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Awful Jets suffer meltdown vs. Eagles

PHILADELPHIA -- The third word out of Rex Ryan's mouth was "horrendous." Soon came "terrible" and "disappointed" and "shocked" and "ridiculous."

Ryan forgot "atrocious" and "embarrassing," but you get the point. The New York Jets were so bad Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field that linebacker Calvin Pace said of the Philadelphia Eagles, "We're lucky they had a heart and stopped scoring, because if not, it would've got really disgusting."

The final score was 45-19, a mind-boggling no-show from a team that bills itself as December tough -- the same kind of meltdown the New York Giants suffered earlier in the day up the New Jersey Turnpike.

So here we go: It's Jets versus Giants next Saturday at MetLife Stadium, a New York-New York showdown (no snickering) with major playoff implications for both teams. It's a must-win for the Giants and a notch below the must-win category for the Jets.

Winner gets the dog -- MetLife's Snoopy trophy. Loser gets dogged.

Get ready for the Desperation Bowl.

Or ... Christmas Eve of Destruction.

By the end of the week, it'll have a dozen names. But it promises to be a compelling game -- that is, if you like watching two beaten and bloodied club fighters pounding the daylights out of each other.

"It's going to be ridiculous," Ryan said. "It's going to be ... a war. Whoever loses is probably out. I mean, we're both fighting for our playoff lives."

Ryan also acknowledged there's always built-in incentive because of the rivalry, noting that players "go to the same restaurants, guys date the same girls. But we know what it's going to be about. If you want to own your town, you have to win that game."

The crazy thing is, the Jets (8-6) could lose the game, lose the town and still get into the playoffs. That would be farfetched, but anything is possible at this time of the year, especially when the Jets are involved.

Remarkably, the Jets still have an excellent chance to claim the final wild-card spot in the AFC. Even though they dropped into a virtual tie with the Cincinnati Bengals, they'd still be a virtual certainty to make the postseason by winning out. In that case, they'd most likely capture the strength-of-victory tiebreaker over the Bengals. If there's a three-way tie with the Oakland Raiders (7-7) ... well, it would get really crazy.

The point is, the Jets still are very much alive even though they don't deserve that status, not the way they played Sunday. Their psyche took more of a hit than their position in the race, but it's still an enormous game against the Giants.

"It's going to be really intense," said safety Eric Smith, looking ahead to our local Armageddon. "It was going to be intense before, both sharing the same stadium and being from the same area. Now, with playoff implications riding on this game, it's going to be super intense."

The Jets could use the adrenaline rush; maybe that will lift their morale and repair their psyche. In a way, their current plight is similar to last December in Foxborough -- a 45-3 clunker to the New England Patriots. (What is it about the number 45? Should we call them the Dolt 45s?)

After that game, Ryan buried a football in the practice field, a symbolic and motivational gesture that made for a nice headline.

"I don't know, maybe we should bury the football again," Ryan said, attempting gallows humor.

(One postscript: The Jets lost the following week, too. Kind of ruins the ball-burying story, doesn't it?)

How the Jets could come up so small, in such a big game, is beyond explanation. They tied a season high with four turnovers, fell into a 28-0 hole after 20 minutes, committed 11 penalties for 93 yards, surrendered 420 total yards, looked foolish trying to tackle Michael Vick, let LeSean McCoy run wild and turned tight end Brent Celek into Mike Ditka.

For three hours, the Jets let the Eagles be what they were supposed to be --The Dream Team.

"If we want to go to the Super Bowl, we've got to play a lot better than what we did today," wide receiver Santonio Holmes said.

It took some audacity to utter something like that; it also took a lot of chutzpah to show up to his post-game news conference in a Superman T-shirt.

Holmes wasn't Superman. He was Clark Kent.

He handed the Eagles a 14-0 lead, with a fumble that was returned for a touchdown and a dropped pass that was intercepted. That set up another touchdown. All told, the Eagles scored 21 points off turnovers.

"I mean, when your best player turns the ball over twice, directly, I mean, that's a disappointment," Ryan said. "But that's kind of the day it was."

When Holmes finally held on the ball, a 25-yard touchdown catch that made it 28-10, he went Stevie Johnson -- an end-zone celebration that resulting in a taunting penalty. He flapped his arms like a bird, mocking the Eagles.

Worse, he showed no remorse, only defiance.

And he's a captain?

Evidently, linebacker Bart Scott was right the other day when he said the Jets aren't yet a playoff team or a Super Bowl team. They have a lot of work to do over the next few days, trying to save a once-promising season from a December free-fall.

"I don't know, we'll come up with something," Ryan said. "I mean, it's sitting right in front of us. We've got to win two games, regardless of losing to these guys or not."