EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It took less than 10 minutes for Jets’ upset ambitions to start the journey south.
By the closing hour of Thanksgiving night, they were only thankful that this demoralizing loss to their AFC archrivals was over.
The 49-19 loss to the Patriots at MetLife Stadium effectively put their playoff hopes on life support.
Among other things, this was the first time the Jets had ever lost at home on Thanksgiving.
“Our fans deserved better,” said Jets coach Rex Ryan. “We’re a heck of a lot better team than this.”
Now 4-7, with Arizona, Jacksonville and Tennessee up next, Ryan’s team can virtually say “wait ’til next year.”
And now there’s the question of Ryan’s return, too.
“I expect to be here [in 2013],” he said. But many are not so sure.
Ryan’s first two Jets teams (2009-10) were playoff squads, but the 2011 Jets finished a no-go 8-8 and this edition — which still looked hopeful after last Sunday’s 27-13 win at Seattle — can now consider the postseason only a distant dream.
The Jets, guilty of gaffe after gaffe, saw the Patriots score three times in a startling 52–second stretch of the second period, en route to a 35-3 deficit at the break.
Team Green-And-White trotted off the field to the boos of most of the announced crowd of 79,088 and much of it was pointed at Ryan, who had called last year’s 8-8 season “hurtful and extremely painful.’’
But this loss was all that and more.
“When you turn the ball over five times, and then you blow coverages, you can’t win that way,” he said.
The Jets fumbled it away four times, were intercepted once, and converted just 3 of 10 third-down opportunities.
Adding to the psychic injury is the continuing inability of Ryan and staff to find any kind of meaningful role for the celebrated Tim Tebow. With the game crumbling around him, Ryan stuck with Mark Sanchez.
But at least there was an excuse this time. Tebow said after the game he broke two ribs in the Jets’ loss to Seattle two weeks ago, although he talked Ryan into making him active.
In this disaster, Sanchez went 26 for 36 for 301 yards and one touchdown, but 201 of those yards and the lone score came late in the second half.
“There’s nothing we can do about this except play better in our last five games,” said Sanchez.
That 21-0 run in 52 seconds?
“That was crazy, I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Sanchez.
Sanchez was sacked for a 6-yard loss by Dont’a Hightower on the game’s opening offensive play. Steve Gregory ended the Jets’ second possession and a 57–yard drive, picking off a Sanchez pass at the Patriots’ 15.
A scoreless first quarter gave way to the 35-point Patriots’ spree in the second.
Just six seconds into the period, Tom Brady coolly threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker, with Jets’ cornerback Ellis Lankster a full two strides away.
Soon, the Jets’ whole house started caving.
The Patriots are the Jets’ most-played opponent and the archives now show a 55-52-1 New England edge, including the 29-26 win at Gillette Stadium Oct. 21.
Muhammad “Mo” Wilkerson, the Jets’ imposing 6-foot-4-inch, 315-pound second-year defensive end, their right-side defensive anchor, has had a remarkable season, registering 61 tackles, two sacks and three forced fumbles, but was far less effective this time, with just three tackle assists. The Patriots won the ground game, too, 152 yards to 119.