NEW JERSEY - Joe Flacco and the rest of the New York Jets could feel it.
Their first victory of a brutal season was there for the taking. They had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter against a struggling New England Patriots team and all the momentum.
But just like that, they blew it. And for the first time in franchise history, the Jets are 0-9 after an agonizing 30-27 defeat Monday night.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” wide receiver Jamison Crowder said. “That was a tough loss right there. That was a game we should’ve won.”
Instead, they found a way to lose.
“It hurts,” coach Adam Gase said. “I thought guys battled. They gave everything they had. We had a few mistakes that really cost us — cost us the game.”
Maybe none more than the one by Flacco, who was having a terrific night up until that point while starting for injured Sam Darnold.
After Nick Folk’s 29-yard field goal with 6:04 left cut the Patriots’ deficit to 27-20, Flacco tried to put the game away. He launched a deep pass downfield for Denzel Mims, but J.C. Jackson intercepted the ill-advised throw.
The Patriots took advantage and marched down the field to tie it on Cam Newton's 1-yard touchdown run.
“I’ve been rattling it around in my head and I don’t think I would have made a different decision in the moment,” Flacco said of the play. “But, obviously, I wish I had that one back.”
New York went three-and-out for the first time all game on its next drive, giving the Patriots the ball back with 47 seconds left.
And that set up Folk's winning 51-yard field goal as time expired, sending the Jets into their bye-week break in disbelief and searching for answers.
“We just need to regroup,” Crowder said, “and learn how to finish the ballgame.”
They started this one well, which was definite progress for an offense that ranks last in the NFL in nearly every major statistical category.
Flacco, playing with Darnold out due to a shoulder injury, threw touchdown passes to Breshad Perriman and Crowder in the first half. Sergio Castillo, in for injured Sam Ficken, kicked field goals of 35 and 50 yards to give New York a 20-10 halftime lead.
Even after Rex Burkhead's 1-yard touchdown run made it a three-point game in the third quarter, the Jets answered right back. Flacco connected with Perriman, his teammate in Baltimore from 2015-17, for a 15-yard TD that again made it a 10-point game with 30 seconds left in the period.
But the Jets just couldn't seal it in the end.
“They played their (butts) off,” Gase said. “We’re not finding ways to win.”
That will probably cost Gase his job at the end of this season. The heat on him has been turned way up with each loss, but it appears unlikely the Jets will make a coaching change during the bye week.
But it still won't be a comfortable week for the coach, who dropped to 7-18 with the Jets after being hired with great expectations — particularly on offense. That hasn't panned out at all.
Darnold's future is still unclear, and it's unknown if he'll be healthy enough to play in New York's next game at Los Angeles against the Chargers on Nov. 22. This season was supposed to be all about Darnold taking the next step in becoming a franchise quarterback in his third season.
Instead, he could end up following Gase out the door.
The Jets currently hold the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft next April, a position that actually would have been put in jeopardy with a win Monday night. While frustrated fans dream about potentially landing Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence, New York's coaches and players just want to walk off the field winners at some point.
“There are challenges every single week and right now we’re 0-9, so we’re dealing with a lot of those right now,” Flacco said. "And this is just going to be something that adds to it. I think we’ve done a really good job during the week throughout all of this of keeping our heads up and taking it one day at a time.
“It’s going to be the job of the coaches and a few guys on this team to make sure we still have that mindset going forward, as tough as that might be.”