FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Despite all the positivity and encouragement surrounding the New York Jets this season, Sunday's 26-6 loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium laid bare the uncertainty for this franchise as its rebuild churns forward.
Two days after giving head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan two-year extensions, the Jets finished the duo's third season at 5-11, having lost eight of their final 10 games. Bryce Petty made his third straight start in Sunday's season finale and looked very much the same as he did the previous two weeks - inaccurate, inconsistent and unproductive.
Petty completed 19 of 36 passes for 232 yards, 46 of which came on one throw in the fourth quarter. He played the entire game while former second-round pick Christian Hackenberg, wearing a green overcoat, looked on from the sideline.
Thanks to some subtle hints from Bowles this week, there was speculation Hackenberg would make his NFL debut Sunday. He did not. Now the 22-year-old has gone two full seasons without taking a regular-season snap. If Hackenberg can't get on the field in a meaningless blowout, when will he? The answer to that question remains to be seen and will be one of the defining storylines of this offseason.
Tom Brady was uncharacteristically imprecise in the freezing temperatures _ the thermometer read 12 degrees with a -2-degree wind chill at kick off. The future Hall of Famer went 18-of-37 passing for 190 yards and two touchdowns before he was replaced in the fourth quarter by backup Brian Hoyer.
Brady's touchdown passes came on back-to-back drives in the final five minutes of the first half - one to wide receiver Brandin Cooks (five catches, 79 yards) and one running back to running back Dion Lewis (133 total yards), both from five yards out.
The Patriots entered halftime with a 21-3 lead. The Jets, who didn't pass 200 total yards until late in the fourth quarter, simply couldn't compete offensively. They failed to covert a third down in 12 tries.
The Jets committed nine penalties for 84 yards. Cornerback Juston Burris gifted the Patriots two first downs on each of the touchdown drives at the end of the first half, both on third-down holds.
The Patriots secured home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.