Six weeks ago, the Jets had just gotten done burying the game ball from the Week 13 defeat at Foxborough, the 45-3 loss a national humiliation and all but crushing their dreams of winning the division. Six weeks ago, the Jets were still reeling from that game, a moment that was supposed to legitimize their coach’s Super Bowl talk. Six weeks ago, a franchise that has been snake bitten with a curse was trying to forget a loss that reminded them of the dominance of their biggest rival.
That, of course, was six weeks ago, when the Jets were in the middle of perhaps their first worst stretch of football all season. In three of the four games prior to the New England loss, the Jets needed their last offensive possession to beat teams that failed to make the playoffs. They then followed up the demoralizing Patriots game with arguably their worst offensive performance of the year, a 10-6 loss against Miami.
But that was six weeks ago.
“We weren’t playing our best football at that time,” cornerback Drew Coleman said. “Some of those games, we just didn’t play well. We talked about peaking at the right time, playing our best football when it matters the most. Over the past few weeks, I think you’ve seen that from us, at least better football.”
While the late season surge doesn’t reach the level of last year when the Jets won six of their last seven games to squeak into the playoffs, the Jets do appear to be hitting their stride at the right time. After the consecutive losses at New England then at home to Miami, the Jets had an important season-changing win on the road at Pittsburgh. In getting the franchise’s first ever victory at the Steelers, the Jets changed their outlook on the year with the 22-17 victory.
Including Saturday night’s wild-card win at Indianapolis, the Jets have won three of their last four games.
“It’s important to remember that we’re in the playoffs now and there are a lot of teams that want to be in the playoffs,” fullback Tony Richardson said. “Playoffs comes down to playing mistake free football and limiting the other team in what they can do to you. That’s what we’ve done well for the most part in the past few weeks.”
That certainly wasn’t the case against the Patriots in the 45-3 loss. The Jets got outgained by the Patriots while getting whistled for more infractions, en route to conceding more than 400 yards of total offense. Every unit of the Jets team was an utter failure, but the team rebounded from that loss and following week’s drop to Miami to put together some of their best football over the past month.
“I think what you saw against New England wasn’t us, it wasn’t really us,” offensive lineman Wayne Hunter said. “It was an ass-kicking. We didn’t show up at all. That’s the bottom-line.”
The Jets haven’t talked about the loss since a Monday morning meeting following that game where team leadership addressed the team. After burying the ball, the Jets haven’t spoken about the debacle or their poor performance. The loss was enough and head coach Rex Ryan shouldered some responsibility on Monday, taking responsibility for the loss.
And while they haven’t talked about the specifics of the New England game since that loss, perhaps they should do the same thing concerning their game prep leading up to that Monday night. Ryan blamed a poor game plan on his part for the woeful ineffectiveness of the Jets to compete with their AFC East rivals. The Jets looked lost in that game and their head coach thinks they maybe outwitted themselves.
“When I look back on it, we don’t need to trick them, we need to outplay them. We have to give our guys a chance,” Ryan said on Monday. “Obviously, there are chess matches involved every week, but it was checkmate. He definitely out-coached me.”
They key then becomes how to devise a game plan that is basic yet allows the Jets to stop a potent Patriots offense which boasts multiple wrinkles and personnel sets. Ryan has called for a simplification of the Week 13 scheme ahead of this Sunday’s rematch. The Jets head coach still hasn’t beaten Bill Belichick in a game held after Week 2 of the season.
“It’s not about simplifying anything or anything like that. It’s about execution at this point,” Coleman said. “Whatever happened last time, whether the game plan was too complex or we weren’t good enough on that day, it doesn’t matter now.”
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