The Jets humiliated themselves last night, falling to 4-7 after a 49-19 beating at the hands of the Patriots, a loss that all but finished this team's postseason hopes. There are always a handful of decisive plays that shape the story of a game. Last night, they all took place early, and every single one worked in New England's favor. It was the rare game where over half the contest could be considered garbage time.
I am reminded a bit of what I said after the 45-3 loss to the Pats in 2010. It is important not to overreact to one terrible game. A team is never as bad as it looks at its worst. The problem is this was not one terrible game. It is part of a pattern of terrible play. This was the third noncompetitive game the Jets played at home on top of some other lousy competitive performances. And while I am certain this team is not as bad as the team we saw last night, I am just as certain this is a really bad football team. Join me below as we look at the lowlights.
Mark Sanchez: If you want to say that Sanchez is not the only person who deserves blame, I agree. If you want to say others played poorly, you are right. Just know that Sanchez deserves a heaping portion of the blame for last night. He was the biggest reason the Jets lost and the worst player on the field. It wasn't even close either. He eliminated any chance the Jets had to win. The red zone interception came from staring down an open receiver and delivering a late throw. It was all on him. The fumble was incomprehensible. Sanchez ran into his own lineman and didn't protect the football. It's a sadly typical play. The Jets needed a big drive to get back in the game down 14-0. This blunder created Sanchez gave the Jets a mind-numbing turnover and the Pats a back-breaking touchdown. Even worse, it set up the Joe McKnight fumble on the ensuing kickoff. If Sanchez doesn't fumble, Joe McKnight can't fumble the kickoff. There is no kickoff. While these two plays stood out as the worst, they were part of a pattern.
All night Sanchez stared down one receiver, as he has been doing all year. He checks down instead of throwing to open receivers down the field. Right before the interception, Sanchez had Stephen Hill open for a touchdown. He threw to Shonn Greene for a short completion. This keeps happening. We are past the point where anybody can credibly say Sanchez's problems are only the result of a bad receiving corps. Don't get me wrong. The Jets have a lousy group of receivers, but Sanchez can't find or complete passes to open receivers.
Other players might have been bad last night, but even if everybody else played well, the Jets would have had no chance to win because of their quarterback. If you didn't see the game and only looked at the stats, you could actually be forgiven for thinking Sanchez played reasonably well. He ended up 26 for 36 for 301 yards. Rex Ryan incredibly used the stats to defend this horrible performance.
The truth? The Pats played over half the game in a soft zone, surrendering easy completions to avoid the big play and keep the clock running. When the game was in question, Sanchez threw it away. Just think about the Hill play I talked about before the interception and the fumble that set up McKnight's fumble. Just those two plays are the difference between being down 14-7 and being in the game and being down 28-0.
Bart Scott: He got lost on Shane Vereen's big touchdown.
Joe McKnight: Things are bleak when a team is down 21-0. But it is the outer edge of a reasonable hope for a comeback. McKnight's fumble ended what small hopes the Jets had and gave New England a third touchdown within a minute.
LaRon Landry: I really liked what LaRon did for the most part. He made some nice plays against the run and was very good in coverage with one exception. That one exception lands him here. He has to be among the bad when he gets burned so badly against Julian Edelman for a long touchdown.
Shonn Greene: I don't get why Greene even gets to play any more. When you are a power back and cannot grind out a yard on that fourth down play, there's not really much you can do to help the team. When you fumble on top of that, it's ugly. The Jets should cut Greene. They can sign a young player for that roster spot and give more carries to Bilal Powell, Joe McKnight, and Kahlil Bell to see what they really have.
Kyle Wilson: He got lost on the first New England touchdown.
Mike Devito: During the brief period where this was actually a game, the Pats' passing attack was up and down but they were able to consistently run the ball. I thought Devito was the culprit. It seemed like he was losing his battle.
Coaching: The Jets showed hallmarks of very poor coaching in this game. We saw consistent blown assignments. We saw players continually not protecting the football. We saw a lack of discipline. We saw a team that let bad plays snowball and zero resiliency. We saw nonsensical decisions like going for it on fourth down and then kicking a field goal a play later at the end of the half. We saw the head coach activate Tim Tebow, not activate Greg McElroy and then say Tebow didn't play because he was hurt. We saw this team quit. The Jets didn't even try an onside kick after their last touchdown and ran the clock out rather than trying to score at the end of the game.
Muhammad Wilkerson: From the very first play when he forced an intentional grounding penalty, the Pats had real problems blocking him all night. Wilkerson has been one of the few bright spots this year. Whoever is on the coaching staff next year should really think about building the front seven around him and put him in a position to make plays rather than putting him in a hold the point of attack role.
Offensive Line: I thought the guys up front played well. Sanchez had a clean pocket for most of the night. New England's only sack came on a good play by Donta Hightower not biting on a bootleg.
Yeremiah Bell: He made some plays during the brief stretch this was a game. He finished with 5 tackles.
David Harris: One of the few Jets to show up, Harris had 10 tackles.
The truly scary thing is the Pats were without four key starters last night. The Jets are just so bad that they couldn't stay remotely competitive. This is a lousy team. It's not about Santonio Holmes and Darrelle Revis either. These guys aren't the difference between being noncompetitive in three home games and being a good team. The Jets are done. We now have to suffer watching them play five more times before the merciful end to the season.