Jets suffer worse loss in team's history

EAST RUTHERFORD -- It was The Joker who once warned Gotham City, ``Wait till they get a load of me.'' In that same spirit, the Jets wanted to give the NFL, the New England Patriots, their fans, and themselves something to talk about Sunday.

And so they proceeded to suffer the worst home-opening loss in the 43-year history of the franchise.

And when their shower-soaked 44-7 pummeling at the hands of the defending Super Bowl champions was over, the Jets stumbled all over themselves trying to explain why this dark cloud of a loss won't rain on their parade.

``Forty-four to 7. That's horrible. Pathetic,'' said running back Curtis Martin. ``I'm disappointed because I know how we are and how we played today. We're a whole lot better than we played today.''

``We're all embarrassed right now, and it's still going to hurt tomorrow,'' said safety Sam Garnes. ``But we have to come back and get ready for next week. I'm definitely not worried at all.''

It's true that the Patriots (2-0) are better than the Bills, whom the Jets edged on the road last week, and in fact are better than many gave them credit for this season. As New England cornerback Otis Smith, the former Jet, said about how his team has now punctured the pretensions of two AFC contenders to their throne: ``We aim to please.''

Yet many Gang Green fans have thrown out the figurative red flag, signifying a replay challenge of the optimism the Jets had been preaching in the second year of the Herman Edwards era. That's because the Patriots thumped them in every phase Sunday.

Offense: The West Coast scheme was caught in rush hour on a Los Angeles freeway. Martin clearly was not his chipper self in gaining 5 yards rushing and 20 from scrimmage on his sprained left ankle.

And Vinny Testaverde struggled to engineer drives against the Patriots' constantly shifting alignments. He generated 200 yards of offense and converted just one of 12 third downs. He completed only two passes to wide receivers, none until less than four minutes remained in the third quarter.

``I'm not saying I was confused, but that's their philosophy -- they move a lot of people around,'' Testaverde said. ``Their defense is doing a lot of things and doing it well.''

The coup de grace came on two horrendous turnovers in an 11:09 span of the third period.

Early on, safety Tebucky Jones came untouched on a well-disguised blitz to Testaverde's blind side, forcing a pocket fumble that he took 24 yards for a touchdown that made it 17-0.

Then later, Testaverde gave Victor Green sweet revenge for being turned loose by the Jets in the off-season. In a throw reminiscent of the interception he threw to Baltimore's Chris McAlister(CQ) in the 2000 finale, Testaverde rifled a long out intended for Richie Anderson that Green jumped on and took 90 yards for the TD that made it 27-0.

``I don't think we were confused,'' coordinator Paul Hackett said. ``They had a better day than we did. You have to look at it that way and move on.''

Defense: The unit with all the new starters sprang leaks everywhere that had nothing to do with the weather. Tom Brady had plenty of time to complete 25 of 35 passes because for only the second time under Edwards, the Jets had no sacks. ``The pash rush,'' Edwards said, ``needs work.''

And the Patriots' offensive razzle-dazzle paid off when Brady faked one handoff into the line and another on an end-around before finding David Patten wide open for a 39-yard pass that set up the game's first score, a 1-yard Brady toss to tight end Cam Cleeland.

``I put my nose in where it didn't belong,'' said Garnes, who earlier forced a goal-line fumble by Troy Brown but this time stepped up on the pseudo-end-around, ``and they beat me.''

All that was possible because the front seven's supposedly improved run-stopping capability was pounded by the Pats' ground game for 163 yards on 40 carries.

``You try to push more than you get shoved,'' said defensive tackle Larry Webster, coming back from his strained quad tendon to make his official Jets debut. ``Today we got shoved a lot.''

Special teams: Not even Chad Morton could save this one. The hero of Buffalo was contained to 171 yards on seven returns -- and even took an accidental forearm shiver from Pats linebacker coach Pepper Johnson, another of the many former Jets peppering the visitors' sideline. Santana Moss had one punt return for 18 yards.

The unit's highlight came when, late in the third quarter, Matt Turk took off on a fake punt for 14 yards. That underscored the Jets' desperation, since it was their first rushing first down of the game and Turk's 14 yards led all Jets rushers.

Home-field advantage: All the talk about banners, uniforms, and locker rooms provided no discernible spark. The last time the Jets trailed by more than 37 points was the 1995 season opener, when they lost at Miami, 52-14. The last time they trailed by more at home was in the 1976 season finale -- Joe Namath's last game as a Jet -- when they fell to Cincinnati, 42-3.

The last time they trailed by more in a home opener was never.

``I thought we'd play a lot better than this,'' said Edwards ``I thought we prepared for them very well and they felt prepared. We didn't do it today. ... Obviously, this is a game that can take your confidence away if you let it. What we have to do is get our players' confidence back and get ready for Miami.''

``It's definitely a wakeup call,'' said Testaverde. ``We're talking like this is a playoff game and we just got knocked out. The truth is, it's the second game and there's a lot of football left to be played. We'll bounce back. We'll try to bounce back.''

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