Well, at least this Jets loss was not as bad as the last one. In a lost season like this one, that is called progress.
The Patriots beat the Jets for the fifth straight time, topping them 27-13 at MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The loss was nowhere near as ugly as the 41-10 beatdown the Jets suffered two weeks ago to the Bills, but there are no moral victories in the NFL.
The loss was the Jets’ fifth in a row, the first time they have lost that many in a row under coach Todd Bowles.
“It sucks,” quarterback Josh McCown said. “Obviously, it is not ideal. I think, individually, it’s a test — it tests who you are and what you’re about and your ability to get back up [and] come back to work, work hard, be a professional.”
Lately, the Jets have been failing the test. Any hopes of this season ending with anything meaningful ended weeks ago. Now, it’s just about how low they can go. This loss dropped them to 3-8, guaranteeing a third straight non-winning season and seventh in the last eight years.
It was the same old story with the Patriots (8-3). The Jets played them close for most of the day, but there was too much Tom Brady, too much Rob Gronkowski and a defensive collapse in the second half that sent them spiraling to another loss.
“I just felt like they made more plays in the second half,” wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said. “I don’t think they necessarily did anything much different. Maybe some slight adjustments, but at the end of the day they just made more of a punch.”
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The Jets were without starting quarterback Sam Darnold for the second consecutive game. McCown got his second start and played much better than in his first, finishing 26-of-45 for 276 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
It was the fifth straight game the Jets failed to score more than 17 points. For some reason, the Jets relied on the pass way more than the run, even though the Patriots struggled in their last game at stopping the run against the Titans. The Jets called 50 passes and just 12 runs in the game.
“They were crowding everybody early,” Bowles said. “We had some success passing the football. We tried to do some things. It just didn’t work out.”
Brady outgunned the Jets again, improving to 26-7 against them. He went 20-for-31 for 283 yards and two touchdowns. Old nemeses Gronkowski and Julian Edelman scored touchdowns, making it feel like things never change in this once fierce rivalry. The Patriots rolled up 498 yards, rushing for 215 yards, including 133 from rookie Sony Michel.
The Jets defense, which was expected to do big things, has not had a takeaway in five games. This was the fifth time this season the unit allowed 400 yards or more.
“I think we are a legit defense,” defensive end Leonard Williams said. “I think we need to step it up in certain areas that gives up those big plays like that. We’ll be getting three-and-out, getting three-and-out and then we’ll give up one big play and then the stats look a little twisted.”
Unlike in the loss to the Bills, the Jets were actually in this game. They took their first lead in more than a month when McCown hit Kearse for a 16-yard touchdown in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead. They later tied the game at 10-10 and 13-13 off of field goals from Jason Myers. The second field goal came with 4:00 left in the third quarter, but the Jets defense rolled over and handed the lead back to the Patriots.
Brady orchestrated a four-play, 75-yard drive in 2:08 that ended with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Edelman and a 20-13 lead. The drive had three plays of more than 20 yards, which was a theme of the day. The Patriots had nine plays total in the game of more than 20 yards.
“That was critical,” Bowles said of the quick drive.
“That’s really bad,” Williams said. “At least make them work for it. At least make them drive down the field. It took them four plays to get down there and score and that was right after the half. … I think it was a turning moment as far as momentum.”
The Patriots extended the lead to 27-13 midway through the fourth quarter on a 1-yard touchdown by Michel. This was a more methodical 10-play drive that basically ended any hope for the Jets.
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“It’s tough,” safety Jamal Adams said. “Obviously, we don’t want to lose. We go out there and we are in tough ballgames like this. We are playing hard, but we are just not doing enough. We have to do more. We have to figure out that niche for us to get over this hump and go back to work next week and go to Tennessee and put this one out.”
Bowles, who is expected to be fired at the end of the season, had another decision backfire on him. In the first quarter, Patriots running back James White was called for pass interference on a third-and-2 incompletion from the Jets’ 24. Bowles accepted the penalty to make it third-and-12 from the 34 instead of declining it to create a fourth-and-2. Brady hit Gronkowski for a 34-yard touchdown on the next play.
“Third-and-12 are better odds than fourth-and-2 and we knew they were going to go for it because they typically do on fourth-and-2,” Bowles said. “We had a better chance at third-and-12.”
Like most things this season for the Jets, this decision did not work.