This time there was no Monday night miracle. Nothing remotely close unless you want to count Vinny Testaverde's late touchdown pass to Laveranues Coles late in the game.
But by that time it was too late. In a game that was fitting of the opposite directions the two teams are heading and of the way the final season of Monday Night Football on the Alphabet Network has been petering out, the Jets saved their worst for ABC's last in the windswept 31-21 Meadowlands loss to New England.
The Patriots continued to look as if they have awakened for possibly their fourth Super Bowl push in five years by winning for the sixth time in seven games to improve to 10-5 and keep up a push for the AFC's third playoff seed.
The Jets, meanwhile, appeared to fall into a collective coma. Offense, defense, special teams - they bungled in all phases of the game as they lost for the ninth time in 10 games.
That dropped them to 3-12 and enabled them to maintain their contact with Houston (2-13) in the Reggie Bush Draft Sweepstakes. Heading into the last weekend of the regular season, the Jets are in third-pick-of-the-draft position behind the Texans and Saints (who now have a worse strength of schedule than the Jets).
The true highlights for Gang Green in the 555th and last Monday night telecast on ABC were few and far between. There was Ty Law's seventh interception of the season, which he returned for a touchdown that tied this game at 7 with 4:18 left in the first quarter.
Then with 3:20 left in the game, Testaverde entered as coach Herm Edwards had promised. Testaverde executed a mini-miracle by leading the Jets to a 27-yard touchdown pass to Coles just before the two-minute warning. It marked the 19th consecutive season that Testaverde had thrown at least one TD pass, setting the NFL record.
Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense seemed to toy with the Jets' defenders as Brady and linebacker/tight end Mike Vrabel, reprising their success of the previous two Super Bowls, hooked up on two scoring passes. Then Corey Dillon rushed for two more to make it 28-7 heading into the fourth quarter.
For the first half, the Jets had 28 yards from scrimmage. The real Monday miracle was that they finally recorded a first down - that came on a roughing-the-passer call with 5:30 left in the third quarter.
After three quarters, the Patriots held a possession-time edge of 32:58 to 12:02.
Finally, Brooks Bollinger, unproductive and under the gun all game, led a drive that culminated in his 11-yard fade-pass touchdown to Laveranues Coles over converted cornerback Artrell Hawkins eight seconds into the fourth quarter.
But the Patriots continued to make all the plays they needed to keep any
suspense out of the final outcome.
The night began with Testaverde, who made a late appearance as Herm Edwards
promised, presiding as one of the Jets' co-captains over the winning coin toss. Most things didn't go right for the home team after that.
The Patriots' defense forced a three-and-out on the Jets' opening drive, then the Pats' offense methodically marched to its first touchdown.
The recipe called for seven consecutive runs, including a third-down conversion by Dillon and a fourth-down conversion by Brady. Then a 20-yard pass to Deion Branch, two more runs, and the game's first razzle-dazzle, Brady's 1-yard throw past new dime linebacker David Barrett to Vrabel 9:33 into the game.
Next came an exchange of interceptions. Bollinger's came on his first play after the New England TD. Then Brady's came two plays after that - and was far more costly.
Law, just named to his fifth Pro Bowl, jumped on an out route intended for wide receiver David Givens, snapped up his seventh interception of the season, and took off down the left sideline for a 74-yard interception-return TD.
It was the Jets' first score off an interception at home since safety Omar Stoutmire went 67 yards with a Dan Marino pick in 1999, and the first by a Jets corner since Otis Smith returned two Trent Dilfer picks for TDs in 1997 - a game in which Edwards was a coach on the Tampa Bay sidelines.
Further, it was the Jets' first first-quarter touchdown since Miami in Game 2, and it gave the hosts a 7-7 tie and hope for the rest of the game.
That hope vanished quickly. Brady led the defending Super Bowl champs on an 11-play, 61-yard march to, yes, a second Brady-to-Vrabel TD, this time from 2 yards out and this one also beating Barrett in the back of the end zone. Another three-and-out by the Jets, then another Pats drive, 13 plays and 78 yards, to first-and-goal from the 1, from where, instead of faking to Dillon and passing to Vrabel a third time, Brady this time handed off to Dillon who slanted into the end zone untouched for the TD.
Then the Jets nearly did the unconscionable by turning over the kickoff following the Pats' third TD when Barrett, behind his dark shield to protect his eye laceration, never saw the windblown kick, which touched him and was recovered by New England's James Sanders, but the Patriots couldn't move in for an Adam Vinatieri weather-beating field goal and so let the clock run out.
At least the visitors went into the locker room with that 21-7 lead and 23:34 in possession time.
There had been only one worse half of possession time in the Jets' last 11 seasons, and that was five weeks ago when the Broncos ran up 23:39 in the first half.