- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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On the biggest stage, with a chance to set themselves up for the AFC East title and perhaps the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, the Jets gave a fraudulent performance so utterly inept that it was -- brace yourself -- Kotite-like.
Wait, it was actually worse than anything served up by Rich Kotite, the patriarch of the Same Old Jets. The 45-3 loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium was the Jets' most lopsided since a 45-3 stinker in 1986 to the Miami Dolphins.
A couple of more big plays by Danny Woodhead, who made his former employer rue the day it let him go, and the Jets might have challenged their all-time disaster, a 56-3 loss to the Patriots in 1979.
"This was a big L, embarrassing for the entire organization," wide receiver Braylon Edwards said. "Our names will always be mentioned with this game -- Monday Night Football, 45-3. We'll always be part of that."
The big-talking Jets wanted to make history, but not this kind of history. They looked bad on so many levels, from coaching to playing to explaining it afterward.
Rex Ryan and his coaching staff had 10 full days to prepare, as did the Patriots, but they acted as if they didn't have a clue. The Jets' weaknesses were exploited by a team that does its talking on the field, not in news conferences.
"Obviously, we got outcoached, got outplayed," said Ryan, delivering the concession speech he never could've imagined in his wildest nightmare. "We got our butts kicked. I don't know what else to say."
In a surprisingly upbeat locker room, the players tried to rationalize the loss as an aberration, a bad night at the office and a great night by Mr. Brady. But can the explanation be that simple?
Obviously, the Jets (9-3) aren't this bad, but how good are they? It's a legitimate question as they head into the final quarter of the season. They're 1-3 against teams with winning records -- a split with the Patriots and losses to the Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens. Sandwiched between those games were several great escapes against mediocre competition.
So who are the Jets? If a football fan in Middle America tuned in Monday night expecting to see two super powers in a game of enormous magnitude, what must Joe Fan think of these Jets after seeing them fall behind 17-0 and show no fight whatsoever?
"They'd probably think we're an overrated team and overconfident," tight end Dustin Keller said. "It's our job over the next four games to show that's not who we are."
But that won't be easy. After the Dolphins (6-6), the Jets face the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3) and Chicago Bears (9-3) on the road. You have to wonder about Mark Sanchez against top competition. In the Jets' three losses, facing very good defenses, he has five interceptions and no touchdown passes.
Sanchez played his second consecutive subpar game, throwing three interceptions and completing only 17 of 33 passes for 164 yards. His passer rating was 27.8, the third-worst of his 27 career starts. Sanchez didn't lose this game, but his third-quarter interception at the New England 2 ruined any chance of a comeback attempt.
A touchdown in that spot would've made it 24-10, and there would've been hope, but his throw to Edwards on a skinny post was flat and directly into the hands of linebacker Brandon Spikes. The Jets were cooked right there.
"After that," Sanchez said, "I just started pressing a little too much before I needed to."
Sanchez prides himself on being a big-game quarterback, but his performance showed the stark difference between him and Brady, who passed for 326 yards and four touchdowns. No one expects Sanchez to be Brady at this stage of his career, but he shouldn't be Chad Henne, either. He should be better than that, but he resembled the '09 Sanchez against the league's most generous pass defense.
Sanchez was sloppy. Twelve of his 16 incompletions were off-target throws, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Six of those 12 were underthrown, including his three interceptions. That's not championship-caliber football.
"It's time for me to get better," Sanchez said.
There needs to be a lot of that attitude on the team. Ryan's beloved defense was humiliated by Brady and his cast of smurf receivers. Yes, the Jets got some pressure with their blitz packages, but they got burned badly by Brady, who was one step ahead of Ryan in the chess match.
Brady stayed away from Darrelle Revis, exposing the other vulnerable areas -- the safeties (sans injured Jim Leonhard), nickel back Drew Coleman and even No. 2 corner Antonio Cromartie, who suffered his worst game of the year and didn't stick around to talk about it.
"Forty-five points ... that's usually a quarter of a season for our defense," said Ryan, his pride shattered by the no-show.
It got so bad that, by the end of the beat down, the Jets seemingly had lost their will to fight. The low point came on Woodhead's 50-yard shovel pass, the 5-foot-8 scatback outrunning most of the Jets' defense in the fourth quarter. It was a salt-in-the-wound moment.
Linebacker Bart Scott, reaching for an alibi, called it the "same Jets defense" as Week 2, when New York beat the Patriots at home. The difference, he said, was a "different New England offense."
The Jets had better hope he's right, or else it could be a long December. They were served enough humble pie to choke an elephant.
"It was extremely humbling, oh, yeah," guard Brandon Moore said. "Whatever the next stage is, past humbling, that's what it was. It put us in our place."
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