When a team is as baldly self-promotional as the Jets have been for the last eight-odd months, losses seem less like defeats than fundamental refutations, betrayals, evidence of an inherent hypocrisy: We noticed that the reaction to the Jets’ 10-9 loss to the Ravens last night was similar to the reaction to a moral-values politician caught fooling around on his wife. The Jets thought they were so good … they clearly lied to us!
It’s worth noting, as we sift through the wreckage of a more-devastating-in-theory-than-in-practice loss, that the Jets’ defense played well enough to win last night. Had it not been for a pass interference call at the end of the first half, they might have kept the Ravens — an offense that’s supposedly dramatically improved this year — out of the end zone entirely. New Raven Anquan Boldin found a few weak spots, perhaps because Darrelle Revis was not covering him, and those penalties were consistently infuriating, but on the whole, the defense was all Rex Ryan could have hoped for. If the Jets hold every team all season to ten points, they will have given up the least points in a sixteen-game season in NFL history. Ten points should be enough to win.
But they weren’t, because the Mark Sanchez issue has clearly not been resolved. The Ravens defense is fearsome — we’re pretty certain Ray Lewis may have put a permanent hole in Dustin Keller — but Sanchez hasn’t looked this lost and disoriented since his lowest moments last season. The offensive line sprang several leaks — the Jets has six first downs last night. Six! — and it’s of note that LaDainian Tomlinson had six more carries than Shonn Greene. The Ravens make a lot of offenses appear worse than they are. But Sanchez’s performance and demeanor last night are of serious concern. He looked like a man who had no desire to be playing quarterback last night; he looked, if you’ll forgive us here, a little like Matt Leinart. He looked like someone deflated. In Week One.
It is just one game, of course, and it only counts once, even with the Patriots looming, smelling blood, next week. The Jets have plenty of time to figure out their offense; you won’t remember much about this game come November. Just because the Jets lost doesn’t make everyone involved with the organization liars and hypocrites. It just means that it’s extremely difficult to win football games. But the air of invincibility that Ryan and the Jets were trying to foster, that brash big-swinging-dick arrogance, the it-ain’t-braggin’-if-you-can-back-it-up bravado, that vanished rather quickly. And when it comes to Sanchez, braggadocio is the least of the worries; Ryan and Co. need to get him back looking as if he likes football again. It’ll take more than one week to get it all back. It only took one night to lose it.