FOXBOROUGH - Here is what passed for wisdom in the Jets locker room yesterday:
The reason the Jets didn’t throw the ball more against the 32d-ranked NFL pass defense was that they didn’t want to score too quickly.
No, seriously, would I make that up?
That was the gospel according to 11-year veteran and known Patriots hater LaDainian Tomlinson. “I thought we did a good job of balancing,’’ he said. “You don’t want to sit there and throw the ball too fast. We wanted to sustain drives and keep our defense fresh to play against that offense over there.’’
Can’t argue with the “balance’’ thing. The Jets threw it 26 times and ran it 25 times. That seems balanced enough for me. But this wonderfully symmetrical formula accounted for only 255 yards. Good luck trying to beat the Patriots with 21 points, and they didn’t. It was Patriots 30, Jets 21, and the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets now have lost three straight games. Five games into the season they are two full games behind division co-leaders Buffalo and New England.
“I never thought we’d be here losing three straight games, but that’s where we are right now,’’ said coach Rex Ryan. “We’ve earned it. But we are a resilient team.’’
This one came very close to being a major scoreboard beatdown. What should have been a killer touchdown at the close of the half turned into an interception when Aaron Hernandez could not corral a catchable Tom Brady pass and the deflection was picked off by Antonio Cromartie. Then there was the matter of an 88-yard Joe McKnight kickoff return that set up a Jets touchdown to make the score 17-14, Patriots. Those two plays kept New York in the game.
When these teams last met, right here on the Foxborough sod, the Jets had come up with a defensive scheme that made the great Brady look positively pedestrian. He seldom has looked worse than he did on that dismal January afternoon.
But that was nine months and many a film session ago. You didn’t think Bill Belichick and Co. weren’t going to come up with something, did you? That something was a nicely mixed - and I must say, nicely “balanced’’ - game plan producing 321 yards in the air and 152 on the ground, the last 62 of which came during a 13-play, 69-yard drive chewing up 6:12 on the clock and culminating in a 28-yard clinching field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with 1:02 left in the game.
I think that was what LaDainian Tomlinson had in mind.
Keep in mind that the Jets entered this game against their ancient rival in the aftermath of a New York Daily News report that disgruntled offensive players have been complaining to Ryan about the conservative play-calling of coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
Said report was, of course, denied by Ryan.
“Maybe I got hit in the head,’’ he said. “But I don’t remember it.’’
Of course, the question of just how much leeway should be granted to quarterback Mark Sanchez has been a major issue since Day 1. Ryan continually supports his young QB, but week after week his own offensive coordinator comes up with game plans suggesting that the offense cannot be placed in his QB’s hands.
If Sanchez is upset, he is keeping it to himself.
“I really liked our game plan,’’ he insisted.
The Jets attributed their loss to an inability to convert on third down. Rex said it. Sanchez said it. Tomlinson said it. The trainer probably said it. And indeed they went three-and-out seven times. They were 3 for 11 on third downs (the Patriots were 7 for 14).
But that’s a cop-out. If you’re playing it right, you may not even get to third down. The Jets QB and his receivers had their moments, including a nice 19-yard Sanchez sideline completion to Plaxico Burress on a second-quarter second and 9 at their 23.
And then there was the third Jets touchdown, a very nice 21-yard yard pass from Sanchez to Santonio Holmes, who was quite alone at the right pylon. The second New York TD was another touchdown pass, this one a 9-yarder to rookie Jeremy Kerley.
Passing against the Patriots very definitely seemed like the way to go, especially since the Jets spent the last 52 minutes or so playing from behind.
But an ill-conceived game plan is an ill-conceived game plan, and in case you’re wondering, young Sanchez at one point even uttered the magic phrase: “We wanted to establish the run.’’
That, of course, would have enabled the Jets to score more slowly, and thus keep their defense fresh. Don’t forget that.
Anyway, after a 2-0 start the Jets are 2-3, which is not precisely what Coach Ryan had in mind when he called upon somebody else to defeat the Patriots, the implication that his team would be able to take care of its own business.
And maybe it will. Whenever. Right now people are running on them and their own offense is not producing enough points. Meanwhile, people everywhere are questioning the game plans.
“We’re searching,’’ Ryan said. “We’ll find the answer. I thought there were encouraging signs, just not enough of them.’’
Here’s a prediction: The next time these teams meet (Nov. 13), Rex is slinging it. If he doesn’t, Woody Johnson ought to fire both Schottenheimer and Rex.