<
>

It's over: Grinch and bear it, folks

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- In the crucible of the New York City championship, the Jets showed their ugly side. Rex Ryan lost his cool, Mark Sanchez lost his poise and Brian Schottenheimer lost his mind.

And the Jets lost their season.

Little Brother will be spending January at home.

Only a post-Christmas miracle can save the Jets, and, really, what's the point? They were stripped naked by the Giants, 29-14, their many flaws exposed before the packed green-and-blue house Saturday at MetLife Stadium.

They still have a remote chance to make the playoffs -- yeah, if they beat the Miami Dolphins and half the AFC loses -- but this loss had a finality to it. You felt it in the locker room. A couple of players already referred to the season in the past tense. Freudian, perhaps.

The most succinct and accurate description of what unfolded, at least from an offensive standpoint, came from Santonio Holmes -- and that's a bit scary because he's hardly the locker-room sage.

"After 15 weeks of watching us play a certain way, they came out with a few disguises and coverages, and confused us all," Holmes said of the Giants.

The Jets seemed confused, all right.

Despite Sanchez's struggles and the lack of pass protection, Schottenheimer abandoned the run in the second half and turned his quarterback loose. Schottenheimer took Ryan's Ground-and-Pound philosophy and punted it out of the stadium.

Sanchez finished with a career-high 59 attempts, including 31 in the second half. It was a one-possession game for most of the second half, yet Schottenheimer called pass plays on 35 of 47 snaps. It was hard to believe, and it wasn't like Sanchez was lighting up the place. He completed only three of 12 passes in the third quarter.

The most egregious sequence came with 5:39 remaining in the game, when the Jets, trailing 20-14, went three-and-out on three straight pass plays. Incomplete. Incomplete. Sack. And they had been running well; it made no sense.

Afterward, LaDainian Tomlinson was taken aback when told they had thrown it 59 times. He shook his head and paused several seconds before a few words fell off his lips.

"I don't know, that's a lot of throwing the football," he said, adding, "We pride ourselves on Ground and Pound. That's our philosophy. The last few weeks, we've done that. We're pretty good at it and pretty successful and putting points on the scoreboard. For whatever reason, we didn't do that today. I can't answer why."

He sounded like he wanted to say more.

At first, Ryan defended the pass-happy strategy, saying they "had to speed it up" because of the deficit. But that was a bunch of hooey, and the more he talked about it, the more he seemed to be second-guessing his offensive coordinator.

"We're really not built to play that game. ... We're not going to beat anybody throwing that many times," said Ryan, who was so aggravated after the game that he got into a heated confrontation on the field with Giants running back Brandon Jacobs.

Ryan responded with a firm "no" when asked if throwing that much, or even close to it, was part of the game plan. He said they wanted to emphasize the run, as usual, and try to exploit a couple of matchups in the Giants' mistake-prone secondary.

The Jets broke the Cardinal rule in football: They stepped outside their comfort zone -- in a big game, no less. They made it easy for the Giants, allowing them to utilize their strength -- the pass rush. They sacked Sanchez five times, including a fourth-quarter safety that pretty much ended it.

If Ryan decides to make Schottenheimer the scapegoat for a non-playoff season and fire him, this will be the game that sealed it. The Jets scored on their first possession, and the offense went into the witness protection program until midway through the fourth quarter when it scored on an 11-yard drive to make it 20-14.

Sanchez offered an unsolicited defense of Schottenheimer.

"Everybody is saying, 'Why didn't you run the ball? Why didn't you run the ball?' It's easy to say that now," he said. "We had just driven down the field, throwing the heck out of it. We were going with what was working. ... That's not fair to Schotty, because I thought he called a great game."

First of all, Sanchez (30-for-59, 258 yards) didn't throw the heck out of it. He was skittish in the pocket, admittedly missed open receivers, threw two interceptions and lost a fumble when he conspired with center Nick Mangold on a botched exchange on the Giants' 2-yard line.

Simply put, Sanchez didn't rise to the moment. He had two chances in the final six minutes to pull off his 10th fourth-quarter comeback, but there was no magic, not even close.

Sanchez completed more passes to Giants defenders (two) than his own receivers (none) on eight attempts that traveled at least 15 yards from the line of scrimmage, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He also had six passes batted down at the line. The Giants, knowing his penchant for throwing short and over the middle, got their arms up.

The Jets never adjusted. They converted only four of 21 on third down, and these weren't the Giants of Taylor, Carson and Banks. Since Week 11, their third-down defense was the lowest-ranked in the league.

"He got harassed a bunch, obviously," Ryan said of Sanchez. "There were times when he looked outstanding and other times not so much."

There were plenty of culprits. Holmes, coming off his awful game in Philadelphia, dropped two passes. Left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson struggled. The entire line struggled in pass protection.

"Just terrible," guard Matt Slauson said. "We're a lot better than that. We have better players than what we showed. We have better talent than what we showed. Just terrible."

Said Holmes: "We've been up and down all season."

A season that probably will end well short of Ryan's Super Bowl guarantee.