Updated, 6:07 p.m. ET
The Jets, playing without injured cornerback Darrelle Revis for the first game of an extended period, were prepared for a precise, physical game in their return to MetLife Stadium today. Yet they couldn't do nearly enough to stop their visitors from the West from administering a whitewashing on them.
Mark Sanchez and the offense struggled to establish any rhythm, let alone any points, all game. San Francisco fed off fine field position to mount several touchdown drives capped by short scoring runs. And Carlos Rogers' 51-yard return of a Santonio Holmes fumble after a reception on which he was injured drove perhaps the biggest nail in the coffin with 14:46 to go.
The bottom line: The Jets dropped a 34-0 decision to the 49ers. It was the 25th time in franchise history that the Jets had been shut out, the 11th time at home. It was their worst blanking since losing, 41-0, at Jacksonville in 2006, their worst home shutout since 37-0 by Buffalo in the final game of the '89 season.
And the defeat dropped the Jets to 2-2 on the season, while improving the Niners to 3-1 — and 10-2 all-time vs. the Green & White. The Jets will have one extra day to lick their wounds before facing another tough foe in the 4-0 Houston Texans, who ride into town next Monday night.
Head coach Rex Ryan didn't mince words or worry about anyone's sensibilities with his initial assessment of the game:
"I apologize for my language," Ryan said at the top of his postgame news conference. "I was going to say we got our butt kicked. But we got our * kicked. There's no two ways, ins or outs about it."
"I'm definitely upset and angry," said DT Mike DeVito, who's expressed confidence in his run defense, only to see it give up 245 yards to the Niners, the most by a Jets opponent since Clinton Portis and the Redskins hung up 296 in the Meadowlands in 2007. "They did a great job. You've got to give them credit. We just need to regroup and bounce back and put a better product out there. ... That was our worst nightmare, something you never want to deal with."
A crushing blow came at the end of the first half. The Jets had driven to the SF-25 with 1:22 remaining. But on third down Sanchez stepped up and scrambled. But he was hit from behind by LB Aldon Smith and fumbled, with DE Justin Smith recovering.
"After the last game, some people questioned us," said Aldon Smith of the Niners' 24-13 loss at Minnesota. "We know what we're capable of. We're a good defense that plays well together."
Just like that, the Jets' two-minute drill was over. And the Niners' two-minute drive had begun. They used up the last 1:11 of the half on a six play, 51-yard march to David Akers' 36-yard field goal at the whistle. Instead of the Jets going to their MetLife lockers down, 7-3, and energized, they went in down, 10-0, and enervated.
"That was a huge mistake on my part," said Sanchez (13-for-29 passing, 103 yards, one INT, three sacks, two giveaways). "I know we're in field goal range. It looked cloudy with my read. Guys weren't open and I took off, tried to get us a couple of more yards and make it an even easier field goal, and I let go of the football. That can't happen."
"It's a huge mistake," Ryan agreed. "In that area, you just have to protect the football first."
The Jets came out and kept clinging to a close game into the third quarter, but the Niners were moving the ball better, causing the more mistakes, and capitalizing just enough. Despite two missed field goals by Akers, they moved half the field in six plays to Frank Gore's 2-yard TD run with 2:49 left in the third quarter.
The game was slipping away, figuratively and then literally on the first play of the final frame. Sanchez threw an out route to the right that Holmes laid out for. He made the catch but hurt his foot without being contacted as he flipped over and lost the ball. Rogers snapped it up and, with a cordon of defensive mates, took it down the left sideline for the TD.
It was the longest opponent fumble return since CB Rashard Anderson took a Richie Anderson fumble after a reception 94 yards at Carolina in 2001. That day ended much better for the Jets. It was "the Shrek Game" and the Green & White came back for the 13-12 win.
This game was Shrek-ugly but with no comeback victory. As the day went from sunny to mostly cloudy over North Jersey, the Jets had lost their grip.
The Niners next marched to Akers' 40-yard field goal with 8:23 left for a 27-0 advantage. Three Sanchez incompletions brought on punter Robert Malone, who'd been a bright spot for the Jets. But this time he didn't have a chance as Larry Grant on a one-man rush broke through and snuffed his punt — the first block of a Jets punt since 2008. Three plays later, backup RB Kendall Hunter broke through on a 1-yard run and it was 34-0 with 6:03 left.
In all the 49ers gained 245 rushing yards, with the longest carry coming in the final minute, when backup QB Colin Kaepernick took off on a keeper for 30 yards and slid at the Jets 3 rather than scoring, then knelt twice to finish it. That was the most rushing yards allowed by the Jets since they gave up 296 to Clinton Portis and the Redskins in Game 9 of the 2007 season.
"I think the biggest thing for us is we just have to make sure when we make the tackle, we need to make the tackle," said CB Antonio Cromartie, who had three solo tackles and two pass breakups in his first game as the Jets' No. 1 corner after Revis' knee injury. "I think we had too many yards after contact, especially in the first half."
No Points in a Close-Fought First Half
The 49ers won the toss, took the opening kickoff, and then on their first play went right after Kyle Wilson, who was called for a 14-yard interference penalty on WR Michael Crabtree, a call that the MetLife crowd didn't like. But the defense stiffened and the visitors punted.
The Jets came out and moved crisply across midfield on Sanchez completions to Holmes and Chaz Schilens, then stalled on a third-down Aldon Smith sack of Sanchez. Malone hit a solid drop punt fair-caught by Ted Ginn at the San Fran 8.
This time the Niners moved across midfield before stalling. Then the Jets went 3-and-out. Then the visitors from the West, by way of their stay in Youngstown, Ohio, this past week, struck.
They moved 68 yards on eight plays, the final play a 7-yard keeper by backup QB Kaepernick on the Niners' version of the Wildcat. To that point Kaepernick had two carries for 24 yards and the Niners had 12 carries for 104 yards. Not a good start for the Jets' run defense.
The Green & White tried to answer on a drive toward midfield. On third down, Tim Tebow came in for the Jets' Wildcat and threw his first pass as a Jet, to Dedrick Epps. But Epps was hit hard low by S Dashon Goldson and was ruled to have fumbled at his 47 with CB Carlos Rogers recovering. A booth review confirmed the fumble call and the Niners started up again with 10:39 left in the first half.
But the defense was all over this one, coming up with a second-down sack of Smith by Bryan Thomas — the LB's first sack since 2010 — and a third-down sack by Calvin Pace, his first of the season. Then strong-legged Akers tried a 55-yard field goal that faded wide right.
The teams traded punts again. Then Sanchez and the offense got the ball back at the SF-48 with 2:49 left in the half. The Niners had the stop on a third-down pass that WR Patrick Turner couldn't corral, but after the whistle, LB Aldon Smith was flagged for a personal foul. Jets first-and-10 at the 33.
But on third down Sanchez couldn't find a receiver, tried to run, was sacked by Smith and fumbled. And that was the beginning of the end for the Green & White.
"Obviously, I know the character of the men in that room and that's what I'm betting on," Ryan said. "We'll get it done. We'll get it fixed. It's just not going to be easy. Obviously, if it was easy, we would've fixed it before. Clearly, we have to look at it. We have to look deep and we have to get better. And like I said, our fans deserve a lot better than this."
The Jets were outgained, 379 yards to 145. The minus-234-yard differential was the 10th-worst home yardage margin in franchise history and the worst game since a minus-240 home showing in 1997 vs. Indianapolis. The Colts' QB that day? Jim Harbaugh. ... And they were outrushed, 245 yards to 45. The 200-yard difference is the fifth-worst home rushing-yardage margin in franchise history and the worst since 1983 against Franco Harris and the Steelers (minus-206).
The Jets committed four turnovers in all, the 49ers none. The only other minus-4-margin home game under Ryan was the six-INT overtime loss to the Bills in Sanchez's and Ryan's first season together in 2009. ... The Jets never even made it into the red zone, only the second game under Ryan that they failed to get inside the opponents' 20-yard line. The other was Game 10 in 2009 at New England.
LB David Harris, the Jets' leading tackler, unofficially had 11 more, the game high. ... Schilens stepped in for rookie WR Stephen Hill (hamstring) and contributed three catches for a team-high 45 yards. ... Joe McKnight had one of the Jets' biggest plays, a 44-yard kickoff return. He also did get in at least one play on defense, as a nickelback in the first quarter. He blitzed from the weakside as Alex Smith threw an incompletion. ... TE Dustin Keller (hamstring) was inactive for the third straight game.