Jets Playoff Hopes Fall Into a Deep Freeze

10-7 loss to Falcons effectively ends playoff hopes

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    For 58 minutes, it looked like the Jets were going to give their fans the football equivalent of a pair of socks for Christmas. They changed their mind at the last minute, however, and went with a lump of coal instead. Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez caught a touchdown with just under two minutes to go and all but ended the Jets' playoff hopes on a cold day in the Meadowlands.

    Up until that point, it looked like the Jets were going to salvage a win that was more useful than enjoyable, much like a pair of socks from Aunt Gladys. They committed dumb penalties, turned the ball over and blew three field goal tries for various reasons, yet they held a 7-3 lead and their defense wasn't allowing the Falcons to do anything when they had the ball. It looked like they'd hold on in spite of themselves and live to fight another day.

    Alas, it wasn't to be. The defense, either because they were tired or overconfident, got beat repeatedly on an 11-play, 73-yard drive that culminated with Gonzalez's touchdown. It's hard to get too upset about the defense -- although it would have been nice to see them pull off a turnover or sack at some point in the game to swing momentum -- because the offense was so dreadful.

    The Jets, defying conventional wisdom, put the game in the hands of Mark Sanchez once again and, once again, they got burned as a result. Sanchez flashed the good on a perfectly thrown 65-yard touchdown to Braylon Edwards, but was picked off twice and took an intentional grounding penalty that forced a Jets punt on the first drive of the third quarter. He's had worse games, but this one stands as a pretty good epitaph for a rookie year that saw Sanchez carry too much of the offensive burden for a team with a good running game that should have been a bigger focus in just about every Jets loss.

    Sanchez wasn't alone. As mentioned, they were some idiotic penalties and the kicking game was a comedy of errors, but they kept getting chances because the offense couldn't finish drives. Rex Ryan and Brian Schottenheimer deserve some of the blame for that, but we all know where the finger of blame will be pointed come Monday morning. The SoCal kid didn't get it done in the cold and the Jets are looking at a long winter's nap.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.