The New York Jets' loss to the New England Patriots Sunday was one of the more depressing of the season. It could be one of the more depressing defeats of the entire Rex Ryan era. The Jets played their best game of the year, against their most heated rivals, and still couldn't pull out a victory, losing 17-16.
The Jets defense was as good as ever, rattling and harassing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady just as they did back in 2009, in Ryan's home debut as Jets coach. That day was supposed to be the beginning of a new culture for the Jets, as they beat the Patriots 16-9 in front of the loudest crowd I've ever been in attendance for.
And the culture did change, as the Jets went to two straight AFC championships with Ryan as head coach. The Jets should have even won the Super Bowl the second year, but the team didn't show up in the first half at Pittsburgh in the AFC title game and a second-half comeback fell just short.
Four years later and the Jets haven't even gotten back to the postseason, let alone play for a spot in the Super Bowl. That winning roster has been torn apart since the 2010 season, culminating in the absolute destruction of the team the past two years by general manager John Idzik. The Jets have won three games this season, an indictment more on Idzik than Ryan, but the blame is shared.
And then there was Sunday. The Jets reminded their fans what the good old days felt like of the early Ryan teams. The Jets sacked Brady four times in the first half, pressuring him enough where the all-world quarterback was throwing on the run, not wanting to get hit again.
The Jets led the game 10-7 at the half and 13-10 to begin the fourth quarter. After the Patriots took the lead early in the final period, the Jets kicked a field goal to cut their deficit to one, and then the defense came up with what should have been the play of the game, intercepting Brady and giving the offense the ball back at the Patriots' 30.
The defense, even with all of the obvious holes, especially in the secondary, shut down the high-powered Patriots offense, the one that's supposed to win a championship this year. The defense held the Patriots to 231 yards of total offense and 17 points. The Jets offense out-gained the Patriots, out-ran them and out-passed them. The defense held Brady to a 76.1 quarterback rating.
And the Jets lost. Why? Because of the same thing that has haunted Ryan and the Jets since he took over in 2009. The Jets don't have an offense. They don't have a quarterback.
After all these years, the script hasn't changed. The Jets play great defense only to be done in by their offense. The fact there has been no rewrites to this horrible script is the reason why Ryan will be looking for work next Monday. It's the reason why Idzik should join him on the unemployment line.
As great as it was watching Ryan's defense play at their best, and Sunday against the Patriots was as good as it gets, it was that terrible watching his offense ruin it all. And, yes, make no mistake, it's his offense.
The Jets defense handed Geno Smith the ball at the Patriots' 30 with 7:18 to play and down by one. Chris Johnson ran for four and then John Conner picked up two on the ground. Then the offense did what it always does - ruin the moment.
Smith, easily the worst quarterback in the league that shouldn't even have the opportunity to compete for a starting job next season, took a sack on third and four from the Patriots' 24. The sack lost 10 yards and forced Nick Folk to attempt a 52-yard field goal instead of a 42-yarder. The kick was partially blocked and came nowhere near the uprights.
The Jets never got the ball back, as the Patriots converted two third-down plays to ice the game. The Patriots won 17-16, surviving yet another test from Ryan and the Jets.
The Jets and their fans wanted this victory, with many calling it their Super Bowl. Ryan certainly wanted it. Beat the Patriots and this embarrassing season would be a whole lot easier to digest. But everyone should have known better. The script has never changed with Ryan in charge of the Jets.
Ryan deserves a lot of credit for how he created an aura surrounding the Jets, and it was a good one before this season. He built one of the most feared defenses in the game. Even in a season where Idzik gave him no chance, Ryan could still put together a defensive game plan that would completely befuddle Brady and Bill Belichick.
But the reason Ryan will hit the road on Black Monday is because he had no idea how to handle the offense. He stuck with Geno Smith far too long this season, watching as his terrible quarterback ruined his Jets coaching career with each interception thrown. Ryan kept on saying Smith would be a good quarterback in this league, even if everyone else outside of the organization saw the reality of the situation. So, it was only fitting another Smith blunder cost him the victory he wanted the most. It was, after all, Ryan's last shot as Jets coach to defeat the coach, quarterback and team he wants to beat like no other.
Ryan did deserve to win this game. The Jets fans deserved it even more. Losing to the Patriots, especially the way it happened Sunday, is as depressing as it gets.
Most of all, the loss was depressing because the holes in the script were never tended to. Now, Jets fans will have to learn a whole new script. Only time will tell if that new script will have a Super ending or be just another long, depressing story that ultimately goes nowhere.