Rough Sunday for Gang Green

It’s never good when you compare your recent performance to an early season loss to the lowly Raiders. However, the Jets found themselves in that position after falling to the Broncos 34-17 on Sunday. Linebacker David Bowens explained that “the same things that hurt us in the Oakland game hurt us [Sunday], tackling, penalties, turnovers, those little intangible things that lose a game.”

The Jets felt they had escaped their early season struggles within their five-game winning streak but they responded with an outing that left head coach Eric Mangini exasperated. For a team that had begun to captivate a city with dreams of a Subway Super Bowl, Sunday’s embarassment was a timely wake-up call. Wide receiver Laveranues Coles explained yesterday that the loss “gets us to realize that we can be smacked on the butt ourselves” and he pledged that the team needed to “wake up,” which certainly sounds as though the Jets were over-confident after winning seven of their previous eight games. It’s hard to criticize the Jets for what they have done collectively through 12 games, but they need to remember that trophies aren’t awarded in December.

The Jets need to put their mistakes behind them as they prepare for the 49ers and they still remain in prime position to end the Patriots’ five-year run atop the AFC East, but ignoring Sunday’s struggles is difficult. While the Jets’ run defense endured its first poor day at the office in this season by surrendering 129 yards rushing to rookie Peyton Hillis, the Jets’ pass defense continues to be a major concern. Jay Cutler threaded the defense all afternoon, completing 27-of-43 passes for 357 yards and two touchdowns. Through 13 weeks, the Jets have allowed 249 passing yards per game (30th in NFL) and have watched as the likes of Matt Cassel, JaMarcus Russell and Tyler Thigpen have enjoyed career performances against the Gang Green secondary. It can be argued that statistic is somewhat inflated with opponents abandoning their running game and thus throwing more against the Jets, but it has become clearly evident where the Jets’ struggles lie.

*Eric Mangini and Brian Schottenheimer have enjoyed better days. The Denver defense ranked 29th in the NFL heading into Sunday’s matchup but poor play-calling helped the Broncos thrive. The botched reverse between Brad Smith and Jerricho Cotchery was an example of the Jets outsmarting themselves in poor weather conditions. In recent weeks the Jets have been efficient at playing safe football by pounding defenses with their rushing attack and throwing rsisk-free, ten-yard passes. But when you’re facing one of the worst defenses in the NFL and playing in conditions that make ball-handling difficult, dialing up a reverse is difficult. The Jets have enough weapons on offense and they need to put the ‘wildcat’ formation to rest. The decision to call consecutive passing plays on both third-and-one and fourth-and-one was also inexcusable. Jones carried the ball 16 times for 138 yards (8.6 avg) against a vulnerable defense but the Jets again tried to outsmart themselves. They had discovered their identity in recent weeks by playing smashmouth football, but they did not stick to that plan Sunday.

*The Jets have Darrelle Revis and Kerry Rhodes but their secondary remains paper-thin. Both Eddie Royal (five catches, 84 yards, one touchdown) and Brandon Marshall (five catches, 55 yards) were open all afternoon and that’s not to mention the big afternoons from tight ends Tony Scheffler and Daniel Graham. Safety Abram Elam led the team in tackles (12 tackles) but his missed tackle of Royal’s 59-yard touchdown catch was hard to ignore. He was also burned by Brandon Stokley on Stokley’s 36-yard touchdown grab. Revis can expect to see fewer passes head in his direction this season if both Ty Law and Dwight Lowery continue to struggle.

*Where has the Jets’ pass rush gone? After opening the season with a flurry of sacks, the Jets’ pass rush has seemingly disappeared. Yes Cutler has been sacked the fewest times in the NFL and the Broncos’ tackle combination of rookie Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris have arguably been the league’s best, but the Jets rarely came close to even touching Cutler. The Jets struggled containing the mobile Cutler and he made their secondary pay.

*Again, the Jets’ play-calling has to be questioned. Jones has arguably been the league’s best running back over the last month, but he only received 16 carries. Leon Washington, who’s the Jets most explosive player on offense only received five touches (two carries, three receptions). The Jets are best when they’re mixing their dominant run offense with Favre’s arm.

*The Jets have been beaten by opposing tight ends this season, but Sunday was inexcusable. Scheffler and Graham combined for 13 receptions for 149 yards. Ouch.

*Mangini expressed his displeasure with the Jets’ special teams unit, but was their performance that rough. Royal entered the game as one of the league’s best kick returners, but he only averaged 10.7 yards on three returns. Washington averaged a respectable 21.8 yards on four returns. Jay Feely nailed his lone field goal attempt (30 yards) while Reggie Hodges was effective (four punts, 41 yard avg.).

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