Over the last several weeks, the Jets have shown flashes of growth, giving their fan base several reasons to be optimistic about the future.
On Sunday in Buffalo, however, New York reminded the football world of just how far this team needs to go before they can return to relevancy.
New York hung around early on, thanks to an explosive touchdown pass from rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, but this team truly had no chance against the division rival Bills.
Buffalo pulled away in the fourth quarter, securing their second straight AFC East title with a 27-10 win.
Although the final score of this loss wasn't as one-sided as some of New York's other humiliating defeats this season, these numbers will give you the bigger picture. New York allowed more sacks (nine for 82 yards) than they had first downs (four). The Jets managed to produce a grand total of 53 yards on offense on 46 plays.
And yes, 53 yards on offense is the lowest for the Jets in a single game in franchise history. Not exactly the type of performance head coach Robert Saleh was hoping to get from this young group as they looked to establish some more momentum heading into an important offseason.
Before the end of the first quarter, the Jets were already down by two scores with Buffalo cruising ahead.
Capping off the Bills' opening drive, Josh Allen scrambled to the sideline, flipping a 10-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs, who dragged his back foot to stay in bounds.
After the Jets went three-and-out during their first shot on offense, Buffalo churned out a 13-play drive that resulted in a chip shot field goal from Tyler Bass. The Bills proceeded to block Braden Mann's punt four plays later, making it seem like a Buffalo blowout was on the way.
And yet, New York was able to settle down and stay within striking distance. Not only did New York's 32nd-ranked defense step up and make a few clutch stops, but the offense found a way to break through against Buffalo's top-ranked D. At least temporarily.
Wilson found Keelan Cole on a fourth-and-five, hitting the wideout in stride on a quick slant. The perfect pass between two defenders allowed Cole to do much more than just convert the first down. Streaking up the seam, the Wilson-Cole connection resulted in a 40-yard touchdown, Cole's first score of the year.
Wilson finished the day with 87 passing yards, completing just seven of his 20 pass attempts. He was under pressure consistently and with so many wideouts sidelined due to injury, there was only so much he could do against the top pass defense in the National Football League.
As both teams retreated to their respective locker rooms, the Jets found themselves in a one-possession game, down 13-7. Even with only three first downs and a total of 22 plays on offense (to Buffalo's 41), the Jets were in prime position to battle back and possibly secure an upset victory in the second half.
That deficit decreased to just three points after Eddy Piñeiro drilled a 49-yard field goal in the third quarter. In fact, New York was down just 13-10 entering the fourth.
But there's a reason why the Bills are a Super Bowl contender. There was no way they would let the Jets spoil their opportunity to clinch a second straight division title in front of their home fans.
Buffalo's defense suffocated the Jets the rest of the way while their offense suddenly erupted, scoring 14 unanswered points in the game's final quarter.
Both scores for the Bills flowed through running back Devin Singletary. With eight minutes left, Singletary pounded in a one-yard touchdown run to give the home team a 10-point advantage. Then, Singletary snagged in a five-yard touchdown pass from Allen, igniting a long-awaited celebration in Orchard Park with only a few minutes left on the clock.
With the loss, New York finishes the season 4-13, falling to 0-12 against their division opponents over the last two seasons.
It's an ugly finish to a season full of embarrassing losses, but the Jets and their fans can now shift their entire focus to the 2022 NFL draft and what's poised to be an eventful offseason on the free agent market for this rebuilding franchise.