FOXBOROUGH — It was a defeat so crushing that it almost left Rex Ryan, of all people, at a loss for words.
The words tumbled out of Ryan’s mouth in his press conference after the Patriots escaped with a 27-25 victory over a New York Jets team that had outplayed them for much of Thursday night. But it was clear Ryan was in no mood to talk and at a loss to explain another loss to archenemies Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
Thanks to Patriots defensive tackle Chris Jones blocking Nick Folk’s 58-yard field goal attempt with five seconds left, Ryan’s Jets suffered their sixth consecutive loss and sank to 1-6 on the season, a season that is looking increasingly like it will be Ryan’s last in New York.
Compassion for Ryan in these parts will be in short supply, many happy to see the outspoken coach’s demise. But despite his team’s record, Ryan reminded Patriots fans again that he doesn’t just talk a good game. He can coach one, too.
On talent alone, Ryan’s Jets had no business being in this game. But Ryan pulled the strings most of the night that allowed his shell of a team to outexecute the Patriots. It would have been easy for the Jets to be roadkill for the Patriots, but Gang Green hung around like an unwelcome house guest.
Vociferous Rex had his team ready to play on a short week. The Jets outgained the Patriots, 423 yards to 323. They ran 43 times for a season-high 218 yards. They held the ball for 40 minutes and 54 seconds. They didn’t punt until there was 1:44 left in the third quarter. They committed zero turnovers. And they lost because they have a patchwork secondary and shaky young quarterback.
“I’m not shell-shocked at all,” said a disappointed and defiant Ryan. “I’m a little upset because our record is what it is. I’m not shell-shocked by any stretch, by any stretch. We did what we wanted to do on them. We were able to control the football, run the football. We did those things that it takes to win the game. We just made too many darn mistakes. That’s what it is.”
Ryan’s body and his roster have both been transformed since he became the HC of the NYJ in 2009. His stomach and the talent on his roster have thinned in equal measure. His body has shed weight and his roster has acquired dead weight.
The group Ryan brought to Gillette Stadium was talent-starved compared to the teams he beat the Patriots with three out of the first five times he played them. It has little measure of talent and little margin for error.
The Patriots’ first touchdown, a 49-yard pass to Shane Vereen without a Jet in the 508 area code, came on a busted coverage between Patriots castoff cornerback Phillip Adams and Antonio Allen, a safety who has spent most of the year playing corner for the defensive-back-depleted Jets.
The play Ryan will see in his sleep came with the Patriots facing third and goal from the Jets’ 19 in the fourth quarter. Brady rolled to his left and threw to forgotten wide receiver Danny Amendola, who beat Allen for a touchdown that made it 27-19 with 7:55 to go.
“The great thing about Rex is that he believes in all of us. Quite frankly, we let him down today,” said outside linebacker Calvin Pace. “The coaches did a great job of preparing us for this game . . . We’re going to keep on fighting for Rex.”
Barring a miraculous turnaround, this will be the last time Ryan appears at Gillette Stadium as the Jets’ coach. Ryan’s act rubs some folks the wrong the way, understandably. He is a cocksure coach who speaks in hyperbole and boasts. But he is not an empty sweater vest. The man can coach.
He will deserve a second chance with another team. Pumped and Jacked Pete Carroll is proof that previous failures don’t define a coach if he can find the right quarterback.
Remember, Ryan did lead the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship games in his first two years. Imagine if he had a competent quarterback like Russell Wilson.
The two quarterbacks Ryan has entrusted in New York are (Off the Mark) Sanchez and last night’s starter, Geno Smith, who has taken the title of worst passer in New York from Knicks star Carmelo Anthony.
The Jets entered the game with the worst pass offense in the NFL (182.2 yards per game) and Smith was completing 57.1 percent of his passes. The average completion rate in the league was 63.3 percent entering Thursday night.
In fairness, Smith, the fan-flipping-off, meeting-missing, media-blaming quarterback, played a good game. He was 20 of 34 for 226 yards and a touchdown. He led the Jets on an 86-yard drive, hitting Jeff Cumberland with a 10-yard touchdown pass with 2:31 to go to pull them within 27-25. But of course he then overthrew an open Jace Amaro in the end zone on a tying 2-point conversion attempt.
Missed opportunities were a theme for the Jets. They had plenty of opportunities, but befitting a 1-6 outfit they let them slip through their fingers like granules of sand.
The Jets never punted in the first half and reached the Patriots’ 20 or penetrated the red zone on three of their four drives. They possessed the ball for 22:03 of the first half and rushed for 124 yards. But only had four Folk field goals and a 17-12 deficit to show for it.
“You can’t trade field goals for touchdowns, and that’s what happened,” said Ryan. “Even though we really controlled the game. We were a little short in the red zone.”
Ryan almost had the last word. But instead he was left with the bitter taste of defeat swishing around his mouth.