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With Opportunity at Hand, Jets Fall Face-First

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 13:   Andre Carter #93 of the New England Patriots celebrates with  Mark Anderson #95 after a sacking  Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets  at MetLife Stadium on November 13, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

If the Jets can take any solace from their 37-16 belly-flop loss to the Patriots last night — and there is not much solace to be taken — it is that there were no major injuries, no coaches collapsed and died on the sidelines, and nothing inside MetLife Stadium appeared to catch on fire, at least as far as we could tell. Other than that: It was a disaster in every possible fashion. It was so bad that afterward coach Rex Ryan joked that he should "guarantee that we're out of it," like he famously did two years ago, before the Jets went on their AFC Championship run. The Jets came in with a chance to clinch the AFC East and potentially run toward a number one seed in the conference. Now there is gallows humor. Rough game.

It's difficult to pinpoint precisely what went wrong for the Jets last night. The offensive line had its worst game of the year, the secondary seemed to tire as the game went along, and Mark Sanchez once again looked closer to being part of the problem than part of the solution. (Including being involved in what Ryan called, in a phrase that's already infamous,"the stupidest play in football history.") But mostly, the Jets were outcoached, outmaneuvered, outprepared: With the chance to, at last, take control of the AFC East, the Jets were constantly befuddled by everything Bill Belichick and the Patriots were doing. And when the game started to get away from them, the Jets didn't do much to try to grab it back.

It was as discouraging as a football game gets, really. Ryan couldn't hide his despair after the game.

"It's just tough. They beat us twice [this season]. We think we're as good as they are, but clearly we're not. We weren't today, that's for sure. We've been down this road before. I apologize to our fans. I thought our fans were ready to go, just like we were. It's disappointing.''

Those two Patriots wins over the Jets are what now guarantee that Rex Ryan's team, if it makes the playoffs at all, will once again be doing it on the road, just like the last three seasons. To win the division, the Jets will have to go undefeated and the Pats will have to lose twice, and considering the Pats' schedule, that's not happening. The Jets are still in position to make the playoffs, even with a short-week game on the road against a suddenly inspired Broncos team. But catching the Patriots? Not a chance. The Jets will have to do it the hard way. Again.

Photo: Nick Laham/2011 Getty Images