The New York Jets lost another close battle in Week 8 this time at home against the Atlanta Falcons in horrid weather conditions. Who’s to blame for yet another 4th quarter collapse?
The New York Jets season has turned into a television program that’s gone on for too long and is beginning to overstay its welcome. The jokes are no longer funny, the formatting of the show is foreseeable and stale, and the outcome has become all too predictable.
The Jets once again got off to a hot start putting together a touchdown drive on their first possession for the third consecutive week, something they had not done since 2008. They continue to overachieve for the first three quarters, led by a scorching hot Josh McCown and a receiving core that’s punching above their weight class.
Unfortunately, someone needs to alert the Jets that there are four quarters in a game of football.
The motto all week in practice was apparently “FINISH“. Head coach Todd Bowles drilled that maxim into the minds of his players for seven days only for the team to go back to the ways of old and lay another egg in the 4th quarter. It’s a troubling trend, one that has threatened to halt the Jets feel-good story of a season prematurely.
The Jets played as a team and lost as one on Sunday. Regardless, there are still a number of poor individual performances that contributed to the team’s third straight defeat.
In the true spirit of pessimism, let’s take a look at some of these players.
Next: 5. The Offensive Line
5. The Offensive Line
Another week has passed and the Jets are still without a running game.
The team’s rush offense has seemingly gone M.I.A. since Week 4 against the Jaguars when the Jets exploded for 256 yards on the ground facing a stingy defense. Since then, the Jets have failed to top the century mark all the while putting up less than 50 yards against both the Browns and the Falcons this week.
While it’s easy to blame the running backs for this stunning lack of production, the fault lies almost exclusively on the offensive line. It tends to be difficult for running backs to gain positive yards when they’re running into a wall of 300+ pound goliaths on every play. Shocking.
The Jets interior blocking has been the biggest offender of this as center Wesley Johnson and guards James Carpenter and Brian Winters have failed to get any sort of a push off the snap of the ball. All it takes is a quick glance at the game tape over the past few weeks to see this development in action but an analysis of each of their PFF grades should do the trick as well.
Per Pro Football Focus, Carpenter grades out at 50.7 which ranks him at 36th out of all guards in the league, but it gets worse from there. Winters, who signed a four-year extension this past offseason, has a PFF grade of 44.1 which put him at 54th out of 64 starting guards. Perhaps the worst of all is Johnson whose dreadful 34.3 rating makes him the 35th best center in a league that starts only 32. This means that PFF considers Johnson a backup caliber center.
What does all of this mean? It means the offensive line better get their act together or else the Jets will continue to be one-dimensional on offense. And that simply cannot be the case with the talent, or lack thereof, in the passing game.
Next: 4. Morris Claiborne's Foot
4. Morris Claiborne’s Foot
This is a first here in this article series. We’ve seen the rules bent a little in the past to allow coaches and even entire position groups to rank on this list but this is certainly the first time a player’s appendage has reserved a spot on the countdown.
The Jets were doing a fine job shutting down Matt Ryan and the Falcons passing game when top cornerback Morris Claiborne was sent to the locker room with a foot injury. Claiborne had been busy shutting down one of the best wide receivers in the game today in Julio Jones, holding the Alabama product to just two catches for 20 yards through the majority of three quarters.
On the first defensive series without Claiborne, Ryan connected with Jones for 54 yards, beating cornerback Darryl Roberts in the process. This came in the middle of the third quarter with the Jets still clinging on to a four-point lead. The long completion set up a Falcons field goal from Matt Bryant which would cut New York’s lead to just one point.
The following defensive series went about as well as the one proceeding it. With around 14 minutes remaining in the game, cornerback Juston Burris, who had come in for the injured Claiborne, whiffed badly on a cutback run from Tevin Coleman. The play ended up going for 52 yards which set up the Falcons for an eventual touchdown which would give them the lead, a lead they would never surrender.
If Claiborne is forced to miss any substantial period of time it would be a major blow to this Jets secondary. And given his lengthy injury history, Jets fans have all the reason to be worried.
Next: 3. Jeremy Kerley
3. Wide Receiver Jeremy Kerley
Sometimes players can find themselves in the doghouse amongst fans because of one particular play in a game. This week, that player is Jeremy Kerley.
With just under seven minutes remaining in the game and the Jets trailing by two, Falcons punter Matt Bosher skied a kick out to an awaiting Kerley. The veteran receiver backpedaled and attempted to track the soaring kick amongst a cloudy sky engulfed in raindrops. Fighting the gale-like winds, Kerley misjudged the ball and it went straight through his arms and hit the wet turf below. The Falcons would recover, something the Jets wouldn’t be able to do.
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While the Jets would manage to hold Atlanta to a field goal, this was a major blow to the team’s comeback attempt and thwarted any sort of momentum the Jets had recovered by forcing a 3-and-out on the previous possession.
This isn’t the first time the Jets chances at winning a game have been severely impacted by a muffed punt this season. Many fans will remember the ill-fated Week 2 matchup against the Oakland Raiders when the infamous Kalif Raymond muffed a punt late in the first half which opened the floodgates for what was likely the team’s worst showing to date.
One would hope the usually sure-handed Kerley will be able to bounce back after this rough week. At least next week he won’t be playing in monsoon-like conditions….hopefully.
Next: 2. Chandler Catanzaro
2. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro
This one feels a bit harsh, but that doesn’t change the fact that Jets kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed two makable field goals on Sunday. That’s six more points that the Jets could’ve had. Considering they lost by a total of five points, that really hurts.
Now, of course, it should be noted that much like the aforementioned Kerley, Catanzaro was kicking in what was downright atrocious weather conditions. But 20 mile per hour winds and rain in his face aside, the former Arizona Cardinal missed two key field goals which proved to be the difference maker in a tight matchup against the Falcons.
Catanzaro hit twice from 43 and 46 yards out but also happened to miss on kicks from 46 and 48. While those certainly aren’t “gimme” kicks, in a close game like this every point matters and repeated empty possessions is what ultimately did the Jets in.
The “Cat Man” hasn’t necessarily been bad this season but he hasn’t been automatic either. He’s now 13 of 17 on the year and the Jets would surely appreciate some sense of consistency from the 4th-year kicker.
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Chalk this game up to the weather, but more games like this one might make the Jets rethink their decision to release Ross Martin prior to Week 1 in favor of the elder Catanzaro.
Next: 1. John Morton
1. Offensive Coordinator John Morton
This game was an absolute mess for a coach who’s been so effective at getting the most out of this talent-deprived offense this season. Morton still deserves plenty of credit for continuing to work with McCown and the playbook deployed emphasizes his strengths and masks his weaknesses.
Still, the playcalling for the majority of Sunday game was questionable, to say the least. With the weather conditions the way they were, it was expected that the Jets would try to run the ball as much as possible to limit potential turnovers and mistakes on offense. Instead, New York proceeded to run the ball just 22 times and mustered up a paltry 43 yards on the ground. This confusing approach drew the ire of veteran Matt Forte, who finished the game with just seven yards on four carries.
Forte had some choice words for Morton following Sunday’s game, per Manish Mehta of the Daily News.
“You got a wet ball out there. It’s rainy. It wasn’t like a light drizzle. It was really really raining. If I was a coordinator… (and) I’m obviously biased because I’m a running back – raining like that, yeah, you would think that we would run it more than we did. But like I said every game is different. He’s calling the plays. He has to call what he sees out there…. We have to execute the plays no matter what he calls.”
Moreover, Morton’s third down playcalling philosophy remains a mystery to this writer. He consistently calls for routes to be run short of the first down marker, either that or the receivers simply aren’t executing. And don’t get me started on the awful Lawrence Thomas fullback dive on 3rd-and-1.
Perhaps the most troubling development of all came with the Jets second consecutive failed two-minute drill which ended the game. There was absolutely no sign of urgency from McCown and the offense who thought it would be productive to throw 5-10 yard passes over the middle of the field with no timeouts backed-up inside their own 20-yard line.
This was a poor showing from an offensive coordinator who’s done so well with what he’s been given. However, the Jets will need to start finishing what they started in these games, and that mantra must fall on the back of Morton and the team’s offense.