By Jason Keidel
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Anyone who has lived in Hudson or Essex County, or spent much time rolling down the New Jersey Turnpike, has endured pockets of foul odor wafting from the industrious swamp that is Northern New Jersey. And it was particularly pungent yesterday between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
On Halloween, the new Jets dressed as the old Jets, serving their fans myriad tricks but no treats on their way to a laughable loss to the Green Bay Packers. It was the first time in four years that the Jets were shut out at home.
Mark Sanchez dressed as Neil O’Donnell, tossing two interceptions and no touchdowns. LaDainian Tomlinson masqueraded as Blair Thomas, banging into his own lineman as he stumbled and fumbled his way to 3.4 yards per carry.
For much of the football game, Sanchez forgot how to throw a football, and when he remembered his receivers forgot how to catch it. Even Santonio Holmes, he of the Super Bowl MVP, got in on the tricks, letting a ball squirt through his normally sticky hands during a crossing route. Had he snared the ball there was a vast and vacant pasture before him, a touchdown nearly assured.
The defense was good. Indeed, it had to be stout to hide the stench from a rather offensive offense. The Jets looked like a team that got fat off a bye week, egos inflated by hot media hype. Both their losses this season have come at home, a trend they need to reverse. Blame the refs. Blame the wind. But they deserved no win.
Ardent Jets followers will argue that if you’re going to tank the best time to do so is against an NFC team, sans tiebreaker consequence. There is truth to that, but great teams beat the teams they should. Green Bay, with an injury list longer than the Magna Carta, begged the Jets to win and the Jets refused.
There are no must-win games in October, but the Jets can’t skate up a mountainous AFC that has several titans outside of Tennessee. New England just nudged one game ahead of the Jets in the division and the Dolphins are lurking one game behind. The Jets have five more games against playoff contenders, including a daunting December trip to Pittsburgh.
The Jets, in the middle of a masochistic, four-decade run without a ring, are renowned for teasing their fans. 1986 comes to mind, when they soared to a 10-1 start before blowing their final five games and falling face-first long before the Super Bowl, where the Giants would have been waiting.
We never know what the Jets are, probably because they never know. A franchise often makes an ancestral stamp on the league. Teams like the Ravens and Steelers are renowned for defense, the Chargers for offense. The Jets have drifted through the history books like gypsies, one epoch as maddening as the next. Rex Ryan came in as an alleged mastermind of defense. Then the offense began to gel. Then came yesterday.
Gang Green is often mean to those who love them. Yesterday was emblematic of an odd identity, a team that spent nearly 30 years in a building named after another team. They are a football version of a lap dance, exciting you and then deserting you. A win yesterday would have gone a long way to declaring dominance while shedding their haunted reputation like those galling green helmets they wore during the Kotite days.
There is no need to panic at 5-2, of course. Good teams have bad games. Great teams have bad games. Which are the Jets? As always, they will be the last to know.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com