What a waste of an opportunity.
That's the only way to describe that hideous, 15-10 loss the Jets had on Sunday to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Jets had showed so much promise in recent weeks. They were 10 days removed from their best win of the season. They were getting everyone excited as they sat on the edge of the AFC playoff picture.
Then they go out and give a total no-show of a performance - especially on offense - against a Bucs team missing its starting quarterback and best receiver? Against Ryan Fitzpatrick, of all people?
"We didn't show up today," Todd Bowles said.
No kidding. And now they've all but torched all that potential they had for excitement over the final seven games of the season.
Thanks to an offense that managed a mere 275 yards - 70 of which came on their final drive of the game -- and couldn't get out of its way most of the afternoon, the Jets are now 4-6 and effectively done. There would've been a lot of playoff talk the next two weeks if the Jets were sitting at 5-5 on their bye week. They actually could've been tied for the last playoff spot in the AFC when they returned if things broke right next week.
Instead, they get two weeks to think about how, barring a miracle, they'll just be playing out the string.
Here's a look at a little bit of what went so horribly wrong:
- This was one of the worst games of the season for a Jets offensive line that has looked surprisingly good all season. There was way too much pressure on QB Josh McCown, especially coming right up the middle. And there were few holes for a running game that should've been dominant in this game. To miss that many blocks when they had 10 days to prepare is really inexcuseable.
- Don't be fooled by the final numbers. McCown was pretty awful and out of synch right from the start of this game. He finished 23 of 39 for 262 yards with a touchdown and an interception. But that included 4 for 5 for 62 yards, including a too-little, too-late, 38-yard touchdown pass to Robby Anderson with 28 seconds to go. In the first half, when the Jets' set their miserable tone, McCown was 6 of 16 to 82 yards and far too many of his throws just looked off.
- This also wasn't the finest game for offensive coordinator John Morton. Maybe he was hampered a bit by the loss of Matt Forte, but in the first half, when the offense needed a boost, where were the often successful dump-off passes to the running backs (three attempts, all to rookie Elijah McGuire in the first half). Where was tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who has become a weapon for this team (three passes thrown his direction, no catches). You'd think they'd rely more on their bread-and-butter pass plays, especially with McCown under pressure.
- One thing Morton did rely on was the running game. But why? This goes back to Forte's complaint from two weeks ago that Morton was too quick to get away from the run (He wasn't). Sometimes you have to get away from the run if it's not working. And it wasn't working. The Jets averaged 3.6 yards per carry in the first half, but that included one 21 yard rush by Bilal Powell that was clearly the outlier. Their other 13 runs went for 29 yards. Through three quarters the pass-run split was 23-20 even though 18 runs produced just 56 yards. The Jets really didn't go unbalanced until they were down 15-3 with 16 minutes left. I'm all for sticking with the run to a point, but why do it when it's not working? And through three quarters, despite that one Powell run - which came on the Jets' fourth play of the game - the Jets weren't even averaging two yards per carry. All those runs - especially up the middle where there was no room at all - were like hitting their helmets into a brick wall over and over again.
- It's hard to fault the defense in a game where they only gave up nine points in the first three quarters, despite a putrid performance by their offense. They certainly did a good job against the run, holding the Bucs to 90 yards on 31 carries. But the pass rush, after a brief revival 10 days ago against the Bills, went back to being mostly nonexistent. Fitzpatrick had a lot of time to sit in the pocket and throw most of the game. He was only sacked once. And that was a wasted opportunity because the Jets knew better than anyone that Fitzpatrick could be pressured into a big mistake.
- OK, you want a bright side? The Buffalo Bills' humiliating 47-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints at home does keep the wild-card in play for the Jets. They remain, for the moment, just 1 1/2 games behind in the race for the last AFC playoff spot. That's still a tall order with six games to go against a brutal schedule and with at least four teams they'll have to climb over down the stretch. It gives them and their fans something to cling to, depending on how things go during the bye week. But the hope is definitely fleeting. They now almost certainly need to win at least five of their last six games to have a prayer.