These were not the Jets who said they were going to come into every game, hit you in the mouth and let you know how good they were.
These were defeated Jets.
Minutes after a humiliating 45-3 loss on national television, these Jets were quiet, sullen, embarrassed. Perhaps intentionally, equipment bags were scattered throughout the awkwardly silent locker room, serving as temporary barriers from the hungry New York media that was looking for an answer.
The question: How in the world did this happen?
"If you can draw up getting your ass kicked, we did it," said Calvin Pace, mumbling to reporters without turning around to face them. "Total team loss, you know? It's disheartening."
Bart Scott, who's rarely shy, had little explanation.
"Give [the Patriots] credit," he said. "You can't explain it."
Wide receiver Braylon Edwards, last seen by Patriots fans doing the "Dougie" in the face of Darius Butler in the Meadowlands, was equally as mystified.
"I don't know," Edwards said after catching just two passes, one of which came when the Jets were trailing by 42 points. "I don't know how to explain it. I don't play defense. I don't play special teams. I don't coach. All I can speak for is the offense, and we didn't get it done. We didn't execute. We didn't do the things that we've been doing in practice, and we didn't do the things that made us [9-2]."
Instead, the Jets did some things that made them 9-3. They let Tom Brady throw for 326 yards and four touchdowns. They let BenJarvus Green-Ellis run for 72 yards on 18 carries. They let Danny Woodhead — their own camp castoff — record more than 100 receiving yards. They allowed three different Patriots to intercept Mark Sanchez passes. Quite simply, from the opening kickoff to the closing whistle, they allowed the Patriots to do whatever it was they wanted to do.
Given the loudmouth nature of this Jets team, the players, even in the immediate aftermath of the loss, knew what to expect when they landed in New York early Tuesday morning.
Head coach Rex Ryan, the most outspoken of them all, wasn't too down on himself or his team after the beatdown.
"I mean, humiliating for one night," Ryan said. "You know, shoot — I'll fight tomorrow. I'll guarantee you that. It's the biggest butt whipping I've taken as a coach in my career, but I can promise you one thing: I'll be ready to play them. I'll play them right now if they'll go out and do it again."
"We got embarrassed tonight," Edwards said. "Everybody has something to say about it — fans, media, people on the outside looking in, people that watched Hard Knocks. Everybody will have a comment to make about the Jets and what they thought about [this game]. Most of them are right, but at the same time, it's just one game. We're 9-3, which is still a pretty good record, and we're looking to be 10-3 at the end of next week."
"Next week" was a common theme among the Jets, as they all seemed eager to welcome the 6-6 Dolphins to New Jersey next Sunday. But they were also hoping to get another crack at the Patriots.
"Something like this, you put it in [your memory bank], because me personally, I have a feeling we'll see these guys again," said former Patriot Damien Woody.
"Hopefully, we'll see these guys again, and we'll get another opportunity," said Scott.
"[The Patriots] are now 10-2 and they control their own destiny in our division, so hat's off to 'em," Edwards said. "But we'll see them again."
This was the second time this season that the Patriots had beaten a team that was already thirsting for a rematch just minutes after the loss. Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs hoped their Ravens would be meeting the Patriots come January. A frustrating loss at Gillette apparently has that effect on opponents.
Still, even though the locker room was nearly silent, and even though there was a lot of owning up to not playing well, there was at least a little bit of braggadocio left in Mr. Scott.
"Of course it's a punch in the gut," he said. "National TV, whole world watching, and we didn't represent ourselves and we weren't the true New York Jets. … We won nine games this year. You don't lose confidence [from one loss]. One loss doesn't define you, just like one win doesn't define you. You come back and you play. Sixteen games."
"Trust me," Scott added with unmistakable confidence. "I'm not flinching. At all. … We're not gonna flinch this year. Period. This team doesn't blink."
And good old Rex, sure as ever, didn't leave Massachusetts without some parting words.
"I don't think [Brady] was necessarily trying to rub it in [by passing late in the game], but this is the same team that took a bunch of shots on us and they had paybacks. I mean, let's face it — we kicked their butt at our place. … Trust me, we will remember this. There is no question about that."
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