EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Rex Ryan's old defense, a beast he helped create, marched into the New York Jets' new $1.6 billion digs, propped its feet up on the coffee table and made itself at home. And used Mark Sanchez as the welcome mat.
In their most highly anticipated season opener in recent memory, the Jets were distracted and alarmingly inept on offense. It was as bad as it's ever been under Sanchez. they had four months to prepare for Monday night's game against the Baltimore Ravens, but they performed as if they drew up the game plan on the bus ride over to the New Meadowlands Stadium.
The big-talking Jets lost, 10-9, but it's how they lost that should cause the most concern.
They converted only one of 11 third downs and produced only 176 total yards, the worst game of the Mark Sanchez era -- if 16 career starts count as an era. It was so bad that, at one point late in the third quarter, the Jets' offensive total (121 yards) barely exceeded their penalty yardage (120 yards).
You call this a Super Bowl team?
"It's frustrating; it's disappointing," said Sanchez, who passed for 74 yards -- the second-lowest total of his career. "There's so much talent in this locker room, there's no excuse."
Sanchez (10-for-21), who is coming off a mediocre preseason, didn't look any better than he did his rookie season. He missed a few open receivers, held the ball too long at times and never really seemed in command. The best thing about his game was that he didn't throw any interceptions.
A lot of people felt that, in a game with two outstanding defenses, the outcome would be decided by which quarterback made the most plays. Joe Flacco outpassed Sanchez by more than a 3-to-1 margin (248 yards to 74), and that should tell you everything.
Sanchez wasn't the only culprit. Shonn Greene lost a fumble at the Ravens' 24, an absolute killer because it came after Antonio Cromartie's 66-yard interception return. There went the momentum. Afterward, Greene bolted early from the locker room, telling someone he was too upset to talk because he felt the loss was his fault.
There were other goats, too. Jerricho Cotchery, as surehanded as they come, dropped two passes. Left guard Matt Slauson, in his first NFL start, nearly got Sanchez killed (again), getting dusted by nose tackle Haloti Ngata on a sack in the fourth quarter. The Jets' overall pass protection was shaky at best. And on the Microcosm Play of the Night, Dustin Keller caught a pass on the final drive and stepped out of bounds a couple of feet before the first-down marker.
It was fourth-and-10. He got 9. After listening to his explanation, you'd think the sticks magically moved.
Publicly, Rex Ryan went easy on his quarterback.
"[Sanchez] did misfire on a few passes, but quite honestly, he wasn't the only one who needs to improve," Ryan said.
Braylon Edwards, not afraid to tell it like it is, told it like it was.
"It looked terrible," he said. "There's no secret to that. We looked awful. The defense came out with a lot of passion, but I don't think the offense's intensity matched what the defense did. It's something we need to correct.
"It's not panic time," Edwards continued. "Only one team won the Super Bowl undefeated -- the '72 Dolphins. We're not worried as it relates to that, but we definitely need to get something going now, so we don't wait until the last minute like last year and try to get into the playoffs on a fluke game. We need to get it together, asap."
This falls on offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer as well. The Ravens' secondary, without injured safety Ed Reed and cornerback Domonique Foxworth, was vulnerable. Even a developing quarterback like Sanchez should have been able to find soft spots in the secondary, but do you know how many times he targeted a wide receiver?
Only three times. That's inexcusable.
Cotchery and Edwards combined for three receptions and 27 yards. Schottenheimer should have been able to create favorable matchups against Fabian Washington and Chris Carr, a pair of pedestrian corners, but he stayed too long with the running game. Clearly, Schottenheimer still doesn't trust Sanchez to operate a more wide-open game plan.
Ryan credited the Ravens' defense. Actually, he credited it too much, refusing to drop the hammer on his offense. By contrast, Edwards didn't give any props to the Ravens, saying, "They were only average. They didn't make many plays. It was all us."
The Jets, too, were undermined by penalties -- 14 for 125 yards, their highest yardage total since 1988. "A joke," Ryan said of the penalty total. The last time he described something as a joke, he was referring to Darrelle Revis' agents.
Sanchez was asked how he'd describe the Jets' performance if he were an opposing player, watching on TV.
"I'd say we're an undisciplined team," he said.
He was right on the money -- a rarity on this opening night.