We don't mean the fact that they won the game, not exactly anyway. No, we're talking more about the way that everyone in the country decided that the Jets were an arrogant, overconfident band on empty uniforms who weren't capable of stepping up to the moment and doing what needs to be done to win big games.
What happened on Sunday? The Patriots were the team that played with misplaced cockiness, from the unspeakably bad attempted fake punt with a minute to go in the first half to their meandering seven-minute fourth quarter drive down 10 points that ended with no change in the score. Even when their season hung in the balance, the Patriots refused to stoop so low as to actually admit that the Jets had a chance to win the game. They could blow opportunities and take unnecessary risks because everything would just work out their way in the end.
Hard to figure why Bill Belichick thought that was the case. This was the third straight playoff loss for the Patriots in a game that they entered as heavy favorites, the third straight time when they got smacked around all over the field in a game that ended their season and, yet, he still treated the game with all the urgency of an August walkthrough. But Rex Ryan is the arrogant one?
Thank goodness that meme is now dead. And thank goodness that we can also stop listening to those who mistake Ryan's bluster for a lack of ability as a coach. The expectations were that Belichick's hooded genius would expose Ryan as a sweater-vested fool by coming up with schemes that left the Jets embarrassed once again. Yet Sunday rolled around with Ryan holding every card and Belichick unable to do anything to counter him. That's three wins in five meetings for Ryan, so maybe we can stop treating this like a matchup between a lion and a flea?
Same goes for the Tom Brady-Mark Sanchez matchup. No sane person is going to put their careers up against one another, that's insulting to Brady and unfair to Sanchez, but neither is any sane person still going to peddle the notion that Sanchez isn't good enough to win big games. It's been stunning how much his callow nature has been used as a shorthand for a lack of talent, especially in light of the way the mistakes of far older quarterbacks get explained away over and over again.
Everyone expected Sanchez to melt down on Sunday, just as they expected him to melt down in Indy and in last year's playoffs. It's never happened, though, and it might be time to find another angle on the Jets quarterback.
Find a new one on the entire Jets team, while you're at it, because they're the only team to be in the NFL's final four for the second consecutive season.