FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — On a frigid Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium, the Jets’ season ended basically the same way it began: with a defeat.
Although the Jets played well defensively at times, their 26-6 loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots was fueled by inconsistent quarterback play and the fact that ultimately, they weren’t good enough to win.
Although the Jets finished 5-11 for the second straight year and will miss the postseason for a seventh consecutive season, several of the players said the team is closer to a playoff berth and complimented the organization for giving coach Todd Bowles a two-year contract extension.
Nevertheless, 5-11 is 5-11 no matter how you describe it.
“It’s not good,” safety Marcus Maye said. “Nobody is excited about that. If you look at it, though, there was some growth at spots on our team. We fought every week. We were up on a bunch of teams this year. We just have to figure it out in the offseason and be ready next year.”
When the Jets look back on their season, a 3-5 record in games decided by seven or fewer points and two blown fourth-quarter leads will stare them in the face.
The quarterback situation remains murky. Josh McCown, who had a good year before breaking his left hand, will enter free agency if he decides to continue his career, and backups Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg are nowhere close to becoming the No. 1 quarterback in 2018.
Bowles elected not to play Hackenberg in the finale. Despite giving him first-team reps in practice, he apparently had no intention of playing him.
Petty completed 19 of 36 passes for 232 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He was sacked four times and was dropped for a fourth-quarter safety.
Since Petty took over for an injured McCown in the third quarter of the Dec. 10 shutout loss at Denver, the Jets have scored only three touchdowns and four field goals.
On Sunday, they went 0-for-12 on third down and Petty struggled with his accuracy. He overthrew several receivers, including running back Elijah McGuire in the end zone.
Petty did have some moments. He threw a 46-yard pass to ArDarius Stewart in the fourth quarter, his longest completion of the season, and completed a pass to Neal Sterling through two defenders in the second quarter.
“For me, three games is invaluable,” Petty said. “From a quarterback aspect, I learned things I need to work on in the offseason. I’m excited about the offseason and the road ahead. At the end of the day, it’s about wins and losses.”
The Patriots (13-3) didn’t look their best. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was held without a catch or target in tight coverage by Darron Lee, Demario Davis and Jamal Adams. Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes and was 18-for-37 for 190 yards.
The Jets forced the Patriots to go three-and-out on their first two possessions of the second half, but a 12-play, 77-yard drive ended with a 21-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski that gave the Pats a 24-3 lead.
With the Jets trailing by 21 points in the fourth quarter and facing a fourth-and-9 at the Patriots’ 17, Bowles elected to kick the field goal.
“The other downs didn’t look great,” he said of the decision. “We figured we would get some points and go back at it, start over again.”
Chandler Catanzaro made the 35-yarder to bring the Jets within 24-6 with 10:28 left, and the defense responded by forcing the Patriots to punt after they drove to midfield. But on the ensuing possession, Petty was sacked in the end zone, making the score 26-6 with 6:04 left.
“Yes, our record is 5-11 and we deserved that record,” defensive end Leonard Williams said. “But there were a lot of close games that we just didn’t execute on one or two plays. We got one or two penalties that didn’t go in our favor. Some of the games that we lost, we should have won.”