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Once again, the Jets gave a tough opponent all they could handle, but they also gave them a few gifts which proved to be the difference in another disheartening home loss. The Jets have now lost five of their last six games, with all five losses being in one-possession games.
Let's start this week by breaking down the performances on the offensive side of the ball...
Josh McCown had another of those games where his statline looked really good -- over 300 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions -- but he had some costly mistakes that don't show up in the boxscore. His fumble in the fourth quarter provided the Panthers with a lead they never relinquished and the Jets left some points on the field on two trips to the red zone where they had to settle for field goals.
With that said, he displayed some good chemistry with his two primary receivers, each of whom had a 100-yard day. Both of his long touchdowns to Robby Anderson were excellent examples of him throwing the ball out in front and allowing the receiver to go and get it, something recent Jets quarterbacks haven't done well.
One concern, however, might be that he doesn't have any confidence in his younger receivers. On his touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse, he had a much easier throw to a completely uncovered Chad Hansen, but didn't even notice him.
Statistically, the Jets' running game was better than it has typically been in recent games, with 109 yards generated at an average of over four per carry. However, that was artificially inflated by a couple of McCown scrambles for 28 yards.
Clearly the Jets have no faith whatsoever in their short yardage running game. They had 10 plays with three yards or fewer to go for a first down or touchdown but ran it just once, with the Jets committing a holding penalty anyway to negate that play.
Matt Forté nearly broke one run but was brought down at the second level. He also could have had a touchdown catch, but McCown threw wide with him open at the back of the end zone. His most successful play was basically one where he got stuffed but drew a penalty on the tackler.
With Forté ineffective, it's surprising they didn't do more to involve Bilal Powell, who had just five carries for 13 yards and no targets after halftime. In the first half, he broke two first down runs and had a 12-yard gain on a screen pass, although there was a penalty at the end of the play. Elijah McGuire had a couple of nice runs and a first down catch, finishing up with 34 yards on six touches. However, he had issues picking up the blitz a couple of times.
Lawrence Thomas saw more time at fullback than he has all season and made a few good run blocks, but had mixed results overall. He also caught a short pass.
Anderson had the kind of breakout game he's been threatening to have all season, with a career high 146 yards and his first-ever game with multiple touchdown catches. McCown is gaining more and more confidence in Anderson, which you can see in how he is starting to "throw him open." Anderson displayed hands, instincts and route-running ability in this game.
Jermaine Kearse also had a 100-yard game, although he only reached that milestone on the last play of the game as he caught the ball and then got tackled before the Jets could try a series of desperation lateral passes. It was a good performance from Kearse, though, who not only led the Jets with seven catches, but also drew three penalties for first downs. He caught a few first downs over the middle, span out of a tackle to break away for a 42-yard gain and added a late touchdown on the outside.
Hansen and ArDarius Stewart saw less action this week, as the Jets operated more often than not out of two-wide sets. Hansen was penalized for an illegal block in the back which came right at the end of a play and was totally unnecessary.
While Hansen and Stewart didn't register a catch -- Hansen having been overthrown on his only target -- return man Jojo Natson did on his only snap, taking a pop pass on a short yardage jet sweep but failing to pick up any yardage.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins ended up with just two catches, including a 19-yarder down the middle, but really should have had two touchdowns. He dropped an easy one in the end zone in the fourth quarter and then unbelievably had yet another touchdown overturned by the replay booth. On this occasion, he seemed to clearly retain control of a diving catch on a fade route.
Eric Tomlinson and Neal Sterling got backup reps, although neither was targeted. Both Tomlinson and Seferian-Jenkins had mixed results as a blocker.
The offensive line's continuing issues were summed up on the play where McCown's fumble was returned for a touchdown. This was clearly a communication issue as Brandon Shell blocked to the outside and Brian Winters blocked down. Essentially this meant two players were double teamed and one was totally unblocked.
Center Wesley Johnson's struggles extend beyond his role in setting the protection though. After a couple of good early blocks, he was regularly stood up or allowed his man to shed his block in the running game and he got beaten in pass protection a handful of times in the second half.
Other than the blown protection, Carolina had two more sacks with James Carpenter late to pick up a stunt and Kelvin Beachum badly beaten off the edge. Each lineman also gave up a couple of pressures. In the running game, the Jets were once again largely ineffective, although Shell had some encouraging plays, including one where he drove Thomas Davis 10 yards off the line at the second level.