EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Jets gave their fans quite a thrill for much longer than anyone expected. Not only were they battling for first place in Week 6 of what was supposed to be a lost season, they were leading for most of the first half.
The fact that the bubble burst on Sunday -- perhaps with a little help from the replay officials -- and the Jets ended up losing 24-17 may feel disheartening, but if ever a team could take a moral victory out of a loss, this would be the time. Yes, this was a blown opportunity for the Jets. Yes, they could've thrust themselves into a real, live playoff chase if they could only have held on to their 14-0 lead.
But they never quit, which right off the bat makes them different than some of the teams of the Jets past. And they were never supposed to be good enough to hang with the defending Super Bowl champions almost until the very end anyway. They are still an amazing 3-3 heading into a winnable Week 7 game against the Dolphins. And they just proved that when they play well, they're good enough to give themselves a chance in most games.
Maybe that won't be enough to jumpstart their playoff run. Maybe the wheels will still come off in the second half of a difficult schedule. But this game proved that the big rebuilding effort is a lot farther along than anyone expected it would be more than a third of the way through the year.
That said, here are a few quick observations from the game:
- My only reaction to the fumble/touchback call on Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is: Um, what? I get the call that that he lost control of the ball heading towards the goal line, but saying he had total control of the ball that he never regained control before the ball crossed the pylon, therefore making it a touchback? The replay sure seemed to show that he totally regained control of the ball, which means it shouldn't have been a touchback. I have no idea what the replay officials saw that I didn't to overrule the touchdown that was called on the field. I eagerly await the NFL's explanation, because I do not understand it at all.
- The Jets got off to a fast start and really, for most of the game, they played well enough to win. But they are at a stage in their development where their margin for error is just tiny. Much like the game in Oakland, where they were in it right up until the Kalif Raymond muffed punt return just before halftime, the Jets simply can not afford missed opportunities and big mistakes in big spots. So consider how the game might have changed if Buster Skrine hadn't dropped a first-half interception when he jumped right in front of Pats TE Rob Gronkowski. Seven plays later the Patriots scored their first TD. Still, Skrine picked off Brady on the next drive, but the Jets responded by going three-and-out. And one drive later, Jets QB Josh McCown was picked near midfield with 35 seconds remaining in the first half -- plenty of time for the Patriots to tie the game. The Jets were up 14-0 with 8:37 left in the first half. Three huge mistakes later and it was a tie game when maybe they could have extended their lead. They can get away with those mistakes against the Jaguars and Browns. But they still remain a notch below the rest of the league.
- The Jets said all week that they believed they could get to Tom Brady in this game, that his offensive line was vulnerable and he was holding the ball much longer than usual in an attempt to look more downfield. And to be fair, the Jets did get pressure and even dialed up a few blitzes to move the pocket. They even hit him a few times, too. But Brady is just so good. Though he was pressured into a bunch of off-target passes, he mostly was able to just calmly step up in the pocket and keep the plays going -- which was especially helpful when trying to throw deep. It's why he completed just 12 of 25 passes in the first half, but still threw for 145 yards -- including a thing-of-beauty, 42-yard pass to Brandin Cooks to the Jets 2, setting up the game-tying touchdown.
- Everyone knew Rob Gronkowski would be a real tough test for Jets rookie safety Jamal Adams, and it was as painful as advertised. Making matters worse was that linebacker Darron Lee shared in the coverage and wasn't any better. Gronk was a mismatch for both of them -- too big and physical for Adams and too fast for Lee. It's no wonder he finished with six catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns. One of the big reasons the Jets took two safeties in the first two rounds of the draft -- Adams and Marcus Maye -- was to handle tight ends like Gronkowski. They'll get better at it, for sure, but this was a good reminder that there really aren't many players like Gronk.