‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
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Ernie is the author of “Lombardi and Landry.” He’ll be covering football throughout the season.
Life presents moments. It’s just that most of the time, you never know where or when they’re going to come. You’ve just got to be ready for them when they present themselves.
The Jets had their moment Sunday night. And it wasn’t a surprise. It wasn’t unexpected. It had been on the schedule the whole time, right there in green and white. Nov. 13. 8:20 p.m. Patriots at MetLife.
This could have been one of life’s shining moments for them had they decided to play even a little bit of football. Instead, like we’ve seen over and over with these Jets, they let it — and the chase for the AFC East title — slip away.
Same old, same old.
This is their pattern. Has been for more than 40 years. They’ll take the little moments — playing spoiler to the Giants’ playoff hopes in the 1988 season finale, going down to Pittsburgh and beating the Steelers for their 10th win last year, and then going up to top-seeded New England to knock them out of the playoffs.
But when it comes to the really big ones, the ones where they get a chance to take control of their destiny, maybe advance to the Super Bowl, they fold it up.
Pittsburgh didn’t even have to score a second-half point in last year’s AFC Championship game to beat Rex Ryan. The year before the Colts beat them by holding the Jets scoreless in the second half.
Those were not little moments. They were signature moments. And the Jets — be they coached by Ryan, or Herm Edwards, or Bill Parcells, are not about signature moments. They do the small stuff okay. But put the real hot spotlight on them, and they’re done.
Just like this AFC East race is done. On paper, at least, the Pats can put it on cruise control. They have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Jets with a season sweep. And they have one of the easiest schedules in the league ahead of them. Bill Belichick will take his rag-tag defense, which apparently had enough moxy to turn Mark Sanchez into a JV quarterback, against a combined record of 20-43. Only season-ending Buffalo has a winning record right now.
Meanwhile, the Jets will once again have to scramble for a wild card bid with Buffalo. Making the road even harder is Thursday’s game in Denver. Short week. Broncos winners of three of the last four. As it is, the Jets have to win two more games than New England down the stretch — not very likely unless the Pats head into a huge slide. And how likely is that? Lose to running Tim Tebow, and fans can start talking about a lost season.
The biggest bit of fight they showed Sunday night was Ryan throwing an invective at a fan who opined that Belichick was better than he was.
“I apologize for it,” Ryan said Monday. “I made a mistake. I was in no mood to hear anything. I have to handle that better.”
The Jets have to handle a lot of things better. Like when life’s moments present themselves.
The bottom line is this. The Jets are minor signatories; good enough to involve themselves in important events but absent the character to propel themselves front and center.
They leave the big script, the John Hancocks, to teams like the Patriots.
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