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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Don't let Bill Belichick fool you; he's smiling on the inside

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick walks down the

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick walks down the sideline during the first half of an NFL game against the Jets on Sunday in Foxborough, Mass. Credit: AP/Mary Schwalm

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.

These are more than just losses, more than simply moments of frustration watching your team fail to meet the challenge against a given opposing team.

No, these losses to THIS opposing team and THIS opposing coach in THIS stadium cut much deeper. They define the soul-crushing exasperation of an entire fan base. They frame a despondency from which there has been no adequate or sustainable response, save for one momentous playoff upset more than a decade ago.

Losing to any other team can at least be compartmentalized and eventually be put aside. Losing to Bill Belichick’s Patriots is mind-numbing.

Losing 54-13 — one of the most lopsided defeats in franchise history — adds another heaping dose of humiliation.

"You give up 50 points, it’s embarrassing," coach Robert Saleh said after Sunday’s debacle, in which Zach Wilson suffered a first-half knee injury that might keep him out of the lineup for the near term.

Make no mistake. Even if Wilson had been able to continue, the result likely would have been the same. Neither he nor backup Mike White was capable of dealing with a Belichick-inspired defense that throttled the Jets throughout. And Saleh’s defense had no answer for Wilson’s 2021 draft classmate, Mac Jones, who lit up the Jets for 307 yards and two touchdown passes. Nor could Saleh prevent the Patriots’ four rushing touchdowns.

"A helpless feeling where you’re just watching, you’re trying to figure something out," Saleh said.

Where does he begin to assign blame?

"Top down," he said. "Starts with coaching all the way down. They punched us in the freaking mouth and scored points, so credit to them. That’s it. I mean, I’ve been a part of some of those in my life. They just don’t feel good."

Welcome to the Jets’ world, Coach. It’s a dumpster fire like no other.

Saleh’s Jets are 1-5, with Joe Burrow’s resurgent Bengals up next at home and the Colts in Indy the following Thursday. Saleh insists he has "the right men in that locker room. I know we’ll come back strong."

That is the hope, of course, that Saleh somehow can rally the troops, possibly without Wilson, who appears to have suffered a posterior cruciate ligament injury to his right knee. He knew this would be a major rebuilding job, and now he must try to build up his team’s hopes after Belichick got done demolishing them with impunity.

Belichick takes such delight in beating the team that once expected him to succeed Bill Parcells as head coach, only to see him "resign as HC of the NYJ" days after Parcells anointed him in 2000.

He has beaten the Jets 13 straight times at Gillette Stadium and 12 in a row overall. Sometime near the end of all these wins, you will see a sly grin from the coach, who has produced the most successful head-coaching career in NFL history after snubbing the Jets and signing with Robert Kraft’s Patriots.

Even without Tom Brady around to torture the Jets, Belichick appears to have an able successor in Jones, who rang up more points against the Jets in a single game than Brady ever did in his 20 seasons with New England.

This game was over only moments after it began.

The Patriots ripped through the Jets’ defense on their first drive, with Kendrick Bourne completing an option pass for a 25-yard touchdown to Nelson Agholor. The Jets, who had been obsessed during their bye week with figuring out a way to score points in the first quarter, went three-and-out on their first drive. And New England scored again to make it 14-0 with less than eight minutes elapsed.

Ballgame. The Patriots led 31-7 at halftime, and it wasn’t even that close. They ran it up with 20 fourth-quarter points before Belichick finally instructed backup quarterback Brian Hoyer to take a knee rather than go for 60.

Ah, beating the Jets like this. Next to winning Super Bowls, it’s what Belichick loves most.

Outwardly, he was his usual dour self afterward, sticking to the script of the curmudgeon coach who never seems completely satisfied with his team’s performance. But he did throw a few bouquets to his players.

"I thought our guys did a real good job," he said. "Players were ready to go. Proud of the way this team has bounced back here [after last week’s overtime loss to Dallas]."

Belichick did snap back at the idea that his team may have gained confidence with Sunday’s performance in advance of next week’s game against the Chargers in Los Angeles.

"I don’t think we lacked confidence," he said.

The Patriots earned their sixth straight season sweep of the Jets, leaving Saleh to acknowledge that the adversity he had talked about after first taking over as coach is now upon his team.

"It’s here," he said, "from the coaches all the way down. The NFL doesn’t really give a flying [expletive] — excuse my language — in terms of scheduling. We got to line up the next week and for the 11 or 12 [after that], whatever we got left."

After Sunday’s mauling, the Jets’ coach and his players were left to lick their wounds and somehow move forward.

Meanwhile, Belichick walks off the field knowing he has inflicted even more damage on the team he walked away from more than two decades ago.

And he smiles.

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