"If [Belichick] slips at all, we're going to beat them," Ryan said in a seemingly never-ending week of talk.
When it mattered most on Sunday, Ryan's words became prophetic. Belichick did slip up, and it cost the Patriots their season, as the Jets made the Pats pay all afternoon for the mistakes.
It's true that Mark Sanchez played the game of his life. It's also true that LaDainian Tomlinson finally got by the Patriots in the playoffs. The Jets defense played stellar. But when it comes down to it, Sunday's outcome was more of a product of the Patriots playing their worst game of the year, rather than the Jets playing their best.
First, there was Belichick. His game plan was questionable at best all night long. There was the fake punt that reeked of desperation in the second quarter that led to a Jets touchdown before the half. There was the eight-minute drive in the fourth quarter full of questionable decision making, a drive that curiously lacked any sort of desperation as the Pats trailed by two scores. There was even the head-scratching benching of Wes Welker for all of one drive to begin the game.
While Belichick was rather un-Belichick on Sunday, Tom Brady may have been even worse. The Jets changed their looks all day, getting pressure on Brady and seeming to genuinely confuse the Pats quarterback. The result? The veteran signal-caller completed just 29 of 45 passes for 299 yards. He also threw his first interception since October. The 299 yards — along with a couple of touchdowns — look pretty good on paper, until you consider that a sizable chunk of that came as the Pats desperately tried to mount a comeback.
The Patriots were 5-for-14 on third down. They let the Jets go 6-for-13. While the Brady pick was the only New England turnover of the game, a couple of fumbles represented a sloppiness the Patriots carried all day.
Belichick, Brady and the rest of the Patriots simply picked the worst time to have their worst showing of the year. When it mattered most, the Patriots wilted. They had their chances, and unlike they've become accustomed to doing, they simply couldn't take advantage of any of them. Because of it, the Patriots will watch the AFC Championship from home next week.
Did the Patriots blow it on Sunday or did the Jets just simply win the game? Share your thoughts below.
Friday, Jan. 14: Was Wes Welker intentionally mentioning feet to poke fun at Rex Ryan's family foot fetish?