Rex Ryan did everything possible to put his team in the right frame of mind for what figured to be an epic showdown between the 9-2 Jets and 9-2 Patriots. He woofed during an interview with Newsday about wanting to kick Bill Belichick in the tail. He essentially guaranteed a victory during a radio segment by talking about how the Jets would win the game and take sole possession of first place in the AFC East.
And then this.
Not only did Ryan not accomplish either goal, but his team was summarily thumped by an invigorated Patriots team, 45-3, last night. It was Bill Belichick taking Ryan to the woodshed. How bad was it? It was the worst loss of the Rex Ryan Era. The previous biggest margin of defeat came against Belichick's Patriots, 31-14, last year at Gillette Stadium.
It was, quite simply, an embarrassment. The Jets were ripped apart in every phase of the game: offense, defense, special teams - and yes, coaching. Especially coaching.
Belichick played it coy during the week, giving the Jets zero bulletin-board material and demanding that his players do the same. The closest anyone came to saying anything incendiary was quarterback Tom Brady, who earlier this year admitted in a radio interview, "I hate the Jets." When asked to follow up on the comments in the run-up to last night, Brady demurred.
"Well, I promised coach Belichick that I wouldn't say anything derogatory, so I have no comment," Brady said.
Translation: Yes, he still hates the Jets, but he wouldn't say so again publicly.
Instead, he took out his aggression on the field, burying the Jets with yet another transcendent performance in his Hall of Fame career. He picked apart a Jets secondary that was in disarray without veteran safety Jim Leonhard, throwing four touchdown passes.
But even if Leonhard had been in the lineup, the result wouldn't have differed much. Said Ryan, "Jim Leonhard wasn't going to make a 45-point difference."
Brady and Belichick had Ryan's number, and the Patriots humiliated the Jets' big-talking coach. All he could do by the end was shake his head and mutter to himself on the sideline.
"I came in to kick his butt,'' Ryan said, "and he kicked mine."
He added, "We know the division goes through the New England Patriots. We thought we'd put a stranglehold on them. They outcoached us and out-played us. We were embarrassed."
Seems a long time ago that the Jets beat the Patriots in a Week 2 matchup at New Meadowlands Stadium, where Mark Sanchez ignited a brilliant second-half performance and outplayed Brady. Brady's only positive moment from that game was a touchdown pass to Randy Moss, who has been traded twice since then. The Patriots are 7-1 without him.
Sure, there are four games to play and the Jets are only one game out of first place. But the schedule doesn't bode well for the Jets in a season they hope will end with a Super Bowl win.
So if Sanchez was struggling against the Patriots' 32nd-ranked defense, you can imagine what he'll do with James Harrison, Troy Polamalu & Co. bearing down on him. "They flat-out outplayed us,'' he said. "It's frustrating as an entire team and an organization. We'll learn a lesson from this. This was a good old- fashioned butt-kicking."
"It's embarrassing to come out and play like that,'' Damien Woody said. "I've never been a part of a loss like this, but it's only one game. We're still 9-3 with a month to go. I'm hoping we see this team again.''
One game separates the Jets and Patriots. But after last night, it feels like so much more. The Jets will find out soon if it really is.