FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — It’s an annual tradition. Each autumn, people flock to the New England region to see the colorful foliage. Leaves aren’t the only things that fall up there. So do the New York Jets.
The Jets have dropped 10 consecutive regular-season games in the House of Hoodie, a decade of frustration interrupted by one shining moment — their memorable victory over the New England Patriots in the 2010 AFC divisional playoffs. “Can’t Wait!” — Bart Scott’s celebrated postgame rant — has turned into “Can’t Win!”
“It makes your hatred for them a little bit more because it’s so one-sided, and you really want to beat them,” Leonard Williams said Thursday. “It’s really annoying when I think about it.”
The Jets’ roster is filled with players, young and old, who have suffered Patriots-induced misery throughout their careers. A total of 37 players on the 53-man roster have played at least one game against New England (home or away), either with the Jets or another team. Their aggregate record in those games is 13-132, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Overall, the Jets have lost 14 of their past 16 to the Patriots. Only four players have defeated the Patriots in a Jets uniform — Williams (1-7), Brian Winters (2-6), Bilal Powell (2-7) and Rontez Miles (1-6). Players such as Robby Anderson, Jordan Jenkins, Darryl Roberts and Brandon Shell — all 0-6 — don’t know what it’s like to defeat a Bill Belichick-coached team.
The Jets (0-2) will try to break the trend on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS), but it will take an upset for the ages. The Jets are listed as a 23-point underdog, the league’s largest point spread in six years.
“It’s been tough,” Anderson said. “Usually, when we play them, it’s late in the year. Our hopes are down and we know we’re not going to the playoffs, so collectively the players on the team in the past, they were already clocked out. This year is a little bit different. We have the whole year ahead of us. It’s early in the year and we’re a little more fresh. I’m just itching to get that win.”
The past three trips to Gillette Stadium were humiliating, as the Jets were outscored 105-12 — four field goals, no touchdowns. Other than an overtime victory at home in December 2015 — remember Eric Decker’s catch in the corner of the end zone? — they have been no match for the six-time Super Bowl champions. The Jets haven’t posed a consistent challenge since the early days of the Rex Ryan era — he won three of his first five against the Patriots, including the playoff game.
“Your mentality is, you have to go in there like you’re in a fistfight,” Ryan said. “That has to be your mentality. I used to tell our guys, ‘Don’t take any crap off those guys. None. I don’t care what that means. By any means necessary.'”
Ryan hated the Patriots’ demeanor.
“You know what ticked me off is they thought they were better than you, better than us, not just as a team, but they thought they were doing something special, they were a better organization,” Ryan said. “That pissed me off, man. The Patriot Way. I was like, the Jet Way is to beat the hell out of you.”
Ryan’s successor, Todd Bowles, went 1-7 against the Patriots. Now it’s Adam Gase’s turn. When he met with the players for the first time in April, he told them he took the job, in part, because of his desire to dethrone the Patriots. As the Miami Dolphins‘ coach, he defeated Belichick in two of six meetings, so at least he’s had a taste of victory.
“I mean, you’re talking about a coach that’s basically one of the innovators of defensive football,” Gase said of Belichick.
Ryan experienced some success because he had “a bunch of guys like me, that wanted to kick their ass.” It’ll be interesting to see if Gase’s team brings that junkyard-dog mentality to the game. Because of injuries and suspensions, the Jets will be down as many as seven starters, including quarterback Sam Darnold. Third-stringer Luke Falk, elevated last week from the practice squad, will make his first NFL start.
It looks bleak, but this will test the Jets’ resilience. Gase wants to build a team that can overcome adversity. Sunday could provide more than he would like.
“It’s never about talent, it’s about executing damn near perfectly against them,” said Miles, trying to describe the secret sauce. “They’re not a team that’s going to beat you with talent and speed. They’re stacked this year — they have a good roster — but even in the past, they weren’t a more talented roster [compared] to us, but they played sound football.”
Steve McLendon (1-8) said, “We can’t make any mistakes. Zero. We almost have to play perfect.”
Even when the games are close, the Jets usually find a way to lose. When the pressure is on, the Patriots excel. No one knows that better than Brian Poole and John Franklin-Myers, both of whom lost to New England in tight Super Bowls. Poole played for the Atlanta Falcons, Franklin-Myers for the Los Angeles Rams.
“Yeah, it hurt for a while,” Franklin-Myers said, looking back at last season’s Super Bowl. “But getting a chance to come to this division, I get a chance to play them twice a year. It kind of lights that fire. Now I’m looking forward to playing them because I get that chance at revenge.”
If the Jets make this about redemption, they’ll be paying back for eternity.