Thursday night's 27-25 loss to the Patriots was Gang Green's finest outing of the season, an effort that saw the Jets go straight at New England's defense with a run-heavy attack that left its mark. One week after sputtering to 31 yards against the Broncos, New York slashed the Patriots for an outrageous 218 yards on the ground, the second most a Bill Belichick-coached team has allowed in Foxborough since 2002.
Through the air, Jets quarterback Geno Smith kept the gaffes to a minimum and threw the ball well enough to help New York craft scoring drives of 12, 12, 11, 10 and nine plays. In short, this was exactly what the Jets envisioned from this year's offense, but as Nick Folk's potential game-winning 58-yard field goal attempt tapped the hand of a Patriots defender and tumbled to earth, New York's season went with it.
No team in the league has faced a more brutal stretch of quarterbacks out of the gate, and New York's record reflects the tall test they were handed by the NFL's schedule-makers. Since their Week 1 win over the Raiders, Ryan's defense has dueled against Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady -- losing all six affairs.
Against Brady, Ryan succeeded early on Thursday night with the finest game plan possible: Keep the Patriots signal-caller off the field.
New York used a clock-chewing ground game to hold the ball for 22-plus minutes of the first half, but Smith and the Jets couldn't do enough with their red-zone opportunities. Gang Green ran 15 plays inside New England's 30-yard line over the first two quarters, but came away with zero touchdowns. New England, meanwhile, produced 17 first-half points in less than eight minutes.
Ryan remains one of the game's top defensive strategists, but a unit once littered with talent has bottomed out, giving up 28.5 points per tilt during New York's six-game losing streak. Rex saved his job last season by punching his way to an 8-8 mark, but this year's Jets have fallen too far to climb back into the light.
Everything we saw on Thursday night tells us that New York's roster still believes in their coach. They fought for him with zeal against the Patriots, but it wasn't enough -- and it won't be enough to extend Ryan's memorable tenure in Gotham beyond December.