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“Our confidence isn’t down,” tight end Dustin Keller insisted. “We’re still very confident in our abilities. We have a lot more we can bring to the table. Everything hasn’t been great the past three games, but we’re going to get it right. … We’ve been in a spot like this before and turned it around.”

Entering this season, though, Ryan talked about how the Jets needed to take a different path to the postseason. They need to knock off the Patriots, he said during training camp, and win the AFC East so they can host a few playoff games instead of being on the road throughout as they have the last two years.

The Jets are now already two games behind both the Patriots and Buffalo Bills, and must get better in a hurry. That goes for Ryan’s vaunted defense, which has allowed career rushing days by Oakland’s Darren McFadden and New England’s BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the last three weeks. It goes for the offensive line, which looked better Sunday with the return of center Nick Mangold from injury, but needs to protect Sanchez better and help the running game. It also goes for Sanchez, who hasn’t yet taken the expected leap in his third season but has also been battered by critics and defenses.

“I think the only way to grind yourself out of this, the hole we put ourselves in,” Mangold said, “is by working. I think that’s the mindset we have to take moving forward.”

Safety Eric Smith acknowledged that “everyone is frustrated” by the way the Jets have been playing, and suggested that some players have strayed from their roles on defense. Ryan said it’s all a matter of getting back to basics.

“Everything you do starts with alignment, assignment and technique,” Ryan said. “And we have to be 100 percent on those things.”

Sounds simple enough, although the Jets know it’s far from easy. Winning can bring the laughs again, and it all starts with the coach.

“I don’t see us losing our confidence,” Ryan said. “I think maybe people outside of that room are going to lose confidence. We’re not. I’m confident in the fact that I see signs of us getting better. We have to, obviously. This is a critical game for us Monday night, and that’s where our focus is going to be.”

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Notes: WR Derrick Mason saw little action against the Patriots, catching one pass, while rookie Jeremy Kerley played a bulk of the snaps in three-receiver sets. But Ryan said it was a matter of production by Mason than the wide receiver making critical comments after the loss in Baltimore last week. “You guys know we have an open policy with the media,” Ryan said. “I don’t put a muzzle on anybody.” … The Jets have allowed 98 points the last three weeks.