The New York Jets went to New England looking to make a statement.
They did. The wrong one.
A day after being embarrassed on national television, the Jets were wondering how everything went so wrong in a 45-3 drubbing on Monday night.
"It was the game of the year," a bloodshot-eyed coach Rex Ryan said Tuesday. "The unfortunate thing is I feel bad for ourselves, obviously, our fans and, really, the NFL. The NFL deserved a better game than that, but we weren't up to the task."
That was clear early in the Jets' most lopsided loss since falling to the Miami Dolphins in 1986 by the same score. New York was 10-1 at that point, and that defeat, along with injuries, sparked a five-game losing streak.
Ryan acknowledged that there's plenty the Jets (9-3) need to fix before their game Sunday against the Dolphins (6-6) to avoid a similar fate. He said he never left the facility after getting back from the game early Tuesday morning.
"We got pummeled, we played terrible, but it's one game," Ryan said. "Everything we talked about is still attainable."
Everything, meaning, a Super Bowl trophy — something Ryan guaranteed during training camp.
Ryan even evoked the 1985 Chicago Bears, a team whose defensive coordinator was his father, Buddy. That team lost its only game that season to Miami 38-24 on a Monday night in Week 13, a result Ryan said he thought "was probably just as humiliating, bad, all that kind of stuff on a national stage, maybe even as big or even bigger than this."
Ryan added that he hopes "history repeats itself" as the Bears went on to win the Super Bowl that season. And, despite his own team's lousy loss, Ryan is confident his guys can turn things around.
"We have a quarter of our season left," he said, "so we're far from pressing the panic button."
The same can't be said of some distraught fans who flooded sports radio shows with calls wondering if the Jets can possibly bounce back from this kind of loss. The performance was also heavily criticized by the media, with everyone from Ryan to Mark Sanchez to the vaunted defense getting clobbered.
"This humble pie tastes like a car tire and it goes down like peanut butter," defensive tackle Sione Pouha said after the game. "That's how it feels. Sunday can't come soon enough."
There will be lots to do in the days leading up to that, though. The players will gather as a team Wednesday morning, and Ryan said he'll address them at that point.
"I'll have a specific message," he said, "that I'll share with them first."
You can be sure there won't be many smiles in that room, nor should there be after what went down at Gillette Stadium.
"We really have to do some soul searching and see what we're really about, what type of team we want to be," wide receiver Brad Smith said. "I think we will be all right."
It couldn't get much worse than it did Monday, when there were serious breakdowns on offense, defense and special teams that Bill Belichick's team capitalized on each time.
"We couldn't have played much worse in all phases of the game," tight end Dustin Keller said.
Sanchez was off target all night, throwing three interceptions against a pass defense that ranked last in the league coming in. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and the Jets' offense also never really took advantage of the Patriots' young secondary.
"This was a good old-fashioned butt-kicking," Sanchez said. "There's no two ways around it. I need to play better, especially down the stretch."
With the Jets trailing 24-3, Sanchez's interception at the Patriots 2 early in the third quarter ended any comeback chance New York had. The rout was on after that.
On special teams, Nick Folk missed another field goal, falling short on a 53-yard attempt, and punter Steve Weatherford shanked a 12-yard punt that led to a score.
The Jets' defense, which Ryan has said will be ranked No. 1 at the end of the season, was picked apart by Tom Brady drive after drive. The Patriots scored on each of their first four possessions, taking a 21-point lead into halftime. It only got worse in the second half as the Jets appeared unable to stop or tackle anyone, including former teammate Danny Woodhead.
Other than Darrelle Revis, the secondary — already short-handed with the loss of Jim Leonhard — was exposed by Brady as Eric Smith struggled as Leonhard's replacement and Antonio Cromartie had probably his worst game with the team.
"We stunk up the joint on defense," Ryan said. "We stunk up the joint on offense, and we were probably worse on coaching."
Ryan and his staff had 10 days to prepare for the Patriots after last playing on Thanksgiving. It's the third time this season — including the opener and the game after the bye-week break — that the Jets have lost after an extended break.
"We should have tried everything but what we did," Ryan said. "We thought we had a great scheme, but the execution was poor. But, again, it's not all on the players. It's on the coaches, too."
The Jets now have lots to prove, especially considering that every win except for one against the Patriots in Week 2 has been against teams with .500 or worse records. After Miami, the Jets have games at Pittsburgh (9-3) and Chicago (9-3) before ending the regular season at home against Buffalo (2-10).
"Throw out last night," Ryan said. "We've got to try to rack up as many wins as we can."