I know that I’m simply a community sports editor, but I’m sure that the Fairfield community was heavily invested in the Patriots vs. Jets game yesterday in Foxborough. I know my friends (who are all either Pats or Jets fans) were, and me being a Giants fan, and a naturally neutral observer, developed some thoughts.
1.) The present-day Pats are the early 2000s Yankees. Look at the regular season records. The similarities are eerie, right down to the 2001 Yankees and 2007 Patriots both blew championship games in the Arizona valley. The 2004 Yankees and 2011 Pats both gagged at home to their staunchest (and loudest) rivals after memorable regular season meetings. Both teams had (or have had) regular season success and unmitigated playoff failings. The Pats haven’t won a playoff game during the Obama administration and in that span, the Jets are 4-1 in the playoffs.
2.) The Jets tackling saved the day. The Pats tried to dink and dunk the ball down the field, and guys like Eric Smith, who had been a goat since taking over for Jim Leonhard at safety in week 13, saved the day. The Jets pressured Tom Brady and, more imporatntly, got him to the ground five times. As a fan, you always hold your breath when Brady drops back to pass, knowing that the big play is always possible. The Jets secondary kept the big play from happening, and their tackling made sure the small plays were not big ones.
3.) Mark Sanchez is a gamer. He makes some throws that make you scream, but when it matters, he makes plays. That is a cliche, but cliches are true for a reason. He made the throw to Braylon Edwards last week on the Jets’ final drive, and he made a huge connection with Jerricho Cotchery when the Pats had crept back into the game at 14-11. He’s inaccurate at times, and young at times, but he’s only in his second year, and has twice led his team to the AFC Championship Game. That has to count for something.
4.) Rex Ryan outcoached Bill Belichick. There’s no disputing this. Pats fans can’t even argue it. Belichick’s decision to fake punt in the waning seconds of the first half was inexcusable. The Pats’ offense’s inability to move any faster on their now infamous seven-minute drive in the fourth quarter was due to the Jets executing Ryan’s game plan. Even the Jets “faked injuries” served as gamesmanship and kept the Pats offense from controlling tempo. Ryan wanted the pressure on him all week, and he backed it up. There’s no disputing that.
Which leads me to wonder…
5.) What has happened to Belichick? He was the mad scientist, whose teams always showed up in playoff games and outworked and outexecuted teams, especially in crunch time. Now he’s been twice outcoached at home in winnable playoff games in successive years. Maybe the Pats team wasn’t that good this year, but they won Super Bowls being “not that good” and outworking teams. Do you honestly mean to tell me that five years ago if the Pats were down 14-11 with one quarter to win a home playoff game they wouldn’t have done it? No.
Maybe this is just a function of the NFL playoffs, and anything CAN happen in one game, but something is clearly amiss in Patriot nation.
6.) Jets fans shouldn’t get cocky. I don’t know if any of the ones who have suffered through the years will, but the win over the Pats is just the beginning. They were in this situation a year ago and lost. The real celebration comes if the Jets can exorcise the demons of three AFC Championship losses, including two in which they’ve had a halftime lead. The Jets can be confident that they’ve beaten the Steelers this year at Heinz Field, but anything can happen in one game.