By Peter Schwartz
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“This is a championship team!”
Mark Sanchez to ESPN’s Jon Gruden, October 2011
Championship team? Are you kidding me?
Let’s be honest. This Jets team isn’t even worthy of going to the playoffs much less compete for a championship. As Tim Tebow scampered into the end zone for the game winning 20-yard touchdown with 58 seconds left, it had occurred to me that these were not the “Same Old Jets” that had just lost to the Broncos 17-13.
No, Rex Ryan said last year that “Same Old Jets” meant getting back to the AFC Championship game. The meaning of “SOJ” had changed from something bad to something good.
This year’s version of the Jets is clearly not as good as last year’s — or the season before. The defense continues to come up small in big spots. The offense can’t get into a consistent rhythm, especially the once-proud offensive line that can’t keep Sanchez upright.
Sanchez hurt himself by throwing a pick-six that Andre Goodman brought back 26-yards for the game-tying touchdown in the third quarter. But, in reality, this game was lost before and after that critical error.
Up until that point, the offense couldn’t finish drives, something that has plagued them many times this season.
In fact, the only touchdown was scored by guard Matt Slauson who recovered a Bilal Powell fumble at the one-yard line and dove into the end zone. Slauson becomes the first Jets offensive lineman to score a touchdown on a fumble recovery since guard Randy Rasmussen recovered a Cliff McClain fumble in the end zone in the Jets 1972 home opener against the Miami Dolphins.
After the Jets had taken a 13-10 lead, only two things could have kept them from winning the game. Another Sanchez mistake or another brutal effort from the defense.
It would be the latter.
On Sunday against the Patriots, they let Tom Brady waltz his team down the field for the go-ahead touchdown just before halftime. On Monday night, after T.J. Conley’s punt was downed at the five-yard line, the Jets defense allowed Tebow, who basically did nothing all night, to move his team downfield and then capped off a 95-yard drive with a touchdown.
The Broncos had twelve possessions in the game. From possession two to possession eleven, they had 70 yards. They had 95 on the last drive.
It was a brutal effort. It was inexcusable. It may have been the moment that the Jets’ season was placed in peril.
This loss was abysmal, head scratching, and a kick to the groin of the Jets fan base.
It was one of the worst regular season losses in Jets history. It’s right up there with the fake spike in 1994, the season ending loss in Houston in 1993 where a win by Boomer Esiason and company would have put the Jets in the playoffs, and losing to the Lions in the last game of the 1997 season when they had the lead but couldn’t finish off the job and make the playoffs.
As bad as they played on Thursday night, all that they needed was to execute a play or two and they would have survived.
Sure, the Shonn Greene rib injury hurt and Sanchez misfired on some big passes, but the Jets had the lead and put the game in the hands of a defense that was supposed to be top-notch.
And the defense totally botched their coverage on Tebow’s touchdown.
Instead, the Jets lost and at 5-5, their playoff chances have taken a huge hit. They now have ten days to get ready to face the Bills on November 27th at MetLife Stadium.
How unlikely is a playoff spot now?
All five of the Jets losses have come at the hands of AFC opponents. They lose out on head to head tie-breakers with the Broncos, Raiders and Ravens.
Unless the Jets somehow reel off six straight wins to end the season, there will be no return to the playoffs and there will be no magical run to the AFC Championship game.
Instead, this group, a group that we were told was going to compete for a championship, will be done playing football on January 1 in Miami. The casualties will come soon after that. Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer could be let go and that might bring about a celebration from Jets fans.
There are impending free agents that will come back and some that will not. Inevitably, we’ll hear from Ryan and company about how great the 2012 team will be and how they will represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
It’s kind of like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”
You just stop believing after a while.
Are the Jets done? Kaput? Vent your frustrations in the comments below…