Brandon Marshall told reporters he switched off Thursday night's Texans-Patriots game because it was "disgusting." If he relives the film from Sunday's 24-3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, he's probably going to end up throwing his TV set in the trash.
Let's get into our position-by-position review of what went wrong with the team's offense...
Quarterback: Fitzpatrick's double hat-trick sinks Jets
Speaking of garbage throws, look no further than Ryan Fitzpatrick. His shocking lack of self-awareness led him to keep forcing throws over and over again in the second half, with each of the final five Jets' possessions ending with a Fitzpatrick interception, giving him six overall.
It didn't even need to come down to that. Fitzpatrick didn't need to keep trying to force throws into tight windows, which was basically the reason for nearly all of those interceptions and a couple more that easily could have also been picked. The Jets were in a position to score on several occasions, and the gameplan every time seemed to be to force a throw into tight coverage and hope that a wide receiver would make a play on the ball. They didn't.
Take a checkdown every once in a while. Nobody's open? Take off and run for five yards. Eat the ball and take a sack if you have to. Or throw the ball away. Settle for a field goal, perhaps. And would it kill you to run the ball when you get down inside the 10-yard line? The Jets were the NFL equivalent of an NBA team that tries to get back into a game by taking 10 contested 3-pointers in a row. It's generally never a winning gameplan unless you're hot, but Fitzpatrick was firing away like a 25-year old Kobe Bryant -- and getting 35-year old Kobe results.
If the Jets had just been a little smarter, they easily could have ended up in a situation in which they could have overcome their inefficiencies and escaped with a win because they had so many chances to get back into the game. Even if drives had kept stalling, settling for a couple of field goals rather than risking interceptions would have soon made it a one-possession game and perhaps removed some of the offense's desperation.
However, Fitzpatrick's worst tendency is that he tries to force things when his team is trailing. Seventeen of his 22 interceptions as a Jet have been when the team is losing. Thirteen have been in the fourth quarter. This was the third time he's thrown more than two interceptions as a Jet and each of the others -- against the Eagles and in Buffalo -- was just like this one, as he tried to lead the team back from a deficit and came up short. That's not to say his early inefficiencies weren't also a factor in that deficit though.
While this ended up being one of the worst Jets quarterbacking performances in recent years, Fitzpatrick didn't just become the worst quarterback in the league overnight, just as his already-forgotten performance in Buffalo 10 days ago didn't make him one of the best. He'll likely be better than this in every other game this season, but the team and Fitzpatrick himself need to be more aware of his limitations and come up with a less predictable approach than consistently forcing the ball into coverage and relying on the receivers to bail you out.
Strategically, the Chiefs deserve some credit for baiting the Jets into mistakes, but their entire defensive gameplan leaned heavily on two sensational performances by Eric Berry and Derrick Johnson.
Berry's range, positional sense and reading of the game was the primary factor in those tight-window throws not being the kind of routine throws that Fitzpatrick usually excels at. For their own part, the Jets failed to adjust to the Chiefs corners playing with outside leverage knowing they had Berry in support on the inside. They failed to complete a single pass outside the numbers on the right side, for example.
As for Johnson, he keyed the backs coming out of the backfield, almost single-handedly removing the short passing game aspect of the Jets offense from their arsenal with his reading of the game and ability to stay clean and avoid traffic. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap.
Running Backs: Why the rush?
Returning to the issue of not running the ball in the red zone, the Jets ran 14 plays in the red zone, running just three times for seven yards. In fact, Jets actually ran six plays inside the Chiefs 10-yard line, opting to throw every single time. Fitzpatrick was 0 for 6 with two interceptions.
So, three games into the season, the Jets have had one game when they ran the ball when they got down in the red zone and piled up 37 points, and two games where they stubbornly refused to and ended up leaving a ton of points on the field. I like to pride myself on finding trends and patterns within these analyses, but you don't have to look too hard to see the problem here.
Matt Forte had to grind out some tough yardage in the first half, but he was picking up some nice yardage in the second half, with 30 yards on five carries. Bilal Powell was also having some success, with 30 yards on four carries, all in the second half. Forte has an impressive knack for picking up positive yardage even on plays when the run blocking is less than perfect, so he probably could have built on his three-touchdown performance in Buffalo by making some important red zone contributions.
Surprisingly, Forte has generated just eight yards in the passing game over the past two games. After the first week, it looked like that was going to be a key dimension of the Jets offense this year. He has run the ball well, but on plays where they tried to get him the ball in space, the Chiefs were consistently ready, led by Johnson.
Powell had a lot more success in the passing game, albeit mostly out of the slot, including one spectacular diving catch. He ultimately contributed 71 yards on 10 touches, most of which came after half time. If that's what was working, maybe that's where they should be forcing the ball, not into downfield coverage where they had no success whatsoever.
Powell's change-of-pace contributions were welcome, but he also lost a fumble after coming up short of the first down marker.
The Jets' lack of a fullback was a non-factor, as they employed Kellen Davis in that role. He opened up with a solid lead block, but later on had a couple of whiffs.
Receivers: Jets not playing with a full Deck
Marshall was clearly limited by his injury and, while he did gut it out and make some positive contributions, it clearly passed the point where it was smart for him to be out there at less than 100 percent. On the worst of Fitzpatrick's interceptions, you can see they tried to pick up the first down with a short pass to the flat on 2nd-and-2, but Johnson steps in front of Forte, who doesn't even seem to be expecting the pass.
Marshall's contribution here spoke volumes. After taking a long time to limp back to the line of scrimmage with the Jets trying to up the tempo, Marshall's half-hearted effort at a rub route was completely ineffective, and while he initially made an effort to chase down Johnson on the return, he had given up on the play by the time Quincy Enunwa let Johnson slip out of his tackle to get into the end zone.
Marshall had also struggled to get much separation, was unable to get away from the defense in the open field and wasn't getting much help from the officials. On a couple of occasions, he was so clearly banged up that he simply wasn't able to run a proper route, making the Jets' offense even more predictable than it already was.
The thing is, Marshall doesn't even need to gut it out like this. It's not like he is the only option they have in the passing game and we've already seen in the past that his presence will at times cause Fitzpatrick to try and force the ball to him when other options are available.
A guy like Robbie Anderson might lack experience, but if he's at 100 percent then surely he presents a more significant challenge for an opposing secondary than a hobbled Marshall. Indeed, he entered the game for Marshall on the only two plays he missed and instantly made a catch, including a 26-yarder down the seam that represented the second-longest play of the game for the Jets. Even if there's a downgrade in production, then it's still arguably the right move because if Marshall continues to play hurt, it could take longer for him to fully recover.
The wide receiver that led the Jets in receptions was once again Enunwa, whose four catches included a nice leaping grab over the middle and two clutch conversions. However, he was also credited with three drops including a potential touchdown. None of them were easy, but they're the sort of plays he was making in the first two games.
Where was Eric Decker? He played every snap and was targeted six times, but his only catch was a 31-yarder down the middle which saw him brought down in the open field. He also missed a chance to spring Marshall for a first down when he failed to make a block downfield. While he was listed on the injury report with a shoulder injury, it seems surprising that he would also have been limited, especially following a 10-day break.
Jalin Marshall had a couple of receptions, including one where he did well to get to the first down marker, but he also failed to come up with a diving attempt at another catch. Charone Peake played a few snaps for the first time but was not targeted.
Aside from his blocking when playing at fullback, Davis had one ineffective pulling block from tight end that saw the run blown up in the backfield. Brandon Bostick failed to impress with his blocking in preseason but had a couple of good kick-out blocks here. However, he had one really bad whiff at the point of attack leading to a short-yardage run being stuffed. Once again, neither tight end was targeted in the passing game.
Offensive line: Battle upfront a Chief concern
Last week, I suggested Ben Ijalana had taken the lead for the starting right tackle job over Brent Qvale. But Qvale battled back this week. As the Jets' line held the Chiefs without a sack, Qvale mostly held up in protection, other than on one play where he blew his block at the line and then had to bat the ball away after it was deflected into the air.
Ijalana didn't fare too badly either, although he did have a couple more breakdowns in pass protection. He was beaten for a hit on one play and gave up a pressure on another when he seemed to make a half-hearted attempt to push his man upfield on the assumption that Fitzpatrick was about to get the throw off. When Fitzpatrick hesitated, that meant he was forced to throw under pressure. There was also a play where the protection up front was screwed up and Tamba Hali came unblocked off the edge, leading to Fitzpatrick throwing an interception under pressure. (Of course, it may have been Fitzpatrick and not Ijalana who was at fault for the protection screw-up.)
The pass protection otherwise held up well, although veterans James Carpenter, Ryan Clady and Nick Mangold each gave up a pressure on a play that ended up with Fitzpatrick throwing an interception.
The underrated aspect of this offensive line performance was the fact that the Jets seemed to struggle to get anyone out to the second level or out in front of a screen pass. Could this be down to the Chiefs linemen doing such a good job of occupying at the point of attack, perhaps? That's difficult to measure and apportion blame, but it was undoubtedly a major factor in Johnson being able to make plays in space so often. Mangold certainly had his hands full with Dontari Poe, who often stood him up at the line when single-blocked.
There were mixed results for all in the running game, although the Jets were perhaps guilty of not running the ball enough in the second half, especially coming off a game in which the running game stalled in the first half but took over the game late.
Brian Winters made a few good blocks at the point of attack and avoided getting badly beaten in pass protection. He still made some mistakes, though, with two missed blocks allowing his man to blow up a run. Carpenter had some good contributions in the running game, but he had three poor blocks in space, perhaps because his mobility is compromised due to his calf injury. As for Clady, he had some nice blocks on the edge, but one bad whiff at the point of attack.