FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — This is the sad state of affairs at which this Jets season arrived Sunday afternoon about halfway through their 30-14 loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
As apathy set in on this spiraling Jets’ season, sympathy set in on the Patriots’ sideline.
It was fourth-and-one from the Jets 41-yard line and 40 seconds remained before halftime with New England in complete control of the game, up 20-0.
And the Patriots punted.
The Patriots, who make a living scoring points inside the two-minute warning, never punt in those situations.
But this was different, because there was no threat coming from on the other sideline.
The Jets took the field with such an undermanned and inferior team Sunday — playing their third-string quarterback, playing without their top two linebackers and No. 1 draft pick defensive lineman — they probably should have just canceled the game on account of no competition.
This more resembled a Patriots scrimmage against the jayvee than an actual NFL game.
This is why the Patriots, with a chance to take a 24-0 or 27-0 lead into the locker room at halftime, punted: Because they knew they didn’t need those added points.
The Jets’ anemic offense didn’t come close to scoring a point, advancing the ball across the 50-yard line only twice in the game and accumulating a total of 105 yards of offense. The Jets had 13 offensive possessions and punted 10 times, had one drive end at the end of the first half, another on an interception and one on a failed fourth down.
The Jets only points came from special teams and defense. New England punt returner Gunner Olszewski muffed a punt into the end zone, where cornerback Arthur Maulet recovered it for a TD. And Jets safety Jamal Adams scored on a 61-yard return after picking off a pass by New England backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
Both were garbage-time scores with zero bearing on the final outcome.
With Luke Falk making his first NFL start at quarterback in place of Sam Darnold, who’s still sidelined with mononucleosis, the Jets were so non-competitive across the board it makes you wonder how much of a difference Darnold really will make whenever he returns.
The 0-3 Jets’ problems run much deeper than simply being without the starting quarterback.
Anyone who thinks Darnold’s return, whether it’s on Oct. 6 (following this coming week’s bye) against the Eagles or after that, is going to turn this season around must also think one or all of the following three things:
- The defending Super Bowl champion Patriots (3-0) are due for an extended losing streak that will doom their pursuit of a 15th AFC East title in 16 years.
- Patriots coach Bill Belichick this week is going to open a vein to the media and spill his emotions about how much be believed in Antonio Brown and how hurt his feeling are is that it didn’t work out for him in New England.
- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is going to divorce Gisele Bundchen for Roseanne Barr.
- The Jets offense was putrid, and a damning indictment of head coach Adam Gase’s reputation as an offensive guru.
“Offensively, we were atrocious … as bad as you can get,’’ Gase said. “We’ve got a lot to fix going into the bye. We’re going to have to address all of these issues that we are having right now. I never thought I would say, ‘Week 4 bye week, I’m glad it’s here,’ but we’ve got to address some things.
“We’ve got to figure out what’s going on. We’re not in sync. We’re not doing a good job of working together. We’re kind of all over the place.’’
The worst of the Jets was the offensive line, the one unit that is not ravaged by injuries. And that’s damning. The line, the one unit that was playing at full strength, could not have blocked Pee Wee Herman if he had been in a Patriots uniform, allowed five sacks and opened no holes in the running game, which averaged 1.8-yards per carry.
Le’Veon Bell, the Jets only hope on offense, was hit at or behind the line on scrimmage on almost every touch, finishing with 35 rushing yards on 18 carries.
“We’re all responsible for the outcome of this,’’ guard Brian Winters said. “We all take blame. Obviously, it starts up front.’’
Center Ryan Kalil called the entire mess “frustrating,’’ adding, “They’re just a more disciplined team than our players.’’
The Jets were an unthinkable 0-for-12 on third-down conversions.
“Yeah, that’s not ideal,’’ Kalil said. “Not a formula for winning football games.’’
Truer words were not spoken on this day.