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Saturday, December 11, 2010
Jets' 'MNF' blowout evokes memories

By Rich Cimini
ESPNNewYork.com

For longtime New York Jets fans, the final score -- 45-3 -- triggered a bad memory. The score, coupled with eerily similar circumstances, took many back to 1986.

Do you remember?

The Jets were 10-1, the odds-on Super Bowl favorites in the AFC, when they went to Miami for a Monday night game and got humiliated 45-3 on a four-touchdown performance by Dan Marino. It was the start of an epic collapse by the Jets, who dropped their next four and backed into the playoffs.

Nearly a quarter-century later, the present-day Jets took a 9-2 record into Monday night, the opponent was the New England Patriots and the four-touchdown masterpiece came from Tom Brady.

Three of the biggest names on the '86 Jets -- Joe Klecko, Ken O'Brien and Wesley Walker -- watched the debacle on TV. Curiously, not one of them made the connection to what happened so long ago.

"I didn't think of that until you just mentioned it," O'Brien said in a phone interview, dead serious.

"You have to blot it out when you get beat like that," Walker said.

Klecko said he thought of the 56-3 blowout loss to the Patriots in '79, not the 45-3 mess in '86.

That was a wonderfully talented team in '86 -- Walker was convinced the Jets were Super Bowl-bound -- but it suffered key injuries on defense and simply couldn't recover. Oh, the Jets won a playoff game that year, but that only led to more misery, the mind-boggling, double-overtime loss to the Cleveland Browns in the divisional round.

What will become of the current team? Will it follow the trend of the infamous '86ers?

O'Brien believes the team will be just fine because Rex Ryan will keep things loose, using his dynamic personality to deflect pressure from the players.

Klecko called Monday night an "anomaly," but he saw troubling signs. He said the team lacked the resolve it showed in previous come-from-behind wins. He was particularly disturbed by BenJarvus Green-Ellis' late touchdown run, a play in which he felt the defense showed no fight.

"That effort, that urgency that ... whatever the special word is, I didn't see it," Klecko said. "I don't think they were ready. There's an old saying, 'Play hard and you'll win the games you have to win.' I didn't see that effort or fire."

Klecko believes the Jets can rebound, adding, "If he has to kick them in the groin or do whatever it takes, Rex can't let it happen again. They always talk about playing like a Jet, but they didn't play like Jets in that game."

Walker said the Jets are still in prime position to make a strong run in the playoffs, but he expressed concern about the defense, claiming, "They don't seem to be the same team as last season, defense-wise. Teams are catching on to them."

Walker said he loves quarterback Mark Sanchez's resilience, but "in my gut, I wait and see if he's going to make a mistake. I'm kind of concerned with that. I've been concerned with the overall play. I've seen some things that I don't like, and the Patriots exploited that."

He expected the Patriots to beat his old team, but Walker never imagined it would be so decisive. It was so bad that Ryan, reaching into the Football 101 handbook for a motivational ploy, buried a game ball before Wednesday's practice in a symbolic gesture. Even though he didn't agree with Ryan's method, Walker suspects the Jets have enough professional pride to rebound Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

So does O'Brien.

"Rex has a unique way of deflecting a lot of pressure and putting it on himself," he said. "That permeates the entire organization. It's easy to poke holes when it goes like Monday night, but if you look at his body of work, that's the kind of attitude that will keep it loose. They won't be uptight this week."

Having lived through 45-3 -- and worse -- Klecko knows what the Jets might be thinking: "You look around and go, 'Oh, s---.' You look and start saying to yourself, 'Wow, what are we going to do?' You're questioning and questioning, but you have to realize, it can be overcome."

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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