Any team with aspirations — yes, still — is supposed to beat the winless , at home, on national television, against a backup quarterback. Anything less and expect a vulture convention this week in Florham Park. The film from the will not be packaged and sold as an instructional video for budding Darrelle Revises or Mark Sanchezes. At least, it shouldn’t be.
But if the Jets remain intent on pursuing New England and Buffalo in the A.F.C. East — — they can take solace in knowing that they are not the worst team in the division, a distinction that before Miami visited MetLife Stadium seemed at least open to debate. The Jets had lost their last three games, all on the road, all against playoff-caliber teams, and looked miserable doing so. A fairer evaluation of the Jets may or may not come next week, when the San Diego Chargers (4-1) arrive.
“It’s kind of a relief, but it’s bittersweet because we never should have put ourselves in this position,” said guard Matt Slauson.
On Monday, it was not that they played much better; it was that they happened to play better than the Dolphins, who failed to defeat Coach Rex Ryan in New Jersey for the first time.
In the first half, the Jets’ offense compiled as many yards as Revis did on his 100-yard interception return, a sprint that energized a sagging team and a lethargic crowd, and that in a few weeks could be remembered— maybe, just maybe — as the play that reversed their fortunes.
“This was key for us,” Revis said. “Losing, especially in this business, it’s tough. It’s hard during the week. It’s hard coming to work. It leaves a nasty taste in your mouth. And we wanted to get this win.”
Against the 31st-ranked pass defense, Sanchez threw for 5 yards in the first quarter, then 196 over the final three, finishing 14 for 25 with a touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes and, for the second consecutive game, no interceptions.
Ryan’s face puckered in mock disbelief last week when asked if he would have trouble motivating his players against an 0-4 team. “We look in the mirror and we see 0-3,” said Ryan, referring to the Jets’ past three games. Still, nothing was left to chance.
On Sunday night at the Jets’ hotel, the fighter Frankie Edgar addressed the team for the second time in 10 months.
“This year kind of hit home a lot more,” guard Matt Slauson said. The team watched an Edgar fight in which “he was getting killed so much that it was amazing he could even still stand.”
“And then he just kept on fighting and kept on fighting, and ended up getting a knockout,” Slauson said. “That’s kind of where we’re at. We’ve been on the verge of being knocked out and guys just keep on battling.”
Knocked out — in the figurative sense, Slauson meant. The squabbling in the Jets’ locker room reached a climax Friday, when guard Brandon Moore expressed his frustration with another round of critical comments made by Holmes. The next day, Ryan preached unity during a team meeting. He also spoke individually with Holmes and Moore.
“We had to get some things off our chest,” Ryan said.
If this football thing does not work out for Ryan, he might have a future in international relations. His decision to send out only Moore and Holmes for the coin toss, a ploy dubbed “awesome” by Sanchez, doubled as a peacekeeping mission.
“That was just a coincidence,” Ryan said, laughing.
“That’s over with,” Moore said.
“That was last week,” Holmes said.
And so it was, but this week, the Jets’ offensive problems still loomed large. In hopes of resuscitating the 28th-ranked unit, Ryan elected to receive the ball.
The Jets were not asking for much — just a quick start from their offense. On second thought, that is asking for a lot. A group that professed to notice improvement toward the end of the Oct. 9 game in New England opened the contest in precisely the same way, by going three-and-out on its first four possessions. For the quarter, it amassed 10 yards — 163 fewer than the Dolphins.
“There was tension a little bit to kind of get going,” LaDainian Tomlinson said. “We didn’t want to fall behind.”