EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — R.I.P. to the rivalry between the Patriots and the New York Jets. Unlike (Off the) Mark Sanchez and the Jets, it has easily reached the end zone.
The Jets have gone from formidable foil for the Patriots to punch line/punching bag. Thursday night’s Thanksgiving Massacre at MetLife Stadium, a 49-19 mashing of the Jets eulogized — or was it euthanized? — the latest iteration of the Border War. There still might be enmity between the teams, but the gap between them has grown wider than the one between Rex Ryan’s predictions and the Jets’ on-field achievements.
Playing the Jets is now no different than beating up on Buffalo or Miami. Like everyone else in the AFC East, Ryan and the Jets have to bow before Bill Belichick and Tom Brady because they’re unrivaled. The Patriots have dispatched the Jets in four straight games by a combined score of 145-82.
“I feel like it’s still a rivalry no matter right now if we have lost to them four times in a row,” said Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie. “I feel like it’s a rivalry every time we step out. They always give us their best and we try to give them our best.”
The Jets, who turned the ball over five times leading to 35 Patriots’ points, can’t hold on to the football, but they have a firm grip on denial.
The Jets are a rival for the Patriots like pavement is the rival of a jackhammer. You know Belichick, who picked up his 200th win, wanted nothing more than to dig a playoff grave for the Jets. Little did he know New York would bring its own green and white shovel to expedite the excavation.
The ineptitude of the Jets’ was on full display during the Patriots’ 35-point second quarter, when New York fumbled the ball on three consecutive possessions, leading to three Patriots’ touchdowns in a 52-second span of football futility that turned a rivalry game into a rout.
Dutifully holiday hosts, the Jets decided to serve the Patriots with Big Apple turnovers.
“We did both — we helped them and they clearly outplayed and outcoached us,” said Jets coach Rex Ryan.
Said tight end Dustin Keller, “Just to go out here and for what we feel about ourselves and what we’re capable of and to do that it’s so embarrassing.”
The Jets used to be so much fun. They talked a good game and they played one. They were the antithesis of the button-down, all-business bunch hunkered down in Fort Foxborough. Now, the Jets have lost their bravado and their way.
Ryan’s crew spends more time bad-mouthing and trash-talking their backup quarterback than the opposition. They have an offense that looks like it belongs in the Museum of Natural History. It would be right at home in the Mesozoic era.
Ground and Pound? More like Bore and Snore. Watching the Jets try to score is the football equivalent of passing a kidney stone. Tim Tebow might be terrible, as one of his anonymous teammates told the New York Daily News. But at least he’s entertaining.
If one play summed up the M-E-S-S that is the Jets it was a second-quarter running play that ended up with Sanchez as the butt of the offensive joke that is the Jets.
Trailing, 14-0, with 9:43 left in the second quarter after Shane Vereen scored on an 83-yard pass one play after a Shonn Greene fumble, Sanchez went to handoff. But there was nothing but air awaiting him. He took off on his own and ended up running right into the rear end of right guard Brandon Moore. Rump shaken and stirred, Sanchez fumbled. The ball was scooped up by Patriots safety Steve Gregory and returned 32 yards for a touchdown.
“I was thinking a different play in my head. Just a mental error there,” said Sanchez. That’s right, the QB forgot the play.
Adding insult to ignominy, Joe McKnight fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Julian Edelman plucked the ball out of the air and returned it 22 yards to put the Patriots up 28-0 with 8:51 to go in the first half. Edelman caught a 56-yard TD pass from Brady (18 of 28 for 323 yards and three touchdowns) to make it 35-0.
That was all folks.
So much for fretting about the absence of irreplaceable and irrepressible tight end Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots could have played with Rob Kardashian at tight end and won this game. They’re now winners of five straight at 8-3 and gearing up for another playoff run.
The only thing missing from the Jets’ 4-7 debacle is Bobby Valentine.
Many will be quick to blame Ryan, the Jets’ cocksure coach, and his grand experiment with honesty, openness, and confidence. That’s not the Jets’ problem. The problem is they have two quarterbacks who can’t throw, no explosive running backs and a group of receivers so pedestrian they should paint a crosswalk on their sideline.
If you win in the NFL you can do whatever you want. Have a team like the Patriots and you can make your players speak only in Pig Latin on the second Tuesday of every month. Have a team like the Jets and you could have a locker room full of Winston Churchills, and it’s not going to make a difference.
Rooting for the Jets is anathema for any Patriots fans, so their failure tastes better than Thanksgiving leftovers. But the emergence of the Jets as a legitimate rival for the Patriots was a victory for all of those who wanted a little more transparency with their football.
The Patriots win games because they have Brady, Wes Welker, Vince Wilfork, et al, not because Belichick treated Gronkowski’s injury like it was the access code to Area 51.
The Patriot Way has prevailed. The Jets have a long way to go before they can call themselves the Patriots’ rivals.Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.