Another afternoon of New York Jets football ends with another frustrating loss as Gang Green was defeated by the Carolina Panthers by a final score of 35-27. What players are to blame this week after the Jets fall just short yet again?
The New York Jets are so close to being a good football team.
They are an undisciplined group of players who have played better than they have had any right to play this year. But they should be even better. Instead, frequent penalties, untimely turnovers, and grievous special teams blunders have cost this team at least 2-3 games this season.
And that’s being generous.
This week it was an inexcusable fumble by quarterback Josh McCown, that was subsequently returned for a touchdown, that opened up the floodgates for New York. A short punt from punter Lachlan Edwards that was returned for a touchdown seemed to be the proverbial nail in the coffin but a late push from the Jets offense gave the team one last shot at redemption. This was of course halted by a boneheaded roughing the passer penalty on reserve nose tackle Mike Pennel which all but ended the game. A Carolina field goal and an embarrassing final “desperation play” finally put the Jets out of their misery.
Now there’s a lot to dissect here. Unfortunately, this doesn’t even tell the whole story of the Jets “Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind.”
There were two “dropped” touchdowns by tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, one which was questionable, to say the least. There was a fourth down stand from the Jets defense negated by a back-breaking offsides call on linebacker Jordan Jenkins. Not to mention the fact that the Jets had first-and-goal from the one and threw the ball THREE times in a row. The team settled for a field goal.
There is certainly plenty of blame to go around and since that’s what we’re here to do let’s just jump right into it.
Next: 5. Darryl Roberts
5. Cornerback Darryl Roberts
Darryl Roberts has been a serviceable option at cornerback this year for the Jets. He stepped up after a poor start from the young Juston Burris forced the team’s hand and he’s been the Jets starter on the outside in the nickel package since Week 3.
Sunday, however, was not his finest showing.
Matched up with the Panthers top wideout Devin Funchess for most of the game, the former Marshall cornerback was torched by the imposing Funchess as the Carolina receiver hauled in seven receptions for 108 total receiving yards, most of which came against Roberts.
To add insult to injury, this was all done on Roberts’ 27th birthday.
Roberts has been a solid find for the Jets after being claimed off waivers from the New England Patriots in September of last year. He’s taken on an increased role this year, after being used mostly in the dime package last season, and has been a dependable option for the most part.
The question remains, however, where was Morris Claiborne?
The veteran cornerback had been nursing a foot injury coming into the game but it was certainly an odd choice to have the inexperienced Roberts shadow Funchess for the majority of the game.
Whatever the case may be, it was a disappointing performance from Roberts who probably wished his birthday had gone a little better.
Next: 4. The Offensive Line
4. The Offensive Line
In what has become a recurring theme this year, the Jets offensive line put together another subpar performance. While their most recent outing likely wasn’t their worst, it was without a doubt enough to contribute to this week’s Jets loss.
Penalties once again proved to be a problem with holding infractions called on both center Wesley Johnson and guard Brian Winters. For Winters, it’s been a rough year since the Jets signed him to a four-year extension this past offseason and it didn’t get any better on Sunday.
The veteran guard was guilty of his eighth penalty of the season, second on the team only behind known “yellow flag connoisseur” Buster Skrine. Of those eight penalties, five of them were holds which are tied for the team lead in that specific penalty. Winters has been one of the weakest pieces of the Jets offensive line this year and that’s certainly disappointing considering the career year he was coming off of.
As a unit, the offensive line allowed three sacks. The most damaging of which came early in the fourth quarter when a miscommunication on the right side of the line allowed defensive end Wes Horton to come through essentially untouched, save for a slight shove by an overwhelmed Elijah McGuire. Horton proceeded to sack quarterback Josh McCown who desperately attempted to get rid of the football…..which he did, but not in the way he would have hoped. McCown fumbled and the ball was recovered by star linebacker Luke Kuechly and returned for a touchdown on a play that would serve as the catalyst for the ultimate Panthers victory.
With safety Kurt Coleman blitzing off the edge, there was a clear miscommunication as right tackle Brandon Shell opted to block the blitzing defensive back while fullback Lawrence Thomas didn’t block anyone on his planned block-and-release assignment. Instead, the aforementioned McGuire was tasked with blocking an NFL defensive end running at full speed. Needless to say, it didn’t quite work out in the Jets favor.
Although the offensive line as a whole has, in fact, had much worse outings, numerous foolish penalties and costly miscues such as the one mentioned above helped seal the Jets’ fate against Carolina and that “earns” them a spot on this ignominious list.
Next: 3. Punt Coverage Team
3. Punt Coverage Team
Sometimes players, or in this case entire units, make this list based solely off of one specific play from a game.
This is one of those cases.
The Jets punt unit had a fine game by most standards. Punter Lachlan Edwards, in particular, had himself a very solid day kicking for 318 yards on seven punts including two which were downed inside the 20 and none that resulted in touchbacks. The Aussie has improved drastically since his rookie season and is actually putting together a quality season after being so inconsistent last year.
However, all it took was one below-average punt to turn his entire game around. Edwards kicked it away from his own 23 and the ball traveled just passed the Carolina 40-yard line. It wasn’t a terrible punt, but for a player known most for his hangtime on his kicks, it was certainly unfortunate to see such a line drive of a kick.
The subpar punt could’ve been forgiven, but what is unforgivable is the awful display of tackling and hustle by the coverage team. Both gunners, Rashard Robinson and Terrence Brooks, get blocked out of the play, but that’s not necessarily an uncommon occurrence. It’s the tackling from the remainder of the Jets punt coverage team that essentially did the team in.
Long snapper Thomas Hennessy was the first to whiff as he was spun out badly by return man Kaelin Clay. Thinking he was going to be tackled, veterans Bruce Carter and Eric Tomlinson stopped running only for Clay to run right past them on his way to the end zone.
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This is a contemptible lack of effort and focus from the Jets punt coverage team and it ultimately proved to be the difference maker as the team couldn’t overcome the two-touchdown deficit.
Mistakes like this aren’t made by good teams. They’re made by teams that are close to being good.
Unfortunately, that’s the category the 2017 Jets find themselves in.
Next: 2. Austin Seferian-Jenkins
2. Tight End Austin Seferian-Jenkins
This one feels a bit harsh.
But if one were solely to look at the stat sheet for this game it would list two dropped touchdowns at the hands (no pun intended) of Seferian-Jenkins.
Now the first one was entirely his fault. After a very impressive opening drive, the Jets were sitting pretty inside the Carolina 15-yard line trying to answer back a Panthers opening drive that netted the team three points.
On third-and-one, the team ran a beautiful play fake and McCown tossed the ball to a wide-open Seferian-Jenkins in the end zone. Despite not being touched by a single defender, the ball eluded the bulky tight end’s reach and fell through his hands on a catch he makes 99 times out of 100. It was a costly mistake on a night that would be full of them and ultimately cost the Jets four points.
His second “drop” is up for debate, however. Early in the fourth quarter, McCown attempted to find ASJ on a fade route from the one-yard line. The 25-year-old appeared to come down with it with a beautiful diving snag that would’ve resulted in a Jets touchdown and given the team a 23-18 lead pending the conversion attempt. Although the ball wiggled a little bit in Seferian-Jenkins’ hands going to the ground, it didn’t appear that there was enough evidence to overturn the call on the field.
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As the late, great Yogi Berra once said, “it’s deja vu all over again.”
In true Austin Seferian-Jenkins fashion, the call on the field was overturned and the touchdown was taken off the board. This wound up leaving another four points (depending on the conversion attempt) on the field and added to the list of “almost” plays the Jets had that day as the FOX announcers made sure to point out.
It was a rough day at the office for a guy who’s been a part of one of the most satisfying redemption stories of the NFL season. ASJ seems primed to bounce back, but unfortunately, an untimely drop and an unlucky referee’s decision land him at number two on this list.
Next: 1. Josh McCown
1. Quarterback Josh McCown
Josh McCown has outperformed even the wildest of expectations placed upon him this year. But he’s still Josh McCown. And the Jets are reminded of this fact every time the fourth quarter comes around.
Much like the rest of the team, McCown completely shuts down in the fourth quarter of games and is a large part of the reason that the Jets have a negative 66 point differential in the final 15 minutes of games. The veteran quarterback didn’t necessarily have himself a bad game, but once again came up short when it mattered most.
Despite a few questionable decisions and a fair amount of misses, McCown played alright on Sunday and went into the fourth quarter with two touchdown passes and no turnovers. That all changed when he was sacked the with 12:05 remaining in the game and the ball was recovered and returned for a Carolina touchdown.
For a quarterback that has played in the league as long as McCown has, it’s alarming how poor the 38-year-old’s pocket presence is at this stage in his career. Possibly even worse though is the bonehead decision to try and throw the ball in that situation rather than just take the sack. This is just another example of a horrid decision by McCown late in games that have cost Jets victories.
Perhaps he’s the reason. Perhaps Josh McCown is the reason that the Jets are so close to being a good football team.
He’s likely part of the reason. But it still stands true that the Jets ultimately don’t have the talent at certain positions to overcome the brainless, careless mistakes they’ve been making.
The blame shouldn’t be placed all on McCown. Regardless, it’s fair to wonder what the Jets record would be had their quarterback played a full 60-minute game more than a handful of times this year.
But “what if” seems to be the Jets motto this season.
And that “what if” is the “so close” label the Jets have been desperately trying to dispose of.