Grounded: Patriots Rout Jets 37-16

Patriots thrash Jets and reassert control of the AFC East

The Jets got the game they'd been waiting for on Sunday night.

They rode a three-game winning streak into a home game for first place in the AFC East against a reeling Patriots team coming off of two losses with a defense that hasn't been able to stop anyone. It was exactly the moment the Jets have dreamed about, a chance to drive a stake into the heart of their hated rivals and take control of their own destiny.

And they blew it. The Patriots won 37-16 in a game marked by unacceptable levels of sloppiness from the Jets on both sides of the ball.

It started on the first drive of the game, when Nick Folk missed a short field goal after a strong opening drive and foreshadowed the night to come. There would be much more ugliness to come, much of it stemming from the fact that the Jets seemed to be confused by just about everything all night long.

Both the offense and the defense lined up incorrectly over and over again, coverages and blocking assignments were blown with shocking regularity and mistakes piled up like napkins at a pie-eating contest. There were an ill-timed timeout by Mark Sanchez late in the second quarter that gave the Pats time to score a go-ahead touchdown, a muffed punt by Joe McKnight and an unconscionable drop by Shonn Greene that turned into a Patriots interception.

Those last two plays turned into 10 Patriots points and allowed them to take a two-touchdown lead in the third quarter. Then, after Sanchez led the team back within a touchdown, the Jets defense couldn't stop the Patriots offense after they went to the no-huddle and the lead jumped back up to 14.

The death knell came on the next offensive possession, when Patriots linebackers Tracy White and Rob Ninkovich, two of the faceless many who thwarted the Jets offense, combined to force another interception that Ninkovich returned for a humiliating touchdown. It was all academic at that point.

If this had the potential to be the biggest regular season win of Rex Ryan's career, it has to go down as one of the worst losses of his tenure. His team looked unprepared for everything the Patriots threw its way, and the offense made a bad Patriots defense look like they were the 1985 Bears.

The defense, which hung tough through much of the game, completely broke down in the second half. Tom Brady was rarely pressured, Rob Gronkowski was barely covered and they wound up looking like the second best defense on the field by more than a couple of miles.

All in all, it was worse than last year's 45-3 thrashing in Foxborough. That's a lot of words to explain what went down on Sunday night, but this picture could easily take the place of every single one of them.

The Jets won't have much time to figure out what went wrong in this one. They have to be in Denver on Thursday night, which might not actually be a bad thing if it means they put this game behind them in a hurry.

From there, the schedule isn't overly difficult, and a playoff spot is certainly within reach. But this Jets team probably isn't winning the division, and their margin for error is darn near zero after punting the golden opportunity that landed in their lap this week.

Chances like this don't come around very often. The fact that the Jets greeted this one with so little in the gas tank says something awfully troubling about where this team is going this year.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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