The good news for the New York Jets (4-9) is that the San Francisco 49ers (1-12) are an even worse organization. How the heck did San Francisco possibly lose that game?
Oct 23, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; A New York Jets helmet on the bench displays a sticker with the number 90 in memory of former New York Jet Dennis Byrd who was killed in a car accident last week. The Jets face the Baltimore Ravens today at MetLife Stadium. The Jets are wearing Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Jets’ 23-17 overtime win is hard to fathom. Before game-time, the few faithful San Francisco 49ers fans at a depressingly empty Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara witnessed a John Idzik-style plane flyover with a banner demanding the firing of general manager Trent Baalke. (Has there been a more short-sighted personnel move in modern pro sports history than the Niners’ front office running out of town Jim Harbaugh?)
Once again, the Jets inexplicably came out flat. If they’d been facing a top caliber team, this was another blowout. The first few minutes of this game looked like a repeat of last week’s wretched national TV blowout to the Colts. Carlos Hyde toyed with the Jets’ terrible run defense, who allowed him a gaudy 20 yards per carry in the first half. But San Francisco’s legendarily reliable 41-year-old booter Phil Dawson missed two field goals, and by halftime, Gang Green trailed 17-3.
Colin Kaepernick looked terrible in the second half and overtime, with just 17 passing yards after the halftime whistle. Even if Woody Johnson was not a Trump guy, he’s not desperate enough to dole out millions for the most polarizing, and perhaps the least productive, starting quarterbacks in the game today. If any modern athlete is prime for renouncing their American citizenship for Canada (and the CFL), it’s this multi-millionaire armchair activist.
Nick Folk has been a decent kicker for the Jets. But what rational Gang Green fan — is there such a thing? — actually believed he’d nail that 51-yarder with 38 seconds remaining to force OT? Especially as FOX announcers Greg Gumbel and Trent Green were pointing out that during pre-game warm-ups, Folk was missing on boots of 50-plus.
It was a nice win, but let’s throw some cold water on any celebration. Let’s not forget that two of the Jets’ four wins this season came against the Niners and the Browns — with a total 1-25 record between them.
In tribute to David Crosby’s recent show at Town Hall, here a few tunes from his catalog that best reflect the Jets state of mind.
Next: 3. Carry Me
December 11, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; New York Jets quarterback Bryce Petty (9) celebrates after the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi
3. Carry Me
Bryce Petty’s 23-35 effort belied his gritty field play. His poised performance against the Niners offered a glimmer of hope, and there’s no one with a passion for the Jets who doesn’t wanna see more from this young gun.
Petty idolizes Brett Favre, and you can see some minor similarities, especially in terms of his mental toughness; ever-improving as the game went on. Give the Baylor product tons credit for his gutsy chutzpah, leadership qualities, and a big-time arm.
An example of his arm strength and accuracy came on a third quarter laser pass to Quincy Enunwa with two defenders on him that could’ve easily been an interception. Bryce displayed his competitiveness on that fourth-quarter two-point play, where on a run he literally willed himself into the end zone. But one major question looms in terms of his NFL viability: Can he ever make the transition from a college spread flamethrower to a legitimate NFL pocket presence?
Petty’s performance was particularly impressive given the terrible first-half protection by the team’s battered O-line — from last season, no Nick Mangold, Breno Giacomini, or D’Brickashaw Ferguson — not just the brutal six sacks allowed, but the scores of hurries and knockdowns the young quarterback endured. But then again, he certainly holds onto the ball too long — and upon further examination, the majority of those six sacks were on him.
Let’s see what Bryce can do against a real team. Hopefully, this Petty ain’t no heartbreaker!
Next: 2. Deja Vu
2. Deja Vu
Todd Bowles likely saved his job with this gutsy victory. Every respected NFL insider seems to believe that the former Super Bowl-winning Redskins safety will one day be a winning coach in this league. So a smart bet for this organization would be to heed the advice of the experts and tune out the peanut gallery.
But there were some glaring problems that cannot be ignored. The defense came back nicely in the second half — especially on that game-winning fourth-down stand in OT — after they were literally on their heels the entire first half. Bowles will likely need to cut bait with his good friend defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers, and this year’s disastrous special teams coach Brant Boyer.
Once again, the Jets outside linebackers could not set the edge. Converted defensive end Mike Catapano is a great story, but he’s no answer. The team finally elevated from the practice squad CFL stud (via Western Michigan) Freddie Bishop. He received plenty of snap counts but did not distinguish himself from injured Lorenzo Mauldin, the sub-average outside linebacker he replaced.
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Bowles also must get much more involved in the offense. That was one of the big knocks on his defensively minded predecessor Rex Ryan. Bowles also has a big decision to make concerning offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, who’s had a disappointing season, but is definitely the right “quarterback whisperer” to develop both Petty and Christian Hackenberg.
Bowles really needs to speak up regarding Bilal Powell, who had a career game, in place of an injured Matt Forte. Powell’s “surprise” big game with 34 touches is proof of his under-utilization — every other NFL organization would love to have this Louisville product on their roster.
The previous regime didn’t trust Powell enough either, bringing in Chris Ivory and now C.J. Spiller and Forte instead. Powell carried this team on his back and deserves a shot. Thankfully, even the stone-faced Bowles was effusive in post-game praise of the shy, humble veteran running back.
For Bowles, there’s nowhere to go but up. Consider this season his Mulligan.
Next: 1. Teach Your Children
Dec 5, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson (11) gathers in a second half touchdown pass against the Indianapolis Colts at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
1. Teach Your Children
A few young prospects deserve deeper looks over the remaining three weeks. Petty developed nice chemistry over the summer with rookie receivers Robby Anderson and Charone Peake, and both display nice in-game adjustments to Petty’s pocket nuances. But it was telling that neither of the team’s Ohio State speed demons made any kind of impact, with training camp sensation Jalin Marshall inactive and last year’s second-rounder Devin Smith running on the field once — when Brandon Marshall had to brief exit after getting tackled on the Niners sideline.
The tight ends were much more involved, and former Packers pariah Brandon Bostick made some nice catches before getting hurt. Two in-season acquisitions show promise — Eric Tomlinson committed a costly offside penalty but otherwise looked NFL-worthy; and the troubled Austin Seferian-Jenkins, back from an ankle injury, has flashed the potential to become a flat-out beast.
Jets fans should play close attention to special teams ace Nick Marshall. Signed off the Jaguars practice squad six weeks ago, the converted former star quarterback of the 2013-14 SEC champion Auburn Tigers, just might turn out to be that kickoff specialist have lacked since the late Joe McKnight.
This year’s fourth-round pick, hard-hitting NC State Wolfpack cornerback Juston Burris, is raw and has much to learn. But he made a few stellar plays — notably a big first-quarter shoestring tackle and a fourth-quarter pass breakup. But to be fair, he was pitted against a middling 49ers receiving corps featuring former Jet Jeremy Kerley. Let’s see how Burris does against the Patriots.
The most exciting young secondary prospects in camp aside from Burris was free safety Doug Middleton, who just got elevated from the practice squad and played his first NFL game. Sure, he only had one tackle, but the Appalachian State headhunter deserves a long look as a contributor in 2017 and beyond.
Ya gotta feel terrible for free safety Marcus Gilchrist, out for the year after getting carted off the field on the opening kickoff of the second half — his torn patella tendon yet another casualty of Levi’s Stadium’s notorious turf. The Jets secondary problems this season were not of Gilly’s doing, and always seem to involve some combination of Buster Skrine, Calvin Pryor, and the fading Darrelle Revis — who if he indeed wants to return, better be willing to undergo a serious contract renegotiation that will reflect his downgrade from lock-down corner to just another safety.
This Saturday night, the Jets really wanna get some revenge and knock the Ryan Tannehill-less Miami out of the playoffs. Next week, they aim to mess with New England. In the final week of the year, they’re gonna wanna knock Rex Ryan out of his job in Buffalo — if he hasn’t been fired already.
This season started terribly, but it can end on a higher note. It’s all up to you, Coach Bowles!