Ugly loss 'hard to fathom' for Jets coach Rex Ryan

Associated Press
New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan reacts after quarterback Mark Sanchez fumbled and New England Patriots' Steve Gregory returned it for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game on Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
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NEW YORK (AP) — It was an embarrassing moment that has already been replayed thousands of times, and in many ways symbolized this increasingly awful season for the New York Jets.

There's Mark Sanchez running straight ahead on a busted play Thursday night — right into the backside of one of his offensive linemen. Sanchez lost the ball, the New England Patriots recovered it and took it into the end zone for one of three touchdowns in a 52-second span en route to a 49-19 thrashing of the Jets.

If you haven't seen it yet, it's all over YouTube — nearly 20,000 views in 15 hours — and will be included in pretty much every blooper reel from here on out.

"I'm not a big believer in luck," Sanchez said after the game, "but that was pretty unlucky."

That's the type of season this has been for the fading and fumbling Jets (4-7).

Rex Ryan was still trying to make sense of it all Friday morning, just hours after leaving MetLife Stadium following perhaps the worst loss in his nearly four seasons as Jets coach.

"It's still hard to fathom that one stretch," Ryan said during a conference call. "I've never seen anything like it in all my years of coaching football or following football."

Say this for Ryan, though: The guy is defiantly optimistic, no matter how silly or unrealistic it seems at the moment.

Sure, the Jets have lost four of their last five games and are barely holding on to their nearly impossible playoff hopes. But, Ryan believes his team might still be able to get this done, especially with their last five opponents all having losing records.

"I'm responsible for everything," Ryan said. "I'm responsible for the 4-7 record and I'm responsible for how we play. But I will say this: I'll also be responsible for how we finish, and I'm confident that we'll finish."

In reality, Ryan's bunch can forget about the playoffs for now. They'll have enough trouble even getting to .500 with the way they've played.

The heat has been turned up on Ryan, whose job appeared absolutely safe just a few weeks ago. Now, it could all depend on these last five games, and whether owner Woody Johnson regains confidence in him and general manager Mike Tannenbaum or decides to clean house.

Last season, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was the fall guy. Johnson might hold a few more people accountable this time around, Ryan included.

"I never thought we'd be in this position, but we are," Ryan said. "I have to get better right now and we have to get better, and I'm confident we will. We have five games left in the regular season, and I think that we will get better. I know we'll get better."

Ryan said he and Johnson spoke "briefly" but wouldn't elaborate on what was said. It surely wasn't positive, though. And, how could it be after the owner pushed to have his team showcased on Thanksgiving night for the second time in three years? Then, the Jets went out and allowed the most points to an opponent since giving up 52 in a season-opening loss to Miami in 1995.

Worse still, it came at the hands of the Jets' biggest rivals, the team Ryan appeared to have closed the gap on just two years ago. Now, it couldn't be wider — not that Ryan would acknowledge as much.

"They're an excellent football team," Ryan said. "But to say we'll never catch them, that's ridiculous. There is no chance, there is absolutely no percent of a chance that I believe that in my heart. And I'll never concede that."

This one was all about a few bad breaks, some unlucky moments and the Patriots taking advantage of them all.

"You turn the ball over five times, what do you expect the score to look like?" Ryan said. "That's it."

Ryan again gave a vote of confidence to Sanchez as the Jets' starting quarterback, something compounded by the fact Tim Tebow revealed he has two broken ribs. And, despite all the mistakes, Ryan insisted there were positives.

"I saw us making strides up until this game and even in this game," Ryan said. "I think our offense is improving, I really believe that."

In another example of how bizarre this season has been, Ryan spent more than half the 19-minute conference call answering questions about the backup quarterback who never played a snap in the game.

Tebow was active, but remained on the sideline — cap on and hands in his pockets — throughout as the Jets bumbled their way through the second quarter and impatient fans chanted his name. Turns out Tebow was hurt not last Sunday at St. Louis, but the previous Sunday at Seattle.

Initial X-rays after the game against the Seahawks were negative, and Tebow played against St. Louis and continued to experience soreness. The soreness intensified Tuesday morning, but Tebow was a full participant in practice that day. An MRI exam and CT scan Tuesday night revealed the fractures, and Ryan was informed that night.

Ryan made Tebow active for the game against the Patriots after speaking with him and the quarterback undergoing a pregame evaluation. Tebow also refused any pain-killing injections before the game. He took no snaps on offense or special teams, and third-stringer Greg McElroy was inactive — leaving the Jets with just one healthy quarterback in their biggest game of the season.

"I know Tim was cleared to play," Ryan said. "Obviously, if he was not cleared to play or if they thought he was in serious jeopardy to himself, then he never would have been activated."

But, it was a curious decision considering that Ryan also told offensive coordinator Tony Sparano and special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff that Tebow wasn't to be used unless it was an emergency. Apparently, 49-19 didn't qualify as such.

"People have played with cracked ribs," Ryan said. "It was never told to me that he could not play. It was just the opposite, that he could play. It was me that said, 'No, I'm not going to play him unless we absolutely have to.' Tim came to me, and he's like, 'I can play. I want to play.'"

Ryan acknowledged that he "considered" making McElroy active against the Patriots, but decided Tebow would be the guy to go in if necessary. Tebow said after the game that he is unsure how long he might be hindered by the injury, and Ryan would only say that "we'll see how the week progresses" as to whether McElroy might be the backup in the team's next game against Arizona on Dec. 2.

"He absolutely, 100 percent," Ryan said of Tebow, "could have played in that game."

NOTES: Ryan confirmed that WR Clyde Gates suffered a concussion against the Patriots. He had no other injury updates, although WR Chaz Schilens said after the game that he also had a head injury. ... LB Bart Scott, still dealing with a hyperextended big toe, played in only 11 defensive snaps and Ryan acknowledged that "we should have played him more."

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