FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The Patriots delivered the first salvo in Thursday night's prime-time matchup with the Jets.
And the mighty blow came hours before kickoff.
The Patriots trolled their AFC East rival -- and Jets fans -- with a brutal reminder on Twitter of the past: a Throwback Thursday image of the infamous "Butt Fumble" with the caption "#TBT to another #Patriots-Jets Thursday night game."
It's been two years since former Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez mistakenly ran head-first into the rear end of his right guard Brandon Moore. But the indelible image lives on in Jets-Pats lore.
Sanchez's now famous face plant resulted in a fumble that was returned for a touchdown in a 49-19 Thanksgiving night debacle at MetLife Stadium. The game, which was played on Nov. 22, 2012, will live in infamy because of the "Butt Fumble." Sanchez's miscue was one of three Jet turnovers in a 52-second span that resulted in 21 points for the Patriots.
Sanchez later explained that he tried to slide after messing up the planned handoff to fullback Lex Hilliard. "It's embarrassing," the quarterback, and now current Eagles backup, said days after the loss. "I'm trying to do the right thing. It's not like I'm trying to force something and I start to slide and I slide into the worst spot you possibly could: right into Brandon Moore."
Around that time, the Jets were a team desperate to save its season -- much like how Rex Ryan's current crew feels. The Thanksgiving night loss to the Patriots dropped the 2012 Jets to 4-7 in Week 12, and they ended up missing the playoffs after losing their final three games.
Interestingly enough, the 2014 Jets are also staring irrelevancy in the face.
At 1-5 -- following five straight losses -- Ryan & Co. were more than just desperate entering Gillette Stadium Thursday night. And just like in 2012, they're being led by a quarterback who often can't get out of his own way.
At the conclusion of that infamous game two seasons ago, Sanchez was sitting on 41 turnovers in two seasons. Now, Geno Smith was tied for second in the NFL in interceptions (seven) and only had six touchdowns passes. The 2013 second-round pick also had the lowest completion percentage (57.1) of any full-time starter. And, of course, there are the recent off-field issues involving Smith -- cursing at a fan, missing a team meeting and calling out the media for often overblowing matters.
For all his foibles, Sanchez did what no other Jets quarterback had done before: help guide the franchise to two straight AFC Championship Game appearances. But since 2010, neither Sanchez nor Smith has led the team to the postseason.
Ryan's Jets entered Thursday night 4-7 vs. Bill Belichick's Patriots, including their playoff win at New England in January 2011.
But no matter how many more rivalry games will be played between the two franchises, the "Butt Fumble" game will live on in infamy.
By 7:15 p.m. -- an hour and 15 minutes before kickoff -- the Patriots' Twitter post was retweeted over 4,500 times. New England fans, of course, will #NeverForget that day.
And neither will Ryan.
Asked earlier in the week if there's any advantage to playing the Patriots on the road on Thursday night for a second straight season, he seemed puzzled. "I mean, I don't see it as an advantage to travel for a Thursday night game. I would much rather have it in our stadium," Ryan said.
Then the coach smiled and said: "But we all know what happened that Thursday in our stadium. So you're probably right."