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Jets’ Playoff Hopes End in Most Jets Way Possible

Quarterback Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets walks off the field after a play in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on December 17, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. It's just always a party when Sanchez is around.

In retrospect, this is probably the way the Jets season — or their playoff "hopes," at least — had to end all along. Not with an ungallant limp through the dregs of the AFC in the season's final three weeks, sneaking out 9–6 wins and cheering against Pittsburgh. No, it had to end with an explosion of ridiculousness, a final masterpiece, a rousing concerto of ineptitude, a cacophony of turnovers. The Jets were the most Jets who ever Jets'd last night.

The Jets lost to the Titans last night 14–10, ending any playoff chances they had, but "losing" feels like inadequate nomenclature for what the Jets did last night. They basically slammed their hand in a car door repeatedly for the entire country to see. It would have been sad if it hadn't been so hilarious.

The fourth quarter was the pièce de résistance of the Mark Sanchez era, and the question is less "Can the Jets continue with him as starter?" and more "So is Sanchez or Bubby Brister the better Jets quarterback punch line for the next decade-plus?" Let's track the glory.

First, with 7:22 left in the game and the Jets trailing 14–10, Sanchez dropped back on first-and-ten. Sanchez had already thrown two interceptions on the day, so you might have thought he would be particularly careful. Nope! He threw deep down the right sideline to Braylon Edwards, who was faced with the unfortunate circumstance of being covered by two people. No matter: Sanchez overthrew him anyway, and Titans safety Michael Griffin didn't so much intercept the pass as he did fair-catch it. Drive extinguished.

Second! The Jets are "driving" again right at the two-minute warning, having been bailed out by a somewhat questionable roughing-the-passer call. Sanchez, desperate on first-and-ten again — Mark! It's first-and-ten! You have several more downs! — heaved a horrible dead quail toward the Jets end zone. Edwards was the target again, and he was double covered again. This time, Griffin, a third Titan defender in on the play, had to leap to intercept the pass. Sanchez had made another terrible mistake, his fourth interception, and this time, it had to be over.

But nope! Fate shined on the Jets just enough to kick them in the collective groin. After a shanked punt with under a minute remaining, the Jets got the ball back with 47 seconds left. It would be one final chance for Sanchez to redeem himself. And this happened:

What's that line from L.A. Confidential? "I wouldn't trade places with Edmund Exley right now for all the whiskey in Ireland." Well, we wouldn't trade places with Mark Sanchez right now for all the whiskey in Ireland.

The Jets were officially eliminated from the playoffs with the loss, and the off-season is sure to bring its fair share of reckoning. (Though Sanchez has $8.25 million guaranteed for next season. Yep! Actually, now that we reconsider all that whiskey in Ireland ... ) But last night, the Jets reached another low in a season full of them. Might as well bask in this one while it's still fresh. We thought their Thanksgiving blowout was their masterpiece, but we were wrong; That game was too much of a blowout to be a true representation of the Jets. This is who they are. This is the pain they must bring their fans. It is, and probably always was, their destiny.

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Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images