The Patriots became the latest team to wipe the smirk off Rex Ryan’s face with a 30-21 victory in Foxborough, Mass., on Sunday.
The question is, will the Jets (2-3) and their coach ever truly smile again in 2011?
A lot has to change for that to happen, starting with a running game that could take the heat off a sputtering Mark Sanchez. Or bringing their once-intimidating defense back from early-season mediocrity.
The depthless Jets are lagging in the AFC East behind the Patriots and surprising Buffalo Bills, both 4-1.
“Forget about the postseason right now,” Sanchez said. “It’s not like we’re out of this thing, but we need to just win. Forget about where we’re going to be seeded and all that. It doesn’t matter. We just need to win.”
The road map out of their three-game losing streak involves a return to Ryan’s ground-and-pound philosophy, limiting Sanchez to a moderate passing load and getting the defense in order.
The problem is, Sunday’s game actually had the offensive ingredients for winning. The run-pass balance was 25-26. But because of the lack of depth on the injured offensive line, Shonn Greene was only able to amass 83 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. And Sanchez was unable to hit key passes in a 16-of-26, 166-yard, two-touchdown effort. The result was an anemic 3-for-11 conversion rate on third down.
As for the defense, they couldn’t get the Pats off the field as New England rang up 446 yards of offense, including 152 ground yards. When the Jets still had a chance, down 27-21 with just over seven minutes left, the defense let the Pats run off more than six minutes en route to a clinching field goal.
With those kinds of events, the Jets should be ruing the decision to allow talent such as Brad Smith and Jerricho Cotchery to flee as free agents.
Right now, the Jets’ bandwagon has not only stopped, it’s in reverse.
Playoffs? They might have all to do to reach .500 unless things turn around