The Jets are not a good football team, so when they have an opportunity -- any opportunity -- they have to take advantage.
That's why what happened at the end of the first half of Sunday's 45-20 loss was so catastrophic to their chances on Sunday in Oakland. Forget the final score. Forget that this game turned into a blowout. And forget all the reasons why the Raiders deserved to win this game big.
The Jets had a chance to take the lead at the half, or at least pull within one, and instead they managed to dig their hole deeper. That wasn't why they lost, but it certainly was emblematic of the biggest problem they're facing this season. Their opportunities to change games may be few and far between.
If they don't take advantage when they happen … forget it.
In this case the culprit was punt returner Kalif Raymond, who fumbled a punt inside the Jets' 15 with two minutes remaining in the first half and the Jets trailing only 14-10. Would the game have ended any differently if Raymond hadn't fumbled? Maybe not. But at the time, the Jets had fought hard to stay in a game they had trailed 14-0 at one point. After a brilliant stop by the defense, they were going to get the ball back with two minutes to go, trailing only 14-10. One mediocre drive and it was a one-point game at the half. Heck, even taking a knee at that point would've been fine.
Instead, Raymond fumbled and the Raiders recovered at the 4, and three plays later, Marshawn Lynch rumbled in for a touchdown to give the Raiders a 21-10 lead. Just like that, all the momentum the Jets had and all of their chances to win were absolutely gone. Not surprisingly, the Jets never had a chance to turn the game around again.
What else went wrong? Here are some other thoughts and notes from the Jets' second straight loss to open the season:
- I'll never understand why returners even bother fielding punts inside the 10, but Raymond pretty clearly lost the ball in the sun and misjudged it. The rule for a returner has to be if he senses anything wrong inside the 10, anything that makes them move or question the catch, he has to let it bounce. Just get out of the way. The worst that can happen then (the ball being downed at the 1) is better than what actually happened.
- The Jets' tackling defense was absolutely atrocious pretty much from the front to the back. That explains the ridiculous 180 rushing yards by the Raiders and the touchdown runs of 43 and 52 yards. The defensive line again wasn't much of a factor in stopping the run, but it was the players behind them who often looked silly. Darron Lee continues to look ill-suited to be an inside linebacker, getting rag-dolled out of the way on inside runs. And, boy, did CB Juston Burriss fan attempting to tackle Coradelle Patterson on a long touchdown run.
- Buster Skrine really had a tough day, too. He fanned on several tackles. He also never turned around on the first touchdown -- a fade pass -- to Michael Crabtree, and badly overran RB Jalen Richard on a huge pass that should've been stopped over the middle. He was also flagged for a costly unnecessary roughness penalty, but it was an absolutely brutal call. Yes, it was technically helmet-to-helmet, but he led with his shoulder and RB DeAndre Washington braced for the hit, so he wasn't exactly the "defenseless receiver" the officials said he was.
- It was nice to see the Jets looking deep a little more than they did last week. It didn't always work and a few times it looked like Josh McCown couldn't find anyone downfield. On the first drive he completely missed a wide open Jeremy Kerley. But trying resulted in a 34-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse. They don't have the playmakers to win with only short passes and merely hoping someone breaks a few tackles and turns it into a long gain.
- Perhaps they would've thrown downfield a little more, too, but it was pretty clear that the Jets receivers just weren't getting open. McCown got caught holding the ball way too long, especially in the second half. On most of those it appeared that he had no one to throw to. Outside of Kearse (4-64-2), the Jets receivers just aren't getting the job done.
- The Jets offensive line actually did a good job of protecting McCown. In the second half, when the pocket collapsed a little more, some of that was because of McCown holding the ball. Even when the Raiders blitzed, though, the Jets were able to pick it up. Keep in mind they also ran several plays with seven offensive linemen on the field and very often were max-protecting, but hey, whatever works.
- The Jets started Bilal Powell and used a pretty heavy running back rotation, which is an improvement over what was a Matt Forte-heavy attack in the opener. It worked to an extent. Forte (9-53), Powell (6-13) and rookie Elijah McGuire (6-29) combined for 95 yards, which isn't horrible considering they were in pass-mode in the second half. They also combined to catch five passes for 45 yards (mostly by Forte 4-38). It was smart to get all three involved.
- Since the NFL playoffs expanded in 1990, only 27 of the 222 teams that started 0-2 went on to make the playoffs (12.2 percent). No, I don't know the percentage for how many of those teams went on to get the No. 1 overall pick in the next draft.