EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Rex Ryan liked his chances Sunday.
“This was another game I thought we had a hell of a chance to win,’’ the Jets coach said after a 17-16 loss to the Patriots. “Against New England, that’s been the story in four of the last five games we’ve played them. But to their credit they seem to find ways to win and make big plays at the end of the game.’’
Such was the case in a game many people believe was Ryan’s last at MetLife Stadium. With his team sporting a 3-12 record, with losses in seven of its last eight games against the Patriots, Saving Coach Ryan doesn’t seem likely.
Considering that New York has lost seven games this season by 8 points or fewer — including one in overtime — the game had a familiar theme.
A critical interception thrown by quarterback Geno Smith and then Smith taking a sack on a crucial third down were essentially the difference-makers.
Settling for fields goals after penetrating the red zone three times didn’t help.
“That always comes back to haunt you,’’ Ryan said. “Obviously they were critical factors in today’s game.’’
New York held a 13-10 lead before the end of the third quarter when linebacker Jamie Collins picked off a low throw by Smith. New England moved 38 yards in eight plays to score what would be the winning points.
“He underthrew it,’’ Ryan said. “It was a poor throw. That one play was a big play. [Collins] made a great play.’’
Dont’a Hightower made the next great play.
With New York driving for what would have been the go-ahead score, and facing third and 4 at the New England 24, the linebacker/Grinch got to Smith for a 10-yard loss.
“You can’t take a sack there, no matter who is in your face,’’ Ryan said. “Get rid of the football.’’
Forced to try a good-luck-with-that field goal from 52 yards away, the Jets saw the try get tipped by Vince Wilfork. The kick never had a chance.
At that point, with 5:16 remaining, neither did the Jets. Their offense never returned to the field.
In their defense — because of their defense — the Jets did manage to control Tom Brady. The QB was “limited’’ to 182 yards passing and just one TD throw. The run game couldn’t produce even 100 yards, and it took four possessions before New England ended with something other than a punt.
“I don’t know if you can control Brady; I don’t know if that’s really possible,’’ said Ryan. “If not, we’re always the team that gives him the biggest challenge, whether he admits it or not.
“We don’t just give him the same picture down after down. He’ll kill you if you do. I think the pass rush, we turned them loose a little more. I think that helped us out. I felt a huge advantage for us was the defensive line. I think we play defense a lot different than most teams in the league; it’s not the standard defense.’’
But once again it wasn’t enough.
Just like in October, in the Jets’ 27-25 loss at New England. Just like in the 3-point loss last season. Just like in the overtime loss in 2012. Not to mention the 30-point Thursday night loss later that season — “when we got smoked like sausage,’’ Ryan cracked.
So what is it about these Patriots and their success against the Jets?
“You start with coaching. Look at ’em: That guy does a hell of a job,’’ Ryan said about Bill Belichick. “There’s no denying that. They make big plays at big times. You know what’s coming, and they still make the plays.
“They’re the team you think you have to beat, and going in I never thought we’d have to beat ’em to get our fourth win of the season. Again, we couldn’t close the deal.’’
If Ryan could start over, what would he do differently?
“Everything,’’ he said without a hint of humor. “We haven’t been good enough.’’