I'm as disappointed as the rest of us in today's result and the awful performance that led to it. But realistically, this might just turn out to be the Patriots' hardest game on the schedule --and it got much more difficult after the Jets laid an egg on Monday Night Football against the Ravens.
I was excited to see New England come out aggressively on that first drive. Last year in the Week 2 loss to New York, I thought the Patriots were a bit psyched out by the fear of the Jets pass rush---not so much the rush itself, but the fear of it. And their playcalling last year in that game reeked of desperation rather than coherent strategy. That's why I loved the start of the game and the mix of runs and passes and the attempt to dictate the tempo and the terms of the game to the Jets. But even on that opening drive there were problems: the holding call that negated that great Fred Taylor run, overshooting Moss in the back of the end zone, and the delay of game that cost Gostkowski a field goal. The next drive, too, was aggressive and put up points and they closed the half with a score. But the second half was a disaster: a sclerotic offense that resembled last year's predictable playcalling and poor execution complete with interceptions, forced throws, and the return of that seeming fear of the Jets defense.
To be fair, the Jets played very well and Mark Sanchez looked like.....well, Tom Brady on most days other than today. Their defense stepped up big and they made the most of the giftwrapped opportunities the Patriots handed them with penalties and poor play. But it's not surprising the Jets played so well. They usually do against us early in the season. And it's even more to be expected after they embarrassed themselves last Monday and then had to spend all week reading and hearing about how they were overrated, couldn't play, were huge disappointments, etc. As is often the case in the NFL when something like that happens, the Jets came out with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. They certainly proved it.
But the circumstances of the Jets loss Monday and the week of intense scrutiny and negativity they endured as a result made what was always going to be a difficult game for the Pats into an almost impossible one. Even if New England had played much, much better, they might have had trouble winning this game. It's terrible to have played such bad football in the second half and to have missed some great opportunities to take a commanding lead in the first half. But even if the Patriots had gotten out to a 14-0 or 10-0 lead, the Jets would have fought back--because they would know that the intensity of the criticism in the media and the internal self-doubt that must have crept into their locker room would be nothing compared to last week if the Pats came in and smoked them.
In short, there's little excuse for such poor play by the Patriots who have to go back to square one now. But they have probably played their toughest game of the year already. Most of the really tough games are at home. And while the loss is hugely disappointing, this game--if we're honest--was always going to be a hard one to win. Now that it's lost, we can regroup against Buffalo, taking care not to get overconfident but using next week's game as a chance to fix some big problems in anticipation of a Week 4 game at Miami.
Lastly, the other real comfort here in this loss (if there is any comfort) is the fact that almost everybody else in the league seems to be 1-1 as well. We're not that far behind anybody yet and there's time to correct the errors. In some ways, losing badly is almost more bearable than had we played well and lost a nailbiter. Tough losses gnaw at us for weeks. The only thing left to do after the disaster today is put it behind us and get things fixed. The motto in New England this week, as always, will be "Do your job." Let's hope we're in a much better place this time next Sunday evening.