Coming into Sunday night's game against the New England Patriots, the Jets had a dream scenario ahead of them. A win at home over the Pats would put them in sole possession of first place in the AFC East with a full game lead over their Massachusetts rivals.
The nightmarish outcome left Gang Green defeated, 37-16.
"We wanted this game in the worst way," said head coach Rex Ryan. "But you're not going to beat many teams when you make the mistakes we made."
New England entered the night on a two-game losing skid but left with a convincing victory over the Green & White, who had been winners of three straight.
"It's tough because for the first time in the three years since Rex has been here, it was right here," said S Jim Leonhard. "If we won this game, we would have a stranglehold on the division, and we let it slide."
The two teams share nearly identical schedules through the remainder of the season, the only difference being the Jets will face the Giants, and the Patriots will play the winless Colts. Now with a one-game lead in the division and two victories over the Jets, New England is the odds-on favorite for another division crown.
Still, there are seven games remaining. No one is willing to make any concessions just yet.
"It's a long season," said RG Brandon Moore. "A lot of things can happen in seven games."
While the season may be long, this week is dramatically short. The Jets have no time to lick their wounds, as they travel to Denver on Wednesday for their Thursday night game against the rejuvenated Broncos.
Denver has won three of its last four under sophomore QB Tim Tebow. With an improved defense, a punishing rushing attack and a gritty signalcaller, the Broncos will not go down easily.
"Their defense has really been outstanding," said RB LaDainian Tomlinson. "Tebow has really given them a spark, and we're going to have our hands full. It's tough to play there."
Tomlinson suffered a leg injury in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game, but would not speculate on his availability for Thursday. He and other battered and bruised Jets will try to bounce back in time for the next game, which will be no easy task at this point in the season.
"We have a lot of veterans, and we have a lot of leadership," said Leonhard. "We'll be ready mentally for that game, but it's getting your body back. It's ridiculous to have to turn around in four days."
Ridiculous or not, it's reality. The other reality is that the Jets can ill afford to lose in Denver, with their backs against the proverbial wall. After Sunday's loss, Ryan tried to spin the short week positively.
"The good thing about the way we got beat is that we can't dwell on it," said Ryan. "We have to move on quickly. We have to get this thing behind us and go play Denver."
Some positives to carry over from Sunday night include the fact that the Jets rushed for over 100 yards for the fourth consecutive game. Conversely, the defense allowed less than 100 yards rushing for the third straight contest. Sanchez completed passes to six different receivers en route to his third 300-yard performance of the season. The defense held New England to 4-for-13 on third downs.
The successes are unfortunately overshadowed by a loss that will loom large when the Jets look back on their schedule. The biggest positive to come out of the loss may be that there is another opportunity to earn a "W" in only four days. It's a challenge the Jets surely don't back down from.
"It's going to be tough," said WR Santonio Holmes. "But we're professionals, this is our job. This is what we signed up for."