Jets vs. Patriots: Can New York Turn Impressive Performances into Wins?

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IOctober 21, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 21:  Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets yells to the referees during the game against the New England Patriots on October 21, 2012 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

"Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." — Vince Lombardi

I wonder how he would feel about the 2012 New York Jets. The Jets are 1-3 in their past four games, yet the team may actually be improving. That skid started with a 34-0 letdown against the 49ers, and all three losses have come to teams that are considered among the most talented in the league.

Yes, there were letdowns in multiple phases of the game in the Jets' 29-26 overtime loss to the New England Patriots, but no one group deserves the blame, especially not quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Even after an impressive night going , the media will probably see his two turnovers—an underthrown ball that was intercepted and a sack fumble to end the game—and wonder whether it's Tebow time.

Those people clearly didn't watch as Sanchez made some great throws, some into very tight windows, and some big throws as well, picking up on the Patriots weakness of 20-plus-yard passing plays with six of his own.

He also delivered an incredible 14-play, 92-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to bring the game within three points..

He has helped elevate the level of play of wide receiver Jeremy Kerley, who has played well since wide receiver Santonio Holmes went down with an injury. The return of tight end Dustin Keller helped him, as well, with the two connecting seven times for 120 yards.

The Jets had chances to put the game away. Wide receiver Stephen Hill had a drive-killing drop on third down, where the Jets had to settle for a field goal when they had an opportunity to go up 27-23. The gift of Devin McCourty's late-game fumble gave the Jets another chance to end it, but they elected to stay conservative with their play-calling, settling for a field goal to take a 26-23 lead.

They have a lot to build on from this loss, and though there's no such thing as a moral victory, there is such thing as a constructive loss. What is there to build on?

Much like the Patriots they lost to, it comes down to execution late in games. For weeks, the Patriots have been unable to do so. The Jets weathered the early storm, and gave themselves a chance to beat the Patriots in the fourth quarter.

At 3-4, there chances at the playoffs are still not done yet—not in this mediocre division, or for that matter, conference. That being said, their upcoming tests could be the determining factor in how much longer their hopes stay alive. 

They still have games left against the Patriots, Jaguars and Bills, but the Jets don't face many defenses that will be as kind as those, either; the next three defenses on the schedule all rank in the top 10 in scoring.

As for elite offenses, the true tests are pretty much over; minus one more game against the Patriots and a contest against an underrated Bills offense, the Jets won't have to worry about getting into scoring slugfests in 2012.

The Jets don't face many tests as tall as what they've seen over the past four weeks, so if they can continue to play up to the level they've been capable of recently, the Jets should be able to compete with everyone they face.

But moral victories won't get them into the postseason. At some point, those will have to become tangible victories that the Jets can count in the win-loss column.


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.