The Jets stayed in it until the 4th quarter before falling to the Panthers after a punt block as well as a pick 6. The loss lowers the Jets record at 6-8 and officially removes them from playoff contention. Here is how it unfolded:
1) Geno Smith plays with poise on the road until he throws a pick-6 in the 4th quarter – Smith was 6/11 for 59 yards in the first half but converted some key 3rd downs with excellent throws and had an awful drop by Santonio Holmes as well as one by Chris Ivory. Smith also converted a 3rd down with a naked bootleg for 10 yards that was pretty. All in all there was a different confidence to his game today. After a 3 and out to start the 2nd half Smith led an excellent touchdown drive of nine plays 86 yards including a 35 yard completion to Cumberland on 3rd down to extend the drive. Carolina had just gotten a touchdown to go up by 10 points and Smith forced one into Holmes while in double coverage and Captain Munnerlyn intercepted it and returned it for a touchdown. Smith rebounded to lead a hurry-up drive for a touchdown to cut the lead to 10 making some nice throws but also showing his inaccuracy by missing a few others. Smith finished 15/28 for 167 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception adding 44 yards on 6 carries.
2) Run game succeeded vs number 1 ranked run defense – In the first half the Jets ran 13 times for 93 yards, 7.2 yards per attempt including a 30 yard run by Ivory and a 15 yard one by Powell. The offensive line was terrific led by D’Brickashaw Ferguson who busted open the hole that Ivory ran through and sealed on the naked bootleg that Smith ran successfully. Sheldon Richardson scored a touchdown as a fullback. Why? Because he can. Chris Ivory ran hard in rushing for 66 yards on 11 carries. Bilal Powell ran better than he has in awhile rushing for 33 yards on 7 carries and Geno Smith kept it six times for 44 yards.
3) Defense bends pretty far but ultimately breaks – The Jets linebackers and secondary are being destroyed in coverage as Cam Newton was 16/24 for 273 yards and a touchdown. Big plays have been the order of the day as Williams had his 72 yard catch for a touchdown. Greg Olsen had 5 catches for 88 yards with a long of 27 yards and Brandon LaFell had a 36 yard reception. The linebackers were slow, the safeties took terrible angles and other than doing a decent job on Steve Smith (three catches for 20 yards) the secondary wasn’t getting it done either. (cont’d)
3) Defense bends pretty far but ultimately breaks (con’t) – Only some great defensive front play from Calvin Pace, Quinton Coples, Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson kept the Panthers from finishing two other long drives and settling for field goals. Carolina was stopped on a 4th and 2 deep in Jets territory in the 3rd quarter seemingly going for it for no good reason. The Panthers averaged 3.5 yards per rush with success running to the outside and cutting back. They were able to control the 2nd half on the ground and get what they needed when they wanted. Newton was kept in the pocket running five times for 14 yards including a late run where Richardson caught him from behind and threw him down which seemed to injure Newton.
4) Pass protection spotty – Some plays Geno Smith had good time and a clean pocket and was able to step into his throws but the Panthers continued to blitz and Greg Hardy abused Ferguson on one play then Winters on another. The Panthers had four sacks and five quarterback hits not counting pressures in the first half. Captain Munnerlyn had 2 sacks off of corner blitzes that weren’t picked up by Smith or Mangold failing to shift the protection. During scoring drives the line held together when it fell apart it stalled drives. Carolina has a great front seven so this was no easy task.
5) Man, Nick Folk is good – Folk hit two more field goals including a key one from 54 yards to keep the Jets in the game. If he had missed the 54 yarder Carolina would have taken over near midfield. Folk was effective kicking the ball deep only allowing 2 returns in the half. It brings Folk to 30/31 on the season.
6) Punt block changes game – The Jets were up three punting from deep in their half of the field and Carolina got a man unblocked and Quigley’s punt was blocked and the Jets fell on it at their own 10 yard line setting Carolina up for an easy touchdown which extended their lead to 10 in the 4th quarter. Quigley was below average throughout the day averaging 44 yards per punt. Also, Kyle Wilson may be the worst returner in professional football history.