The Jets are now officially in crisis, just as they have been for so many of the last 47 years. Their season has been a major disappointment, even to them. And they are one more bad game, or maybe two, away from watching the media and the fans turn their attention to 2017 instead.
It's not a complete shock that they got here, given how difficult the first six games of their schedule were expected to be. But the Jets expected to thrive in the face of the challenge. Their fans expected them to at least survive. Instead, they took a dive thanks to a suddenly mistake-prone quarterback, a Swiss cheese secondary, and a shocking disappearance of their pass rush.
All of that was on display in their 27-17 loss to the Chiefs, and it's all part of my 10 takeaways from Sunday's game.
1.) What exactly has happened to the Jets' vaunted pass rush? Yeah, I know, the secondary is a bigger issue. I get that. But they looked so dominant in their seven-sack opener and they've had four sacks in three games since then. Sunday, against a quarterback with knee and ankle issues -- one on each leg -- they sacked him twice, and just once by the defensive line. Even when they looked like they were close, Russell Wilson would often step up in the pocket or away from the pressure and find an outlet in the middle of the field. I know sacks aren't everything, but the Jets invested a lot of money in their defensive line in part for those sacks. With their secondary, if they don't get to the quarterback more often it will be a really long season.
2.) The secondary is plagued with what they keep calling "miscommunication". I know it was easy to blame Darrelle Revis early this season, but it's really been a group effort back there. The touchdown pass to a completely uncovered rookie Tanner McEvoy (when safety Calvin Pryor fell down trying to recover) was embarrassing. Then nobody seemed to pick up running back Christine Michael out of the backfield on his touchdown. Head coach Todd Bowles, a former defensive coordinator, is obviously fuming about this. Quarterbacks are carving them up. Look at the passer ratings against the Jets: Andy Dalton (114.0), Tyrod Taylor (112.8), Alex Smith (105.2). In the first half Sunday, Russell Wilson had a perfect passer rating (10 of 11, 191 yards, two touchdowns, rating of 158.3). He finished at 133.5.
3.) The hamstring injury to Revis should be worrisome to everyone, no matter how shaky Revis has looked early this season. His bad big plays have been costly, but they hide the fact that he does a lot of good out there, too. For example, did anyone hear much yesterday from Doug Baldwin (4-54) or Jermaine Kearse (3-23)? Not while Revis was on them. If he can't play Sunday in Pittsburgh, the Jets will go in with Buster Skrine and Marcus Williams as the starters and rookie Juston Burris as the nickel. Good luck with that.
4.) The fact that Ryan Fitzpatrick has 10 interceptions through four games is terrible, especially compared to the fact he had 15 all of last season. It's even worse that eight of those have come in fourth quarters of games. And that continues a really disturbing trend, because it's 11 fourth-quarter interceptions (and 13 overall) in the last five games, dating back to his disastrous game in Buffalo in Week 17 last year. His numbers in that stretch are just hideous -- a completion percentage of 53.4 (102 of 191), 1,193 yards, six touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a passer rating of 54.7.
So now we're starting to see why the Jets were reluctant to commit to him long-term this offseason (and rightfully so). Fitzpatrick can be great. He can also be awful. But he's just not an elite franchise quarterback. If the team around him is playing well, he can be consistent and efficient and get them nine or 10 wins. Unfortunately right now the team around him is absolutely not playing well.
5.) And now my defense of Fitzpatrick: He's in an impossible spot with Eric Decker (shoulder) out indefinitely, especially against that Seattle secondary. He was forced to lean really heavy on Brandon Marshall (4-89-1) who was blanketed by Richard Sherman, one of the best in the league. The difficulty of that is underscored by the fact Marshall was targeted 12 times and only caught four passes, and that Sherman had two interceptions (both on underthrown balls where it didn't look like Marshall and Fitzpatrick were on the same page). Fitzpatrick also had a pass that went off the hands of rookie receiver Robby Anderson. Granted, the pass was high, but would Decker have caught it? Who knows? But Fitzpatrick is handicapped by not having all his best players on the field.
6.) The Jets' offensive line didn't do Fitzpatrick any favors, either. He was sacked four times, hit a lot, and under pressure for much of the game. He was nearly killed when a blitzer came in unblocked on one third quarter pass, and another hit him in the fourth quarter and forced a fumble (that Charone Peake picked up and ran in for a touchdown, so at least that worked out for the Jets). Things did get worse after guard Brian Winters head-butted himself out of the game early in the second quarter and the rotating right tackles -- Brent Qvale and Ben Ijalana -- both had to play at the same time. The Jets had 31 rushing yards in the first quarter, and only 27 after that.
7.) Speaking of Winters, that was a colossally dumb play. Apparently Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett was talking trash and saying something Winters must not have liked, so he headbutted him, drawing a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct (and a likely fine) and he gave himself a concussion. That basically killed that drive, and the Seahawks countered with a touchdown, making it 14-3. And then the Jets had to play without their starting guard the rest of the way. And who knows? Maybe this week, too. Brilliant.
8.) Brandon Marshall's touchdown catch was a thing of beauty and a reminder of why, when he's at his best, he's a top receiver. Richard Sherman was all over him, but as Fitzpatrick's perfectly thrown, perfectly timed pass was in the air towards Marshall's back shoulder, he expertly turned, positioned himself, made the catch and kept his feet in. There's no defense for a play like that. He and Fitzpatrick have looked very out of sync so far this season, but if they can ever get it together they can still do some damage, even with Decker out.
9.) It was nice to see the Jets get RB Bilal Powell more involved on Sunday (4 carries for 26 yards, and six catches for 54 yards on nine targets), and really the last two weeks. He even took more snaps than Matt Forte. I've always thought the Jets should make their backfield a bit more of a timeshare than they did the first two weeks. That said, is it possible the split on Sunday had to do with an injury to Forte? Neither Todd Bowles nor Forte said anything about it, but Forte was carted towards the X-Ray room after the game. That's definitely worth watching this week.
10.) Don't even start with talk of how the Buffalo Bills gave the Jets a gift by beating the Patriots on Sunday afternoon. The Pats went 3-1 without their quarterback and now Tom Brady is back and he still has to play the Jets twice. Does anyone really think the Pats will finish with fewer than 12 wins? I'd even take the over on that, so the Jets are -- as they always have been -- playing for the wild card, where they already trail the Raiders (3-1) and Steelers (3-1) by two games.
No, it's not insurmountable at all, but remember they've already conceded the tiebreakers to the Chiefs and Bengals (both 2-2) and their hole will be enormous if they lose in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Plus, at this point just to get to nine wins the Jets would have to finish 8-4. With this dangerous two-game stretch coming (at Pittsburgh, at Arizona) and two games left against the Pats, their margin for error simply no longer exists. So yeah, it's early. But it's also getting late.