Rex Ryan arrived in New York four years ago promising -- with colorful, I-didn't-come-here-to-kiss-Bill-Belichick's-rings language -- to put an end to the Jets' role of nail to the Patriots' hammer. And for a while, he delivered.
There was New York's upset victory over New England at the Meadowlands in 2009 in Ryan's second game as coach. Then there was the Jets' playoff win in Foxboro the following season, Ryan's third conquest of Belichick in five meetings . . . and one which propelled his team to its second straight AFC Championship Game.
The Jets would lose that AFC title game, just as they did the year before, and it's been mostly downhill since then. And on a mild Thanksgiving night at MetLife Stadium, the ride may have come to an end, if not now then certainly at the end of the season, for Rex Ryan . . . at the hands of the man whose rings he hadn't come to kiss.
Belichick's Patriots humiliated Ryan's self-destructing Jets on national television, taking advantage of four New York turnovers and scoring three touchdowns in a span of 52 seconds in the second quarter as they raced out to a 35-3 halftime lead. The eventual 49-19 pounding probably ended the Jets' playoff hopes and may have sealed Ryan's fate.
Owner Woody Johnson has already expressed his displeasure at how New York's season has unfolded, and Thursday night's outcome -- which drops the Jets' record to 4-7, four games behind the 8-3 Pats with five to play -- could mean the end of the reign of Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum. A new era will begin, replacing one that started so promisingly back in '09.
And ended so horribly in '12.
The carnage began in routine enough style, with a two-yard scoring pass from Tom Brady to Wes Welker on the first play of the second quarter capping a six-minute, 15-play, 84-yard drive that gave New England a 7-0 lead. The Jets drove into Patriots territory on their next possession, but -- in a harbinger of things to come -- the Pats stuffed Bilal Powell on a fourth-and-one from the 31 and Powell coughed up the football. It rolled a little more than 10 yards and Steve Gregory recovered on the 17.
What followed was the most amazing 52 seconds of this long and sometimes bitter rivalry:
On the next play, Brady hit Shane Vereen with a screen pass in the left flat and -- amazingly -- Vereen raced untouched 83 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. Speaking on CSNNE.com's Web-only halftime show, ex-Patriots star Troy Brown said he'd never seen, at any level of football, a player run 80 yards on a swing pass out of the backfield without anyone laying a hand on him.
On the second play of the next series, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez tried to make something of a broken play by taking the ball himself up the middle. But he ran into the backside of his own guard, Brandon Moore, fumbled, and Gregory scooped the ball and raced 32 yards for a touchdown.
Then, on the ensuing kickoff, Joe McKnight lost the ball at the 20-yard line when he was hit by Devin McCourty. Julian Edelman plucked it out of the air and ran it in from 22 yards out.
In 52 seconds, the Patriots had increased their lead from 7-0 to 28-0. They would make it 35-0 when Brady found Edelman behind the Jets' secondary for a 56-yard touchdown with 3:08 to play in the half.
Game. Set. Match.
There were still 33 minutes or so to go, and the Jets managed to score the next 12 points to regain a little self-respect at 35-12 in the third quarter. That self-respect disappeared when the Pats scored twice in the final period, on a one-yard sneak by Brady (capping an 87-yard drive) and a nine-yard run by Stevan Ridley (after yet another Jets fumble) to make it 49-12. New York scored one final TD for the 49-19 final.
When it was over, it was hard to remember a time -- and just two years ago, no less -- when these Jets were considered to be not only the Patriots' equal, but even their successors as the powers of the AFC East.
It was fun while it lasted. But in the end, the hammer always wins.