Ugly loss ‘hard to fathom’ for Jets coach Rex Ryan

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Worse still, it came at the hands of the Jets‘ biggest rivals, the team Ryan appeared to have closed the gap on just two years ago. Now, it couldn’t be wider _ not that Ryan would acknowledge as much.

“They’re an excellent football team,” Ryan said. “But to say we’ll never catch them, that’s ridiculous. There is no chance, there is absolutely no percent of a chance that I believe that in my heart. And I’ll never concede that.”

This one was all about a few bad breaks, some unlucky moments and the Patriots taking advantage of them all.

“You turn the ball over five times, what do you expect the score to look like?” Ryan said. “That’s it.”

Ryan again gave a vote of confidence to Sanchez as the Jets‘ starting quarterback, something compounded by the fact Tim Tebow revealed he has two broken ribs. And, despite all the mistakes, Ryan insisted there were positives.

“I saw us making strides up until this game and even in this game,” Ryan said. “I think our offense is improving, I really believe that.”

In another example of how bizarre this season has been, Ryan spent more than half the 19-minute conference call answering questions about the backup quarterback who never played a snap in the game.

Tebow was active, but remained on the sideline _ cap on and hands in his pockets _ throughout as the Jets bumbled their way through the second quarter and impatient fans chanted his name. Turns out Tebow was hurt not last Sunday at St. Louis, but the previous Sunday at Seattle.

Initial X-rays after the game against the Seahawks were negative, and Tebow played against St. Louis and continued to experience soreness. The soreness intensified Tuesday morning, but Tebow was a full participant in practice that day. An MRI exam and CT scan Tuesday night revealed the fractures, and Ryan was informed that night.

Ryan made Tebow active for the game against the Patriots after speaking with him and the quarterback undergoing a pregame evaluation. Tebow also refused any pain-killing injections before the game. He took no snaps on offense or special teams, and third-stringer Greg McElroy was inactive _ leaving the Jets with just one healthy quarterback in their biggest game of the season.

“I know Tim was cleared to play,” Ryan said. “Obviously, if he was not cleared to play or if they thought he was in serious jeopardy to himself, then he never would have been activated.”

But, it was a curious decision considering that Ryan also told offensive coordinator Tony Sparano and special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff that Tebow wasn’t to be used unless it was an emergency. Apparently, 49-19 didn’t qualify as such.

“People have played with cracked ribs,” Ryan said. “It was never told to me that he could not play. It was just the opposite, that he could play. It was me that said, `No, I’m not going to play him unless we absolutely have to.’ Tim came to me, and he’s like, `I can play. I want to play.’”

Ryan acknowledged that he “considered” making McElroy active against the Patriots, but decided Tebow would be the guy to go in if necessary. Tebow said after the game that he is unsure how long he might be hindered by the injury, and Ryan would only say that “we’ll see how the week progresses” as to whether McElroy might be the backup in the team’s next game against Arizona on Dec. 2.

“He absolutely, 100 percent,” Ryan said of Tebow, “could have played in that game.”

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