanchez interception hit him in the hands. It was a bit high, but that is a routine grab.
Mike Westhoff: I have two bones to pick with him. The first came at the end of the half when a personal foul allowed the Jets to kick off from midfield after a touchdown. He had Nick Folk kick it out of the end zone. All year long the Jets have had Folk kick the ball high to get the coverage teams down the field and pin the opponent deep. He could have had Folk kick it a mile high to the 2 yard line, and the Jets probably would have buried New England inside the 10. This is important because the Pats would probably not have been aggressive. Remember, they had just allowed a safety. Instead, New England launched a touchdown drive from the 20. My second issue was putting Joe McKnight back there for the punt. We saw in the Miami game that Joe turns punt returns into adventures. We knew he takes his eye off the ball when he gets nervous with men bearing down on him. There is a time and a place for McKnight in the return game. It is when the other team is pinned deep and likely to leave extra people in to just try and get the punt off. These kicks are likely to be line drives because the punter will try and overkick to get his team out from deep. These are punts where there will not be gunners bearing down, and Joe will have time to catch it. That was not the case in that spot.
Joe McKnight: He still has to catch the ball. The Pats really bottled him up in the return game too for the most part.
Pass Rushers: There were a few cases where the Jets got some heat. Jamaal Westerman forced an intentional grounding call in the end zone for a safety. The Jets did not sack Brady, though. He looked pretty comfortable in the pocket.
Aaron Maybin: Two plays in the third quarter kind of show how limited Maybin is. The first came when he went off the edge unblocked from the blind side. It was a strip sack waiting to happen. Then he widened his approach to the quarterback when he saw a back staying in to block. He needs to be able to go through the back and to the quarterback. A little shove finished him off. The second was on the touchdown that got wiped out. He did not really make an attempt to tackle Tom Brady. He just kind of tapped him.
Donald Strickland: How did he not recover that fumble? He was also burned for a touchdown in coverage.
Nick Folk: A kick that short should be automatic. It was eerily similar to a kick Jay Feely missed in his first game with the Jets in 2008 against the Pats. The Jets drove down the field with ease and had to settle for a short kick then too, which was shanked. That kind of kick is why people get so down on Folk.
T.J. Conley: The numbers do not look terrible, but he mishit one punt trying to kick directionally, got a lucky bounce on a bad punt, and failed to pin the Pats deep on another.
Sione Pouha/Mike Devito/Ropati Pitoitua/Muhammad Wilkerson: Even though the Jets loaded the field with defensive backs, the Pats only averaged 2.1 yards per run because Gang Green consistently controlled the point of attack.
Run Blocking: As bad as the offensive line was protecting Sanchez, they were consistently winning one on ones up front and hitting the second level. The Jets had a lot of success on the ground.
Shonn Greene: The blocking certainly helps, but Greene seems to be reading his blocks a lot better than he was earlier in the year. I do not see him leaving much yardage on the field. He averaged almost 4.7 yards per carry tonight.
Santonio Holmes: He was a big factor on the opening drive. This was probably his most productive game of the year with 6 catches for 93 yards.
Plaxico Burress: He only had 3 catches for 39 yards. One of them was a touchdown. He also drew a big flag and had a big reception wiped out on a suspect call.
Jeremy Kerley: I liked the way he made plays tonight. He finished with 4 catches for 79 yards. It seemed like he was hurt, which was the reason he came off punts. Then he returned as a receiver. If he was healthy enough to play receiver, why couldn't he return punts?
Patrick Turner: Nice to see the big guy show a sign of life.
David Harris: Because there were so many defensive backs on the field at the time, Harris' role was very important. He ended up in space a lot and made some huge tackles to prevent big runs where he was the only guy who could do so. He had 7 tackles.
The Jets now have a very short week before they head to Denver to take on the Broncos. I hate to hit the panic button, but this season has reached a danger point. The Jets put so much into this game that you wonder about their emotional state.