FLORHAM PARK, NJ — New York Jets coach Robert Saleh got his ‘welcome to the rivalry’ moment a year ago this week in a 54-13 loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium — one one of the most lopsided losses in the franchise. story.
Saleh was hot, worried and salty, swearing twice in the post-match press conference, which is uncharacteristic for him. (He promptly apologized for the profanity.) He called it “an embarrassing…feeling of helplessness,” saying that they had “knocked their teeth out.” They were also insulted. Richard Seymour, a Patriot Hall of Fame inductee at halftime, gave a speech calling the Jets their “homecoming game”.
Shortly after Saleh’s squeaky comments, his tormentor – the man who also tormented his five predecessors – was celebrating cold on the pitch. Patriots coach Bill Belichick, while reporters with binoculars watched from above in the press box, along with assistant Matt Patricia, threw the brewery into an empty stadium. They roasted the Jets that day in different ways.
If Saleh “takes the receipts” as he suggested at the start of the season, he should take a picture of the moment (it’s on social media) and post it with “54-13” in the Jets conference room this week as they prepare for the meeting with the Patriots on Sunday at MetLife Stadium (1 pm ET, CBS). This is their shot.
After dominating for two decades, including the current 12-game losing streak, the hot Jets (5-2) have a chance to stop suffering, change the narrative, and exact revenge on the vulnerable Patriots (3-4).
“Yes, we have a good memory. It wasn’t that long ago,” defender Sheldon Rankins said with a smile, referring to 54-13. “Yes, we know about it. But at the same time, they’re the next team on the schedule, and they’re a division team. There is nothing better than starting 2-0 in the division.”
This defeat marked the worst point of Saleh’s first season. He took the Jets to 1-5 and began a period in which the defense was historically inept – 175 points in four games (1-3). The day after the loss to New England, Saleh hinted that Belichick had upped the scoring with a late-game pass. Saleh, in an Sportzshala New York radio interview, gave a typical “you have to stop them” response, but added, “Would I do it? Probably not, but to each his own.
Privately, players and coaches said they were annoyed. Of course, this was nothing new. Belichick held this opinion for years, beginning with the infamous January 2000 press conference when he resigned as “NY Jets CEO.” Since then, he’s been 34-10 against them, having won 15 of his last 16. And we’re talking a lot of breakouts. The average win margin during an active 12-game streak is 20 points. But it would be the first time the Jets had a better record than the Patriots since Week 12 of 2001, Tom Brady’s 10th start, according to Sportzshala statistics and information.
Brady’s departure didn’t change anything. In the post-Brady era, the Jets are 0-4 by minus 77 points.
“We could probably say that about 90% of the teams we’ve faced in the last 10 years were teams that had our number,” defenseman John Franklin-Myers said. “This is not the same team as last year. Everyone is a little more comfortable. The Patriots are a good team, but we are a good team too.”
As defender Vinnie Curry said: “Different energy, different vibe, different team.”
Naturally, Saleh will not participate in any “redemption” discussions this week. He called the Patriots “the gold standard of the AFC East for a very, very long time. They’re not going anywhere as long as Coach Belichick is there. They’re not going anywhere. They won’t disappear.”
However, they are no longer the same old patriots, as they were completely blown away by the Chicago Bears, 33-14, on Monday night in their home territory. For the first time since 2001, when Brady replaced an injured Drew Bledsoe, Belichick finds himself at odds with Mack Jones and Bailey Zappe.
Welcome to the real world, Bill.
The Jets’ last win of the series came on December 27, 2015, when quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hit wide receiver Eric Decker in overtime at Metlife Stadium. This put the Jets on the brink of the playoffs, but they missed that chance the following week in a loss to the Buffalo Bills.
The longest-serving member of the Jets, trucker Thomas Hennessy, was a junior at Duke at the time. None of the current roster has defeated the Patriots in Jets uniform.
“We can’t put 10-year or seven-year baggage on some of these young guys because some of our best players are rookies and sophomores,” said former defensive linesman Léger Douzable, a member of the 15th year team. team. “So technically they’re 0-2 against the Patriots, which is still terrible… but I don’t know if they feel it as much as CJ Mosley or Braxton Berrios, who has consistently lost to the Patriots over the past few years.”
The main difference between today and 54-13 is that the Jets have greatly improved their defense. During their current four-game winning streak, the Jets are second in defensive scoring (14 points per game) and fourth in yards allowed (298.5), raising their overall rating to 10th and 10th in the these categories. A year ago they were 32 in both.
“Electrician,” starting guard Sauce Gardner said of the defense.
Sunday will be a great barometer for second-year quarterback Zach Wilson, who experienced his worst day as a pro (four interceptions) in last season’s week 2 loss to the Patriots. He didn’t finish losing in Week 7 due to a knee injury. He’s been 4-0 since coming back from his last knee injury, though he’s struggled in the last two games – 42.2 overall QBR, about 10 points below the league average.
Belichick masterfully exploits the weakness of the quarterback, which makes this game an important statement for Wilson. The Jets went three straight games without a touchdown pass, according to Sportzshala Stats & Information research, becoming the first team since the 2016 Houston Texans to win three in a row that way.
Wilson is “a lot better than a year ago,” according to Saleh, who added, “I’m not sounding the alarm about passing yet.”
Saleh isn’t bothered by statistics, although a few numbers may be stuck in his memory this week: