This was it. The game of the year. The game that separated the men from the boys. The game that decided the division and all but finalized the AFC playoff picture.
And the Jets could not have been any flatter.
The Jets' vaunted defense was torched time and time again. The offense couldn't get out of its own way. It was a disaster from the start. The Patriots took a 17-0 lead after the 1st quarter, and the Jets never offered any resistance the rest of the way, eventually falling 45-3.
It was a beatdown in every sense of the word. This was Tom Brady and Bill Bellichick re-asserting their dominance in the AFC East. This was Rex Ryan and the Jets getting dominated like they never have in the Ryan/Sanchez era. Usually, the Jets show up. Even in the games they lose, there a couple plays you can look at that went the other team's way and get some hope out of that.
Other than moderate success running the football, the Jets were thoroughly dominated and embarrassed. For all the talk the Jets do, they probably had this coming, but nobody could have predicted this much of a laugher.
Rex Ryan coached the worst game of his career. He threw an ill-advised challenge flag on the first drive of the game to try to get the spot corrected. He was right that the ball should have been a half yard further, but the refs didn't even give the Jets that. Then when Brandon Tate had a questionable touchdown later, Rex didn't throw the challenge flag. It probably wouldn't have been overturned, but that would be the much better time to use it.
Defensively, Tom Brady dissected the Jets' defense, making them look utterly helpless to stop Brady and the Patriots. Brady finished with four touchdown passes on the game. The Jets actually got three sacks, but other than that, Brady had all day to throw. He did a brilliant job moving around the pocket and exploiting everyone on the Jets' defense other than Darrelle Revis. Antonio Cromartie couldn't cover Deion Branch. Eric Smith couldn't cover Rob Gronkowski. Nobody could cover Danny Woodhead. Drew Coleman couldn't cover anyone.
The Patriots put up 24 points in the first half and another 21 in the 2nd half. All in all, the Patriots scored six touchdowns, embarrassing a Jets' defense which has been known for talking a lot of trash. Instead, the Jets have a lot of humble pie to eat.
The Jets did nothing right. The defense couldn't tackle. Smith had an awful pass interference penalty to set up the Patriots' first touchdown. They couldn't cover as receivers were open all day. And they couldn't get much pressure on Brady, who showed more mobility than usual this game.
And that's just the defense! The offense was just as bad as the defense. Sanchez had one of the worst games of his career, missing receivers all game long. Brian Schottenheimer called an unimaginative gameplan, and as usual, the sum of all the Jets' parts did not equal what it should. Against the 32nd ranked pass defense, the Jets couldn't get receivers open, couldn't make key catches, and couldn't make any throws. It was an appalling performance in the biggest game of the season. There's absolutely no reason the Jets shouldn't score a single touchdown against the Patriots' defense. None. Yet that's exactly what happened.
The funny thing is the Jets actually ran the ball pretty well. Greene and Tomlinson both averaged over 4.5 yards-per-carry. But the Jets were out of the game so early they had to abandon it quickly. Heck, even when they were still in the game, the Jets didn't run the ball enough.
It's inexcusable to lose 45-3 in any game. It's even more inexcusable to lose it to your biggest rival on national television when you've had 11 days to prepare. This game was an embarrassment from the moment the game started, and every time you thought the Jets could salvage some dignity, the Patriots wouldn't let them. The Jets were outclassed, outcoached, and outplayed.
On paper, the Jets looked like the better team, with New England having a better coach and quarterback. Belichick and Brady were the difference in this one. They came out with a gameplan and executed it to perfection. The Jets looked sloppy and unprepared from the get-go.
The sky isn't completely falling, as the Jets are 9-3 and all but assured of a playoff spot. But now the Patriots have a stranglehold in the AFC East, and the Jets would need a miracle to get a bye week and some home games in the playoffs. Then again, the way the Jets play with extra time to prepare, maybe that's a good thing.