This being Halloween, it's somehow appropriate that the Jets and Green Bay combined for some ghoulish offense at New Meadowlands fthis afternoon.
But when it was over, the Packers had just a few more tricks in their bag than the suddenly lifeless Jets "O" and the result was a 9-0 loss for the Green & White at home.
"We let one get away from us," said a tightlipped Rex Ryan after suffering his first shutout loss as an NFL head coach. "I thought we were in great position, especially the way the defense played, to win this football game. We just never got it done."
"At the end of the day, you've got to give Green Bay credit," said tackle Damien Woody. "But to be shut out at home is kind of ridiculous."
The Jets, who were coming off of their bye week confident and healthy and tied for the best record in the NFL, fell to 5-2. Their season has hardly fallen into a grave but their offense suddenly looks less like the dynamo of New England, Miami and Buffalo and the dysfunctional first unit that struggled through the first three preseason games.
The battered Packers, meanwhile, kept their season moving along at 5-3 atop the NFC North despite being held to 237 yards and 2-for-14 on third downs and Aaron Rodgers going 15-for-34 passing against the Jets' stout defense, led by MLB David Harris.
Not only was it the first shutout suffered by the Ryan/Sanchez Jets but it was also the team's first shutout defeat since November 2006 at the old Meadowlands stadium, a 10-0 loss to the Bears.
"I wouldn't have put my money on being shut out," said LB Calvin Pace. "But turnovers will kill you, and defensively, we could've maybe forced a turnover to help the offense out." The Jets, who came into the weekend with an NFL-high plus-10 turnover margin, had no takeaways and three giveaways, all disputed, in this game.
Still, the Green & White had a number of promising opportunities that didn't pan out to take back this game in the second half.
They had one last chance to try to treat themselves and their fans to an ugly 7-6 win when they got the ball back at their 23 with no timeouts and 3;50 on the clock. But Sanchez, who was off-target in the first half and suffered from receivers' drops in the second half, had a pass at midfield dropped by Jerricho Cotchery, was finally sacked for the first time by NFL sack leader Clay Matthews, then fired high and deep downfield for Braylon Edwards to effectively end the hosts' hopes.
Before that last-ditch effort:
■ Brad Smith opened the second half with a 47-yard return to the Packers 48. The Jets went three-and-out after Santonio Holmes dropped a low but catchable crossing route from Sanchez that he was about to turn upfield for a possible long touchdown.
That was just one of a number of second-half passes that his receivers didn't hold, but Sanchez wasn't pointing fingers.
"I just need to be better with my accuracy," said Sanchez, who hit 16 of 38 for 256 yards. "For every dropped ball today, I think there were twice as many poor throws on my part."
■ Sanchez and Cotchery hooked up on Cotchery's longest reception of the season, 49 yards down the middle to the Packers 28. But on fourth-and-1, they opted for Nick Folk's 37-yard field goal try. He was wide right in the Meadowlands breezes, which were trickier than they may have appeared.
■ After first-and-10 at the GB-37, the Jets were hit with a holding call on Dustin Keller, then lost their second rip-away takeaway when Charles Woodson took the ball from Keller's grasp and was given the interception. Because Ryan had two challenges disallowed in the first half, the Jets couldn't challenge this call.
"It was a very similar play to what happened with the Jerricho [interception earlier]," Ryan said. "I don't see what would've been different if I had challenged the Keller one because it was the exact same thing."
■ Shortly after Mason Crosby hit his second field goal, from 41 yards out, to lift the Pack to a 6-0 lead with 6:36 to play, the Jets moved into Green Bay territory as Sanchez, on the run, tossed a pass that turned into a 40-yard catch-and-run. But again the offense immediately stalled and Sanchez's high pass to Cotchery on fourth down was batted away with 4:12 to go.
"Every time we started to get a little momentum," said Cotchery, who had four catches for 89 yards, "we had a penalty, a turnover, a drop. Those are drive-killers. We had way too many of those."
Then Crosby came on with 27 seconds left to kick his third field goal straight down the middle from 40 yards out.
In the first half, both sides shared in the inability to move the ball reliably. The first five series of the game produced one first down and five punts and appeared to come up with a sixth when Sanchez was sacked to set up fourth-and-18 from the Jets 20. four three-and-outs in the early going ruled by defense and field position. But the Jets gambled, appeared to have won but ultimately lost when punter Steve Weatherford took off on a designed fake and appeared to have the first down.
But Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy challenged the call that Weatherford stepped out of bounds before the stick, ref Jeff Triplette reversed the call, and the Packers took over at the Jets 36. The upshot was that the Jets defense held inside their 10 and the Pack came away only with Mason Crosby's 21-yard field goal for the early 3-0 lead.
"It would've been a good decision if it had been fourth-and-9, but that's my fault," Weatherford said. "I made the decision to try to make the play but it didn't work out for the team. We're a team that's willing to go out there and lay it on the line, but it just didn't work out today."
"That was something that Steve did on his own," Ryan said. He did it last year against Miami, but in that situation, it probably would've been wiser to punt."
As disappointing and frustrating as this game turned out to be, the Jets did not feel it was attributable to "rust" from the long bye week, and they surely didn't feel that it is indicative of the way the "second half" of this season will continue to roll.
"This is a resilient group," Ryan said. "We'll get it together ... we'll learn from this week and head on to next week's opponent."
Next week's opponents are the Lions in Detroit, where they improved to 2-5 by beating the Redskins this afternoon. The NFC North had been good to the Jets for a long time but now they'll have to redouble their efforts to prevent another Halloween surprise, this time at a haunted Ford Field.
Despite the shutout and the sputtering offense, the Jets gained 360 yards, the most they've ever gained in the 24 games they've been shut out in their history. ... Harris led the Jets with nine tackles, his first sack of the season, and several crunching hits on Rodgers. ... Dwight Lowery had the Jets' other sack on a blitz and also batted away a pass. ... Holmes didn't speak to reporters after the game, leaving shortly afterwards to attend to a family emergency.
The Packers' first-quarter FG was the Jets opponents' first first-quarter points this season. ... On a second-quarter run, Tomlinson joined Walter Payton as the only two players in NFL history to gain 13,000 rushing yards and 4,000 receiving yards. ... Jets game captains were Sanchez, Kyle Wilson, Brandon Moore, Keller and Josh Mauga, active for his first NFL game.