Postgame Thoughts: Jets Deliver a Clunker

After the Jets fell to the Broncos 34-17 just two weeks ago, labeling the defeat as an embarassment for the first-place Jets was a reach. The Broncos were not only in first place in the AFC West, but they possessed a rising star at quarterback in Jay Cutler. Around Cutler were wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal and tight end Tony Scheffler; all of which form one of the league’s elite receiving cores. The offense was solidified by one of the league’s most impenetrable offensive lines and a running game that seemingly could plug in the kicker and watch him scamper his way to 100 yards. Not to forget, the Broncos also are coached by a mastermind named Mike Shanahan. Throw in a torrential rainstorm which created sloppy playing conditions and understanding why Denver walked away victorious wasn’t rocket science. But traveling to San Francisco and losing 24-14 to the lowly 49ers? Well that was simply inexcusable.

For a team that had created a Super Bowl buzz just three weeks ago, the Jets were beaten in every facet of the game. They were out-muscled, out-finessed, out-hustled, out-smarted and out-coached. The loss to Denver was labeled as a wakeup call within the Jets’ locker room and one that true contenders bounce back from with a punch of their own. Instead, yesterday’s loss served as an alarm on a season ready to take a turn for the worst. With a 4-8 record entering into yesterday, the 49ers had nothing to play for but team pride, but they beat the Jets up and down the field. The positive side is that the Jets control their own destiny with three games remaining, but one more mishap and a possible dream season will have turned into a nightmare.

*For the second consecutive Sunday, Brett Favre looked his age. The 38-year old Favre was in vintage form in wins over the Patriots and Titans, but yesterday he had no answers against the weak 49ers secondary. Even with star cornerback Nate Clements out with a thumb injury, Favre was unable to develop any sort of rhythm. He completed 64 percent of his passes (20 of 31) but passed for a season-low 137 yards. The Jets offense that played hard-nosed ball control football during it’s five-game winning streak has become forgotten. It’s hard to understand how wide receivers Laveranues Coles (one catch, five yards) and Jerricho Cotchery (one catch, ten yards) could have such little impact against a one of the league’s worst pass defenses. Last week Coles attributed his quiet afternoons to defenses double-teaming him, but for both players to be completely shut down is hard to understand. With Favre aboard, Coles and Cotchery were expected to enjoy field days against inferior defenses, but the two were nearly shut out instead. Maybe offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer should think about turning back to that West Coast style passing attack that thrived in wins over the Patriots and Titans.  

*It’s easy to point toward the time of possession battle (49ers: 39:49, Jets: 20:11) to explain why running backs Thomas Jones and Leon Washington only combined for 11 carries (57 yards), but the Jets never featured a balanced offense. Washington has proven to be the Jets’ most explosive player and his shifty running style has been a nice changeup to Jones’ punishing downhill style, but he received as many carries as Favre did yesterday, one. The offense has been at its best this season when it has balanced the run with the pass, but the Jets ignored that concept yesterday. Even though the Jets were only down by seven points for much of the contest, they looked desperate and continually threw the ball around the field.

*Eric Mangini noted that Brad Smith’s lateral to Washington on the fourth quarter kickoff might have taken the Jets a long way had the play been executed properly, but it seemed like another example of the Jets outsmarting themselves. The week before, Smith’s lateral to Cotchery on a botched reverse resulted in a Denver touchdown and yesterday’s mistake left the Jets stranded at their own one-yard line. It makes sense to feature Smith in gadget plays because he excelled at the college level as an option quarterback, but enough. The Jets were down ten points with 6:05 remaining, but the risk was too great. If not for an alert play by Washington, the Jets’ mistake would have resulted in a safety. It would make sense if only two or three minutes remained on the clock, but six minutes is more than enough time for Favre to lead his offense to ten points.

*Mangini obviously was not overly thrilled with the holding call that negated Washington’s kickoff return for a touchdown. After looking at the play again, it’s difficult to see how James Ihedigbo could have been whistled for holding. The call was a backbreaker for the Jets. Instead of taking a 21-17 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Jets were sent back to their 30-yard line. The offense began the drive with a holding penalty and then followed that up with a negative rush and an incompletion. The penalty on Washington was simply deflating.

*After playing at an All-Pro level for much of the season, nose tackle Kris Jenkins has officially suffered through his first slump as a Jet. Jenkins provided little push in the pass defense and was a non-factor in the rush defense. Running back Frank Gore (14 carries, 52 yards) was effective before exiting with an ankle injury. Jenkins only jumped offsides on a fourth-and-one attempt and was whistled for a holding penalty that handed the 49ers a first down. While the pass defense remains a significant problem for the Jets, much of the unit’s success sits on Jenkins.

*Where has the Jets’ pass rush gone? Mangini continues to point toward the pass rush as a “consistent” effort, but whatever the problem is, adjustments need to be made. Behind linebackers Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas the Jets pass rush began the season as a quarterback’s worst nightmare, but that feeling has disappeared. Quick dropbacks can be attributed to some of the low sack totals, but the numbers speak for themselves. The Jets just aren’t getting to the quarterback.

*Ty Law’s second stint with the Jets began with a bang when he limited Randy Moss to just two catches in the Jets’ win over the Patriots, but he’s been a non-factor since. Wide receivers Isaac Bruce (six catches, 70 yards) and Bryant Johnson (six catches, 49 yards, one touchdown) were open all afternoon. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz attacked the middle of the field with quick slants, to which the Jets did not have much of an answer.

*Add Shaun Hill to the growing list of quarterbacks who have enjoyed solid afternoons against the Jets defense. Hill (28-for-39, 285 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) looked calm and collective and only made one mistake all afternoon. The throw which resulted in an interception by David Bowens was a bad read by Hill.

*Although the Jets only scored 14 points, the offensive line’s performance was not all that bad. The 49ers recorded three sacks, but two of them came on the final desperation drive when the Jets had no threat of a rushing attack. Favre had time to throw the ball throughout the afternoon and the rushing offense averaged 4.9 yards per carry.

*Mangini preaches “self-inflicted errors” as a game-breaking statistic, so the Jets’ head coach obviously could not have been happy about yesterday. Favre’s interception resulted in the lone turnover, but the Jets were whistled for eight penalties for 57 yards.

*Looking ahead, the Jets Dec. 21 matchup with the Seahawks could serve as a potential roadblock to their division title hopes. If quarterback Matt Hasselbeck returns, the Jets will be facing one of the league’s top signal-callers. More troublesome for the Jets could be rookie tight end Matt Carlson (, who is quickly developing into a force within the Seattle offense. This season the Jets have had more than enough trouble containing opposing tight ends. Seattle’s Qwest Field has never been friendly to opponents and the Jets will have to shake their 0-3 record on the West Coast if they wish to leave victorious.

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