After two-plus decades of domination, it might be difficult for some NFL fans to point to one specific moment that encapsulates the New England Patriots beating the bag out of the New York Jets. It might not be as difficult for others, though.
Because while, sure, there are countless images from when the greatest quarterback of all-time Tom Brady and the greatest coach of all-time Bill Belichick beat up on Gang Green, one snapshot stands alone. The device which helps us go No. 2, in this case, relates to No. 1.
“… You got a busted play here,” longtime NBC play-by-play man Al Michaels said with nine minutes remaining in the second quarter of the Patriots-Jets matchup on Thanksgiving night in 2012. “And then (Mark) Sanchez gets hits, the ball is loose, and it’s alive!”
After an “Oh no!” from broadcast partner Cris Collinsworth, he said what every football fan was thinking in that moment.
“I have never seen this before in my life.”
Alas, the most embarrassing moment of the longstanding Patriots-Jets rivalry was introduced. It became known by a name that lived up to the play itself: “The Butt Fumble.”
Patriots fans who are old enough to drink have never known anything besides New England pantsing the J-E-T-S. Some might think even calling the Jets the Patriots’ little brother would be doing a disservice to younger siblings everywhere. That was never on display more than Nov. 22, 2012.
Almost smack dab right in the middle of a two-decade stretch, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez ran right into the backside of New York lineman Brandon Moore. The impact of Moore’s caboose caused Sanchez to fumble the ball, which was scooped up by Patriots safety Steve Gregory and returned for a 32-yard defensive touchdown. Gregory’s score was part of an onslaught of Patriots points with New England scoring three touchdowns in 52 seconds of game action. It turned the AFC East matchup into yet another rout with the Patriots claiming a 49-19 blowout.
It also has served as a lasting image of the Patriots-Jets rivalry, especially during the Belichick-Brady era.
“I ran into some guy’s butt, dropped the ball on the turf and some guy scored,” Sanchez told The Ringer’s Danny Heifetz at the time of the 10-year anniversary in Nov. 2022. “And on my favorite holiday. It wasn’t cool.”
Since that moment in November 2012, the Patriots have won 19 of their last 21 contests against the Jets. And during the decade-long stretch from 2010-19, New England won 17 of 21 games against New York. Brady went 29-7 against the Jets during his two-decade Patriots tenure. Following the 2022-23 campaign, which was a seventh-straight sweep for the Patriots, New England leads the overall series 73-54-1.
Much like Sanchez, former Jets head coach Rex Ryan has not forgot about the moment either. He’s expressed it was part of the most embarrassing stretch, and most embarrassing quarter, of his coaching extensive career.
Ryan’s long-ago depiction of the “Butt Fumble” will provide Patriots fans quite a chuckle.
‘At the time, I never realized it was going down as the worst play in NFL history. As soon as they coined it ‘Butt Fumble,’ that was when you knew the play was going to live on and on.’Former Jets head coach Rex Ryan
“At the time, I never realized it was going down as the worst play in NFL history,” Ryan told ESPN for a story in 2017. “As soon as they coined it ‘Butt Fumble,’ that was when you knew the play was going to live on and on.”
Ryan also has tried to speak in support of Sanchez, though he knows as soon as football fans think about the quarterback who played eight NFL seasons, the “Butt Fumble” tends to come to the forefront of mind.
“Because of the way it was labeled and the disaster that the play turned out to be, unfortunately, this one lives on and probably always will,” Ryan said.
It certainly will live on long into the future of the Patriots-Jets rivalry. It’s something New England fans just can’t seem to flush.