When the New York Jets began their three-game road trip a few weeks ago, they were well aware of the tall task ahead of them.
It’s very rare to see any NFL team take a bicoastal three-game road trip during the regular season, but the schedule is the schedule, and there’s no excuses for that.
The Jets were well aware many months ago that they have one of the AFC’s toughest schedules this season, and they damn sure knew that it wasn’t going to be easy going on the road to face Oakland, Baltimore and New England back-to-back-to-back.
They had to expect there was a chance they would struggle in that stretch, but I don’t know if anybody in that locker room expected them to lose all three.
After a 30-21 loss to the Patriots, the Jets have dropped three straight to fall to 2-3 on the season, two games behind New England (4-1) in the AFC East race. The Jets are also looking up at the surprising Buffalo Bills (4-1) at the moment.
The biggest problem for the Jets over the last few weeks has been the inconsistency in Brian Schottenheimer’s offense, and that inconsistency reared its ugly again in Week 5.
On 11 possessions against the Patriots, the Jets went three-and-out 7 times. They did not record a single first down until their fifth possession, midway through the second quarter.
Yet, on every drive that the Jets did record a first down, (save for the final drive of the game in garbage time where the clock ran out) they scored a touchdown.
Yes, you read that right. On every drive the Jets had at least one first down on, they drove down the field and scored a touchdown. They had 7 three-and-outs, 3 touchdown drives, and the final garbage time drive in the 4th quarter.
That’s an astonishing Jekyll-and-Hyde performance that epitomizes the up-and-down nature of the Jets as whole right now.
There is no question that the Jets are as talented as any team in football. The talent they have on offense, defense, and special teams is comprable to any team in football.
But a team as talented as the Jets cannot play the level of football they’ve displayed in recent weeks and expect to be taken seriously as an AFC contender for the third straight year.
Now, I should mention that I am not putting the loss to New England solely on the hands of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, Mark Sanchez and the offense. It was a total team effort down to the very end.
When Santonio Holmes scored on a beautifully thrown touchdown pass from Sanchez to make it 27-21, there was still 7:14 left in the game, more than enough time to get a stop on defense and give the Jets offense a chance to win the game.
But the Jets defense (which spent 33:55 on the field) could not get that stop. Granted, with seven three-and-outs on offense, there’s no question that the defense is susceptible to getting worn down.
However, Rex Ryan is not without fault either, as he basically dared the Pats to run the ball, taking most of his run defenders off the field, even in the Pats’ final drive. BenJarvus Green-Ellis responded with a career-high 136 rushing yards.
The Jets tipped their hand on the first play of the game; they were going to dare the Patriots to run the ball. They came out in a 3-1-7 formation and proceeded to use six or more defensive backs on 73% of their plays.
The key factor for this decision was the return of Hernandez to the Patriots lineup. Hernandez puts opposing teams in a bind when deciding to match him up with a linebacker or an extra defensive back. The Jets decided on the latter and the move may have backfired.
Due to the many substitution packages, the Jets’ best run defenders saw limited snaps. DT Mike Devito (+3.4 Run Def) was his usual stout self, but he was only in on 23 snaps. He showed great power moving guard Logan Mankins into the backfield on multiple plays. Similar solid run defenders DT Sione Pouha (22 snaps) and LB Bart Scott (23 snaps) were used sparingly.
DT Marcus Dixon (-2.2 Run Def) and DE Muhammed Wilkerson (-2.1 Run Def) saw the most snaps among defensive linemen and LB David Harris (-2.8 Run Def) was in on all 81 snaps. Credit the Patriots’ coaching staff for taking advantage of these matchups and accepting the Jets invitation to play power football.
Clearly, it’s a pick-your-poison scenario when you’re facing Tom Brady and that Patriots offense. But Bill Belichick did a great job calling Ryan’s bluff, sticking with the power running game when Ryan kept daring him to do so.
“As a defense it’s frustrating,” Pouha said. “We know our job is to get out there and make sure not to give them that much time especially in a crucial situation where we can get the ball back in offensive hands.”
The defense, most of the day at least, played relatively well considering how inconsistently the offense was playing. Once the offense gets into more of a groove and begins to sustain drives, it will help the defense out too, as they’ll get more time to breathe.
At 2-3, it would be too easy for fans to start pushing the panic button. I’m not ready to go there yet. The coaching staff and the players must find a way to fix these problems.
The schedule is tough, sure. But that’s not an excuse. Anybody can be beat. The Jets just need to gameplan better and execute better. They’re absolutely capable of that. And for that reason, I think the Jets can and will turn this thing around.
With 11 games remaining in a tough conference, the Jets certainly have work to do. But the season is far from over. Time will tell if this three-game losing streak will come back to haunt them come January.