EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As the winner of the first annual MetLife Bowl, the New York Jets received a rather large Snoopy trophy. Rex Ryan played along during the postgame presentation, gushing as he held the hardware. He said he'd keep it on his desk.
Anybody familiar with the football landscape in New York -- the entire country, really -- knows that Ryan is all about one trophy, and we're not talking about an iconic cartoon character. It's the Vince Lombardi Trophy. It's Super Bowl or bust for the Jets, who reminded us all Monday night that the road to a championship is long and twisting.
The Jets' offense, so explosive the previous week against the Cincinnati Bengals, was badly out of sync in their 17-3 victory over the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. In seven possessions, the Mark Sanchez-led unit managed only one shining moment, a 17-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes. Otherwise, there were five punts, one turnover (a Sanchez fumble) and a bunch of uh-oh moments.
It's too soon to say the Jets are destined to be a one-trophy team in 2011 -- a lonely Snoopy, no Lombardi -- but the sloppy performance served as a cautionary tale: You can't rebuild your receiving corps in the span of a few weeks and expect fireworks every time out.
"When we put all our games together, I'm pretty [sure] it's going to be difficult for a lot of teams to play against us," Holmes said. "But we've got a long way to go."
Each week, they spring a new leak. In the first game, it was shoddy pass protection. In the second game, there was no running game. Against the Giants, the best defensive team the Jets have faced, they couldn't throw the ball with any consistency.
Sanchez (8-for-16, 64 yards), under pressure at times, couldn't get the ball to his wide receivers. In fact, he completed only four balls to Holmes, Derrick Mason and Plaxico Burress -- and that included a big, fat zero to Burress. He targeted Burress four times, and the lack of timing was evident.
"No, if anything it was me," said Sanchez, taking the blame like any good quarterback would. "It was just me missing throws."
Sanchez & Co., which played into the third quarter, converted only 1-for-8 on third downs. Burress said the Giants showed some defensive looks they didn't expect to see. Their only touchdown drive was really a gimme, set up by Antonio Cromartie's 68-yard kickoff return. The Jets started at the Giants' 35, and even they couldn't mess that up.
When they finally put together a long drive, a 42-yard march out of their three-receiver package to start the second half, the Jets stalled because of a senseless unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on right tackle Wayne Hunter. He took a swing at linebacker Jonathan Goff. That, a few players said, was the biggest mistake of the night.
Holmes said it was "uncalled for ... a silly foul." Hunter agreed that it was a "stupid" play, but he didn't apologize, saying he was protecting right guard Brandon Moore.
"Any good tackle would've done the same thing," said Hunter, trying to rationalize his actions.
The problem was, the Jets did a lot of dumb things. They were called for five personal-foul penalties, racking up a total of seven flags for 79 yards. The most egregious brain lock came from rookie defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, who exchanged punches with running back Brandon Jacobs, resulting in a double ejection.
Surprisingly, Ryan didn't seem too bothered by the rookie's faux pas, saying, "I can understand it because I think both guys swung at each other. Our guy swung second. He swung hard, but he swung second."
Ryan was in a half-full mood after the game, refusing to criticize anyone or anything. Maybe he was awed by the presence of the Snoopy trophy. (That's sarcasm, by the way.) Ryan gave Sanchez a free pass: "I was happy with the way Mark played. He avoided the rush and ran the ball some. I was happy to see that."
No coach wants to see his quarterback running for safety, but the point Ryan was trying to make was this: Sanchez avoided trouble, didn't take any sacks and didn't force any panic-stricken throws into coverage.
"I showed a little progress from last year," said Sanchez, referring to his check-down throws to the backs and ability to escape pressure.
Because the starters won't play in Thursday night's finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sanchez's preseason is done. Let it be known that he made it through with no interceptions and three touchdown passes. He lost a fumble when "the ball slipped out of my hand like an idiot. You don't want to put that on tape. That's embarrassing."
The starting offense ran 32 plays, only one of which was truly memorable -- the Holmes touchdown.
Actually, Burress was the first option, but he drew double coverage, drawing safety Kenny Phillips toward him in the right slot. Holmes, who went in motion to the right, was singled up against Corey Webster and he beat him with a post route to the back of the end zone.
Burress said the Giants appeared "discombobulated" on the play. Actually, the Jets were discombobulated for most of the night, offensively. File this one under "Growing pains."