The Jets were eager to put on a halftime extravaganza for their fans, the nation and themselves. They set up a Thanksgiving spread that honored Hurricane Sandy first responders and victims before the game and brought in Lenny Kravitz to rock it out at halftime. NBC's cameras were primetime-poised and ready.
And the Jets thought they were prepared to take on the New England Patriots one more time, this time at home, in what some players viewed as a test of character and a chance to continue their rebound toward becoming a team of relevance in the second half of the season.
However, the Jets' strong first quarter turned into a second quarter that derailed their plans. The Patriots began the avalanche with a simple, short TD pass from Tom Brady to Wes Welker. And then the red-white-and-blue touchdowns came rapid-fire — a much long Brady TD pass, two fumble-return touchdowns, and another long-range Brady scoring strike.
When the quarter was over, the Patriots had scored 35 points, more than any other opponent had ever scored in any quarter in franchise history, and the first 28 of them coming off of four Jets turnovers. The die for the game had been cast and the Jets were on their way to a 49-12 Turkey Day defeat.
"That's a great football team. Like I said, they don't need any help," head coach Rex Ryan said after his Jets team to 4-7 while the Patriots rose to 8-3 with their fourth straight win over the Jets. "And when you don't protect the football ... 35 points in a quarter is ridiculous."
Could we speak of the Jets' perhaps favorable final five games with which to still mount an assault on 9-7 and a wild-card berth? We could, but the Green & White knew even before this game this season is no longer focusing on postseason possibilities, but rather on just one opponent at time, the one straight ahead. That opponent is Arizona, and the Jets will again try to turn things all the way around after a 10-day rest on Dec. 2, again at MetLife Stadium.
"We have some games coming up where we really have to eliminate some of this self-inflicted stuff," said Mark Sanchez, who committed the first two of five turnovers in all. "If we do that, we take care of the football, myself included, we really have a chance at this thing. You have to really empty the tank and just put your head down and work and see what happens at the end of five weeks, not worry about anything else, let everything fall into place and try to rip off five wins in a row, and it starts next week."
"I'll put it to you this way: We're about as wounded as we can possibly be, but we're not dead," Ryan said. "Let's see how good we can possibly play and how good we can coach. I promise we're going to keep coaching and I can promise you we're going to keep playing. That's what we have to do."
A Small Third-Quarter Rebound
The Jets salvaged some self-respect in the second half. They drove 56 yards to the Patriots 1, but for the second time in the game, Shonn Greene was stopped on fourth down with a yard to go and the Pats took over. But on the first play after the goal-line stop, the Jets' pass rush on a Brady throw prompted RB Stevan Ridley into an illegal chop block on rookie LB Demario Davis in the end zone for a safety. That cut the Pats' lead to 35-5 with 6:47 left in the third quarter.
On the ensuing drive, a Sanchez 38-yard connection with TE Jeff Cumberland helped set up Bilal Powell's third rushing touchdown in the last four quarters as the Jets cut the edge to 35-11 with 4:41 left in the third.
But there would be no Monday Night Miracle II: Thanksgiving Night Edition. Brady immediately directed his offense on a 17-play, 87-yard drive that lasted 7:39 to his own second-and-goal-from-the-1 keeper. That made it 42-12 with 12:02 left.
Then after Chaz Schilens lost a fumble trying to run after the catch, Brady led a lightning two-play drive to Ridley's 9-yard TD sweep on which he was untouched on his way to the end zone. The ante was upped to 49-12 with 11:07 left.
That was the most points allowed at home by the Jets since they were the Titans and called the Polo Grounds their home. In 1963, the San Diego Chargers rolled, 53-7. In 1962, the Dallas Texans scored a 52-31 victory.
The Jets showed late life with a six-play, 80-yard drive to Sanchez's play-action toss to Dustin Keller in the back of the end zone with 2:21 to play to make it 49-19. And that was all they wrote on this holiday night.
Ryan, said Keller, "is disappointed in us. He has higher expectations for us, and we have higher expectations for ourselves. For how we feel about ourselves and what we're capable of, and to do that, it's just embarrassing."
A Promising First Quarter, and Then...
The Jets won the opening coin toss for the sixth time this season and deferred for the fifth time. It was a good decision as the defense opened strong with a 3-and-out against Brady and the Patriots. The opening play was a beauty as DE Mo Wilkerson continued his hot play by barging up the middle and forcing Brady into an intentional grounding, his second in two years at MetLife.
The Jets also went 3-and-out, and the Pats predictably drove to the Jets 21. But unpredictably, Stephen Gostkowski came on for a 39-yard ... miss? True. Gostkowski had made 28 of 32 career tries vs. the Jets but this was his third miss in his last 11 tries. And the sides remained scoreless.
Greene again shot out of the gate with some strong running, and he led the Green & White across midfield and toward the red zone. But Sanchez, off play action, tried to zip it to Jeremy Kerley across the middle and didn't account for S Steve Gregory, who picked it off at the NE-16. Threat averted.
The pass coverage was harassing Brady into a 4-for-10 passing first quarter, but the ground game, manned by Ridley and Shane Vereen, moved the ball often against the Jets' nickel all the way down to third-and-goal at the 4 when the opening frame ended.
And on the first play of the second period, Brady, with lots of time, found his range on a 3-yard TD pass to Welker and the Patriots broke out front, 7-0, with 14:54 left in the first half.
Back came the Jets into New England territory with Powell touching the ball six straight times (five runs, one catch) for 31 yards as the hosts got to the NE-31. However, Shonn Greene tried to get the yard on fourth-and-1 from there and Brandon Spikes smacked it backward out of Greene's hands to the 17, where Gregory came up with his second takeaway of the night.
Brady wasted no time, striking at the Jets' heart on his next play. He found Vereen uncovered out of the backfield and Vereen outran the Jets defense straight down the left sideline for an 83-yard touchdown.
The last time a Jets opponent had a longer TD connection was, of course, last season's 99-yard hookup between Eli Manning and Victor Cruz against the Giants. The last time a running back had a longer TD reception? You have to go back to 1972, when Larry Brown went 89 yards with a pass from Billy Kilmer in a 35-17 Jets loss to the Redskins.
That was the dambreaker. The Jets proceeded to give up three more touchdowns in an incredibly short span of the second quarter.
■ Forty-three seconds later, on the Jets' first offensive play after Vereen's play, Sanchez went to hand off to Lex Hilliard but Hilliard ran past. Sanchez tried to salvage the play but ended up fumbling when he slid into guard Brandon Moore. Gregory took his third takeaway of the half 32 yards for the TD to make it 21-0.
"I was thinking a different play in my head. Just a mental error there," Sanchez said. "That was kind of an unfortunate deal there. I'm not a big believer in luck, but that was pretty unlucky."
■ Nine seconds after that, Joe McKnight tried to speed himself through the "smoke" of the Patriots' kick cover team. But the ball didn't come with him. Devin McCourty, who returned a kickoff for a touchdown at Gillette Stadium vs. the Jets five weeks ago, this time forced a fumble that Julian Edelman snapped up and jogged 22 yards to the West end zone. 28-0.
"I saw the open hole, then the safety flashed in front of me," McKnight said. "You can't let this happen in games like this."
■ With 3:08 left in the half, 5:48 after the fumble return, Edelman scored again, this time on a 56-yard Brady throw when the secondary turned him loose. 35-0.
The Jets finally ended the run of answered points when Sanchez directed the offense 63 yards on 13 plays to Nick Folk's 32-yard field goal with two seconds to go.
The Pats' 35-0 first-half lead was the largest first-half Jets deficit in franchise history. The 35-3 halftime margin was the largest against the Jets at the half since 1979.
Tim Tebow dressed but didn't play due to his rib injury, which for the first time he said after the game tonight were two fractured ribs that he sustained at Seattle. Ryan said, "I was only going to play Tim if we absolutely had to have him. That's why he wasn't on the punt team and didn't have any snaps on offense.
Sanchez finished 26-for-36 passing for 301 yards, a TD and an INT. Brady's line: 18-for-28 for 323 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs. ... Greene led the Jets with 71 rush yards on 14 carries. Kerley had 86 yards on seven receptions. ... The Jets actually broke 400 yards of offense for the second time this season vs. NE with 405 yards, but the Pats had 475. ... LB David Harris had 10 tackles and Landry had the most big plays with a PD and a forced fumble to go with his eight tackles.
The Jets' five giveaway game was their first since 2009 at New England, and their first at home since turning the ball over six times in the overtime loss to Buffalo.
The safety plus the Powell TD on the ensuing drive gave the Jets their third "nine-point play" in three season. Their most recent one came vs. New England at home last season, and in the '10 playoffs Mike DeVito's safety downing of Ben Roethlisberger combined with a Sanchez-to-Jerricho Cotchery TD pass was the next most recent. Before that, they hadn't had a nine-point play since 1998.