The New York Jets lost their second straight game falling to the Miami Dolphins by a final score of 31-28. Who’s to blame for the team’s disappointing 4th quarter collapse?
Another week, another heartbreak.
For the second consecutive week, the New York Jets dominated the early portion of the game yet managed to blow a 14-point lead en route to a devastating loss to their division rival Miami Dolphins. As the great Yogi Berra once said, “it’s deja vu all over again”
It was an ugly contest in every aspect imaginable. From the hideous playing conditions of the field to the ridiculous amount of penalties committed, this is not a game the Jets are going to look back and think fondly of.
While there were many facets of the team that played better, most notably the defensive line, stupid mistakes and conservative play-calling ultimately led to the team’s demise. It’s a tough pill to swallow for a Jets team that’s been so fun to watch this year, but such is the life for a young and rebuilding football squad.
That being said, what specific players are this week’s scapegoats following another discouraging defeat?
Next: 5. The Offensive Line
5. The Offensive Line
This may seem like a harsh criticism considering the Jets offensive line certainly didn’t have a terrible game. In fact, it was a welcome sign to see the big boys up front finally open up some holes for the run game, albeit only momentarily.
However, the unit had its fair share of miscues and struggled against a stout Miami defensive line throughout a large portion of the game. Starting right tackle Brandon Shell was hurt early in the first quarter and his replacement, Brent Qvale, struggled mightily with the talented Cameron Wake. Wake is a premier pass rusher so it’s certainly understandable that Qvale had a difficult time blocking the veteran defensive end. But a 2.5 sack performance is what it is and Qvale certainly deserves some of the blame.
Elsewhere on the offensive line, center Wesley Johnson had another below average game as he had his hands full with Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips up the middle. A pair of penalties on the day only added to this rough performance and only served to emphasize the game’s underlying theme of untimely miscues.
Brian Winters also had his hands full this week with Suh who gave the fifth-year guard all he could handle. Matching up against Suh is a tall task for anyone, but Winters needs to prove that he’s worth the hefty contract he was given this past offseason and stepping up in games like this is a good start.
Next: 4. Darron Lee
4. Linebacker Darron Lee
There were some encouraging signs in this game from Lee. On multiple instances, the Ohio State product showcased his elite speed making a couple of nice stops in the run game and even being deployed as an edge rusher on occasion.
Lee is going to make some splash plays. He’s a heat-seeking missile ready to explode on the ball carrier at any given moment. He’s a runaway train that’s charging full-speed but has lost its grip of the tracks. But unfortunately, Lee needs to be more patient and bide his time as too many times we see him sprint into the backfield only to overpursue his target and fall flat on his behind. This alone limits his ability in run defense.
Lee continues to be a liability in pass coverage as well. The former first-round pick absolutely fell apart in the fourth quarter as Miami consistently attacked him in the air and his own ineptitude deserves part of the blame for the Dolphins game-tying touchdown.
Much like the rest of the Jets, Lee struggled with penalties throughout the game. He managed to completely erase two of his excellent plays with his own foolishness. The inexperienced Lee was called for roughing the passer on a play in which he provided good pressure on quarterback Jay Cutler and came away with the sack. He was later flagged for a facemask after he showed good pursuit tackling running back Jay Ajayi for a short gain.
Lee has shown flashes, but he’s clearly a young player in need of a lot of development and until he refines his game and become a more consistent player, he will continue to be one of the weakest parts of this Jets defense.
Next: 3. Josh McCown
3. Quarterback Josh McCown
To his credit, Josh McCown had himself another fine game accounting for all four Jets touchdowns, passing for three and rushing for the other. He made good throws when he needed to, including a fantastic deep ball to Jermaine Kearse which put the Jets on the board early in the first quarter.
But he’s on this list for one awful, regrettable reason. THE interception.
With 47 seconds remaining and three timeouts, the Jets decided to get aggressive and McCown dropped back to pass on 1st and 10. The 38-year old looked to go outside to Kearse only to throw a dreadful ball directly into the hands of an awaiting Bobby McCain. It was an astronomical mistake, one that couldn’t have come at a worse time for Gang Green.
McCown has exceeded many people’s expectations this year and he deserves a good deal of praise for his play this season. Still, the veteran’s deficiencies have continued to haunt him and Sunday’s blunder is just another example. Sonner or later, McCown’s faults will catch up to him and this offense simply isn’t good enough to orchestrate a last-minute touchdown drive.
Eventually, teams will catch on to the Jets offensive gameplan of throwing quick five-yard outs and hitches and McCown will be forced to throw the ball downfield and attack the middle of the field. Unfortunately, Jets fans may not like the results of this.
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There have been few greater underdog tales of the 2017 NFL season than that of McCown, but at some point, the Jets might have to get realistic about their chances this season and give one of the younger guys a shot at leading this team.
But for now, the Jets will just have to accept his shortcomings and hope they don’t outweigh his prowess.
Next: 2. The Coaching Staff
2. The Coaching Staff
Much like the other entries on this list, the coaching staff deserves a lot of credit for the surprising start the Jets have had to this season. They’ve done an excellent job making the most of a roster initially considered to be amongst the worst in the league. Offensive coordinator John Morton has turned his figurative lemons into lemonade with the offense he’s been given and plenty of praise should go his way for the way he’s been able to mask McCown’s flaws.
But Sunday’s game was inexcusable.
The Jets jumped off to another hot start and led the Dolphins by 14 going into the 4th quarter. Instead of keeping their foot on the gas pedal, the Jets offense seemed to get stuck in neutral and the team’s conservative play-calling could be to blame for this. The team seemed content with running the ball and dumping passes off in the flats for the final quarter of the game and it ultimately led to their demise. None of the team’s final five drives went for more than four plays which are a recipe for disaster and just screams conservative.
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Perhaps the most alarming statistic was the number of penalties committed on Sunday by this Jets squad. Bowles’ squad was flagged for an ignominious total of 12 penalties adding up to 124 yards throughout Sunday’s contest against the Dolphins. The Jets were flagged seven times (two of which were declined) in the fourth quarter alone.
Bowles also failed to make any adjustments on the defensive side of the ball as Buster Skrine (oh we’ll get to him) and Lee were consistently picked apart by Miami. After seeing the game that Skrine put together there had to be SOMETHING the team could’ve done to limit his damage. Whether that was replacing him with reserve cornerback Juston Burris (who would be playing out of position in the nickel) or switching up some coverage packages to give him less of a role, Skrine simply did not deserve to be on the field at the end of that game. And Bowles’ inability to adapt may have very well cost the Jets the victory on Sunday.
But no one is more to blame for the team’s loss this week than one veteran defensive back who may have solidified himself as the weakest part of this Jets team.
Next: 1. Buster Skrine
1. Cornerback Buster Skrine
Buster Skrine tops this week’s list of the players that cost the Jets the game and it’s not even close.
On Sunday, Skrine put on one of the worst performances you will likely see this year not only by a Jets player but by any individual in the NFL. It was an abysmal showing by the ex-Cleveland Brown and it makes you wonder why a player like him is still in a starting role for the team. Blame the Jets lack of depth at the cornerback position for that atrocity.
Where to begin on this awful day of football? Per Pro Football Focus, Skrine was targeted seven times and gave up a completion on every single one of them. He gave up a total of 119 yards in the air and was “credited” with allowing three of Miami’s four touchdowns.
This doesn’t even tell the whole story, however.
Skrine was flagged three times on the day and played a major part in every Miami touchdown. Jets beat writer Connor Hughes gave a quick overview of Skrine’s game:
Buster Skrine’s day: – Allowed long completion set up Miami 1st TD. – DPI set up 2nd TD– Allowed 3rd TD– Allowed 4th TD
— Connor Hughes (@Connor_J_Hughes) October 22, 2017
The veteran cornerback seemed to think he was playing a game of flag football with all the yellow flags raining down when he was in coverage and there need to be repercussions for his latest poor showing.
This performance will go down as one of the worst we’ll see by a Jets defensive back in quite some time, or at least we could hope. Here’s to hoping Bowles makes some sort of adjustment going into next week against the Atlanta Falcons. The team simply cannot afford another performance like this one from Skrine.
And neither can he.