Think back to Week 2 of the 2013 season on Thursday Night Football, when the New York Jets traveled to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough and suffered a three-point defeat.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was held to just 185 yards and one touchdown in the victory, while Jets rookie Geno Smith was sacked four times en route to a three-interception performance, fully negating a total 129 rushing yards on the ground.
Plenty of excuses were likely thrown around at the time in New England's favor. After all, Brady was without star tight end Rob Gronkowski, No. 1 wideout Danny Amendola and running back Stevan Ridley. Other factors were at play too, but the absence of Gronk and Ridley were huge focal points for New England.
Well guess what?
Gronkowski and Ridley were back in Week 7 and the Jets welcomed them to New York with open arms before sending them home with a 30-27 loss. It was a victory marred with a controversial penalty call in the closing moments, but a victory nonetheless.
Not only did New York prove it was much better than a few weeks ago, but it also showed the Jets are no longer the bottom-feeding circus team in the AFC East.
Rather, the Jets could be well on their way to the playoffs.
Laugh away, but that's twice now the Jets have forced Tom Brady to complete less than 50 percent of his passes and held him to less than 250 yards passing. Heck, it's the second time the Jets have held the Patriots under 300 total yards.
While far from the impressive feat it used to be, Rex Ryan's defense held Brady without a touchdown pass on Sunday. To date, only two quarterbacks have thrown for two or more scores on the elite Jets defense.
No running back has found enough space to reach the 100-yard mark on the ground this year, not to mention the 75-yard mark.
As Kimberly Jones of NFL Network reports, Smith and Co. have loftier goals than a simple victory over the Patriots this season:
This is a Jets team with bigger aspirations than a Week 7 win vs. Pats. Geno Smith tells me after win, "We're going back to work tomorrow."— Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) October 20, 2013
Smith and the Jets have every right to aim higher, especially when Smith continues to impress with throws such as this:
While Smith was not the most efficient player in the world on Sunday, including a 17-of-33 tally and an ugly interception that was returned for a touchdown, his excellent pocket presence paired with timely runs has put the 2013 edition of the Jets over the edge.
In no way are Smith's numbers sexy (he's not even completing 60 percent of his passes). They probably won't be, but paired with an elite defense he does enough for the Jets to win.
Are the Jets playoff contenders in '13?
That's no better reinforced by the fact all four wins this season have come via a fourth-quarterback comeback orchestrated by Smith.
Now Smith seems to be backed by a tough ground game newly led by Chris Ivory, who took the ball 34 times for 104 yards against New England. Again—not sexy numbers by any means, but it allows the Jets to control games like they did Sunday with over 46 minutes of possession (Ivory just needs to stay healthy—he missed 20 games in two years before joining the Jets).
In other words, ESPN's Louis Riddick says it best:
#Jets continuing to execute a winning formula while allowing a rookie QB to progress.— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) October 20, 2013
New York is now in second place in the AFC East at 4-3 with two wins in the division. The win snapped a five-game losing streak to New England, and also broke the Patriots' 12-game winning streak against the AFC East.
Sunday's victory was a statement victory as far as the division goes, which in turn means one thing: It's time to forget the media's favorite circus act of the past few years and start respecting the Jets as potential playoff contenders.
Follow B/R's Chris Roling on Twitter for more news and analysis @Chris_Roling