- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When the New England Patriots have hit turbulence in recent years, they could always count on two things to help smooth the ride: top-notch quarterback play and a tactical edge over the opposition because of coaching adjustments.
Now even those seem to be in question.
The Patriots collapsed in stunning fashion Sunday in a 28-14 loss to the New York Jets, with quarterback Tom Brady locking in on Randy Moss and the coaching staff unable to provide answers that could reverse the team's troubling trend of tanking in the second half of road games.
Surely, there is enough blame to go around for what unfolded at New Meadowlands Stadium, but starting with Brady and the coaching staff seems like the right spot.
"We just sucked," an agitated Brady said after the Patriots were held scoreless in the second half, with just 80 net yards of offense. "That's what it comes down to."
The Patriots had started strong in the first half only to whimper out in the final 30 minutes, blowing a stellar opportunity as the Jets were without their best player, cornerback Darrelle Revis, who was sidelined much of the game with a hamstring injury.
Those watching the collapse had to be asking the question: "Where were the adjustments?" The Patriots used to be the team that would make the right moves, winning not just the physical battle but also the battle of wits.
Instead, Jets coach Rex Ryan and his staff earned high praise for their in-game alterations, which included a second-half approach that called for less blitzing and more coverage.
"We mixed some different calls in there to get us some protection in the middle of the field," Ryan said after the Jets had been gashed by two long catch-and-run plays by tight end Aaron Hernandez. "We blitzed some guys and simulated some pressure. I thought our guys did a great job of executing."
It seemed to help the Jets that Brady was intent on jamming the ball in to Moss, especially after Revis was out and cornerback Antonio Cromartie was in coverage. In all, Brady targeted Moss 10 times and ended up with as many completions to him as the Jets had interceptions on those throws -- two.
The second-half interceptions were a big part of the sudden momentum shift. Moss called the first a miscommunication deep down the right sideline, while the second was a great sideline play by Cromartie, who tipped the ball to safety Brodney Pool.
While the Brady-to-Moss connection was thwarted, the disappearance of receiver Wes Welker was especially puzzling. Welker had just two passes thrown in his direction in the second half.
Still fuming after the game, Brady said it wasn't in his mindset to capitalize on Revis' absence, his voice rising as he spoke.
"We were trying to do everything we could to gain a yard," he responded. "It had nothing to do with going after them. They have good players. We're trying to run it. Revis can't stop the run, but they stopped the run. He couldn't cover every guy on the field, but we obviously couldn't do anything in the passing game.
"We've got to take a hard look at ourselves and all of us need to do a lot better job, making a commitment to come back next week and play significantly better than we played this week. The second half of the games are critical. I think that's where our focus needs to be. I think when it comes down to the second halves of these games, we have to go out and play tougher."
Brady was as upset as he's been in recent memory, ending his news conference abruptly, but not before rightfully pointing the finger at himself.
"There were times where I think we had opportunities to do a better job out there and we didn't. That's all of us, starting with me," he said. "I have to do a better job leading this team and certainly executing better when it's crunch time."
Surprisingly, Brady (20-of-36 for 248 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) was outplayed by Jets counterpart Mark Sanchez, who avoided critical mistakes and finished 21-of-30 for 220 yards and three touchdowns.
Not so surprisingly, the Patriots once again faltered in the second half of a road game. They have been outscored 116-41 in the second half over their past eight road games (not including last year's trip to London, which was a neutral site).
The Patriots once were known as a mentally tough team, one that would rise up in critical situations on the road. But that hasn't been the team's modus operandi for more than a year.
"It is being able to handle adversity," Moss said. "The Jets handled adversity the right way and we handled it the wrong way."
To their credit, Patriots players were up-front and critical of their struggles Sunday, and the work now begins to correct them. It starts in an unfamiliar place -- with the quarterback and coaches.
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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