This was not what the Jets had envisioned.
They said they were ready to slug it out with the Patriots in a much-hyped fight between 9-2 teams atop the AFC East. But the Patriots are very good in general and very, very good at home, and maybe the Jets felt the effects of losing Jim Leonhard to his season-ending broken tibia at Friday's practice.
But as head coach Rex Ryan said, "Jim Leonhard was not going to make a 45-point difference."
Whatever the reason, the result was that New England, spurred by – who else? – Tom Brady, who threw for the 33rd 300-yard game of his career and four more touchdown passes, evened the score after the Jets' Game 2 home win with a 45-3 knockout of the Green & White on Monday Night Football.
Thus the Patriots go to 10-2,. while the Jets drop to 9-3. The Pats increase their home regular-season winning streak led by Brady to 26 games while the Jets' franchise-long road regular-season win streak ends at eight. While the Green & White can still take the AFC East title, the road will be rockier than if the they had come to Gillette Stadium with a stinging uppercut of their own.
Instead, said Ryan, "It's the biggest butt-whipping I've taken in a coach, in my career. ... They out-executed us, they outcoached us. ... I thought we were going to have a huge game and it was just the opposite. ... I came in to kick [Bill Belichick's] butt and he kicked mine."
The Jets' Gillette locker room was not a happy one, but the players all had different takes on how to explain and how to cope with what happened.
"It hurts," said wideout Santonio Holmes, who led the visitors with seven catches for 72 yards. "We put up three points the whole game? That's not Jets football. This was a message to the team, and it was delivered to us by New England."
"We're stunned at how bad it was more than anything," said LaDainian Tomlinson. "We expected a better showing than what we showed tonight. We feel like we're a better team, but they clearly wanted it more than we did."
"You have to embrace it, wear it. You have to hold onto this," said DT Trevor Pryce, who when asked about the Jets' good week of practice, said, "We did. They did, too. It sure looked like it."
"This humble pie tastes like a car tire and it's going down like peanut butter," said nose tackle Sione Pouha.
"This was one of those things," said tackle Damien Woody. "You take it on the chin, you get hit with a haymaker. You just take it, get up, move on, move forward. That's all I can equate it to right now."
Mixed in were several remarks about probably meeting the Patriots again down the road. But to be sure, the Jets don't want to meet these Patriots, who administered the sixth-worst defeat in franchise history to their rivals. Brady triggered a 405-yard offense while Mark Sanchez scuffled to three interceptions that led to the Pats' three second-half touchdowns.
The Jets appeared ready to climb off the deck on the first possession of the second half as Sanchez led the offense 59 yards to the Patriots 9. But he tried to fire a short laser to Braylon Edwards over the middle. Instead, rookie LB Brandon Spikes leaped up midway between thrower and catcher for the first interception of his pro career. Threat dissipated.
And shortly after, lead widened. Brady found Wes Welker on the left sideline and the only way CB Drew Coleman could find to tackle him was to take him down over the goal line for the Patriots' fourth TD and a 31-3 lead.
Sanchez threw his second pick to rookie CB Devin McCourty trying to get Braylon Edwards down the right sideline. That began another scoring drive for the home side. Adding insult to injury, Brady shoveled a three-foot-long pass in the backfield to former Jet Danny Woodhead, who gashed the Jets defense for a 50-yard completion on the next-to-last play of the third quarter.
That gave Woodhead his first 100-yard receiving game as a pro and set the stage for Brady's fourth strike, a 1-yarder to wide-open rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez on the first play of the final frame. That made it 38-3.
Then Sanchez, who threw four INTs at Gillette a year ago, threw No. 3 tonight, right to S James Sanders trying to find Santonio Holmes deep. Shortly after BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for his second score on the night from 5 yards out, and it was 45-3 with 9:20 to play.
That second half came on the heels of a 17-0 first quarter in which Shayne Graham hooked a 41-yard field goal through the wind to open the scoring, Green-Ellis had his first TD run and Brady-to-Deion Branch turned a third-and-22 into seven points with two easy receptions of 19 and 25 yards.
That first-quarter deficit was the Jets' largest since a certain game in 2000, at home against the Dolphins – that's right, the Monday Night Miracle.
But there was no such miraculous doings in Foxboro, and the Jets' phenomenal comeback ability, on display on those close, improbable victories over Denver, Detroit, Cleveland and Houston would not be seen this night.
And now the Jets must prepare on a short week for the next game in their suddenly challenging final quarter of the season, Sunday at home against the Dolphins.
"We've got a zillion corrections to make because this is a copycat league," Ryan said. "If some team's successful about something, then you'd better get it fixed. And that's what we'll do. We'll roll our sleeves up and make corrections."
Pouha said Ryan got his message across to the team before they got on their buses to get to their short-hop flight back to New Jersey in the wee hours of the morning.
"Rex was really relevant," the nose tackle said of those postgame remarks. "He was truthful, like he always is, he was straight to the point, like he always is. And we're going to respond like we know we can."
Eric Smith was called for a 36-yard pass interference call on Rob Gronkowski on the Patriots' first TD drive. Smitty's penalty was the longest called against the Jets since Otis Smith was flagged for a 42-yard PI penalty against Chris Sanders in the Astrodome against the Houston Oilers. The year was 1995. ... But Smith came back with a blitz sack of Brady at midfield late in the second quarter for the first sack of his five-year career. ... And David Harris followed the next play with a sack.
That was about the best stretch the defense had against Brady, whose 21-for-29, 326-yard, four-TD game calculated to a 148.9 passer rating. ... Brady was the first opposing QB to throw four TDs vs. the Jets since since Oakland's Jeff Hostetler in 1995 and the first to do it in a Jets road game since Buffalo's Jim Kelly in 1990. ... The Pats had no giveaways for the fourth straight game, tying an NFL record that the Jets tied at the start of this season.
Tomlinson made a nice spin move off tackle for a 4-yard run on the first drive of the third quarter, and in the process passed Eric Dickerson and moved into sixth on the NFL's career rushing yardage list. ... Woodhead finished with 115 yards of offense (2-for-11 rushing, 4-for-104 receiving).