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Offensive Regression

By Mark Cannizzaro
Jets Insider.com Head Writer
October 19th, 2005
Jets WR Justin McCareins best game of the year against Buffalo was wasted. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Jets WR Justin McCareins best game of the year against Buffalo was wasted. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
"The honeymoon,'' Vinny Testaverde said after the Jets' loss to the Bills Sunday in Buffalo, "is over.''

Indeed it is.

The fact is, the Hollywood story honeymoon of Testaverde's return to the Jets from his couch might have been over before it began.

After what we witnessed Sunday in Buffalo, it appears that Testaverde's triumphant return in the Jets' 14-12 win over the Buccaneers was nothing more than a mirage, a tease.

An analysis of Testaverde's performance in the win over Tampa Bay shows that, aside from some throws of 20-something yards between the 20-yard-line markers, he had trouble moving the ball.

Against Buffalo, the same was true, though the results were much worse because Testaverde wasn't protected as well and he was rattled by the Bills' blitzing.

Testaverde has gone two games without throwing a touchdown pass while throwing three interceptions. Two of those picks came Sunday in Buffalo and were damaging in that they both came in the red zone with the Jets close enough to come back.

In all, Testaverde has had 20 drives since his return and the Jets have scored four touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns, though, came after interception returns by the defense gave the Jets the ball at the Tampa Bay eight-yard line and the Buffalo two-yard line.

That means, of the 20 possessions, Testaverde has engineered only two long drives for touchdowns _ one of 91 yards in Buffalo that was aided by a 49-yard Curtis Martin burst and another of 59 yards against Tampa Bay.

Meanwhile, Testaverde's turnovers have been damaging. Against Tampa Bay, his interception led to a Buccaneers' field goal. Against Buffalo, his first interception led to the swing point of the game when the Bills turned it into a 24-10 lead with a touchdown. His second interception, which came with the Jets trailing by 10 with 3:01 remaining, allowed Buffalo to run the clock out.

And, if you don't think teams are going to start doing exactly what the Bills did to the Jets in Buffalo you're not paying attention. This is a total copycat league and the way the Bills rattled Testaverde with the blitz is now the blueprint to stopping the Jets' offense until the Jets somehow make teams pay.

"You expect it, yeah,'' Herman Edwards said of expecting more blitzing pressure. "We anticipate that, sure do, because you're playing the odds. You're just saying, 'Hey, we can get to him and make some bad throws and get them in long situations.' ''

Inside of Weeb Ewbank Hall, there is a serious concern amongst the coaching staff that this is all Testaverde can and will be. In fact, one highly-placed source familiar with the coaches' thinking is fearful that Testaverde might regress from here _ if that's possible _ rather than get better.

They were very worried about how out of sorts Testaverde was when faced with the blitz.

The Jets' offensive line, which has not had a great year, was devastated with the news early this week that center Kevin Mawae is out for the year with a triceps tear.

That's not going to make the protection of Testaverde any better _ particularly when you consider that Mawae is the quarterback of the line, making all the protection calls for the rest of the line.

This is not to blame all of the Jets' woes on Testaverde. In this very space, I stated that Testaverde was the only logical answer to sign once Chad Pennington was lost for the season.

It's just that Testaverde obviously needs more help around him. And, whether he gets better from here _ he has no touchdown passes and three interceptions and a 50.6 passer rating _ is anyone's guess.

If he doesn't, this season is going to get progressively uglier. If he does, then maybe some of those 26 and 28-yard completions will be turned into touchdown passes and produce points.

INSIDER EXTRA POINTS

The Jets are victims of a nasty cycle that has to get better or they're doomed.

In six games this season, they have scored only seven points _ a single touchdown _ in the first quarter. They've been outscored 30-7 in the first quarter, meaning the Jets are almost always playing from behind.

That's not a good thing to do when you're playing with a soon-to-be 42-year-old quarterback, an inconsistent running game and a defense that is now questionable.

Other damning statistics follow, such as the Jets producing only nine sacks in six games while the Jets have yielded 21 sacks. The fact that the Jets' offense has held possession of the ball for a paltry average of 26:26 per game while opposing teams have it 33:34 doesn't help matters, either.

The Jets' lack of success this season _ they're 2-4 _ is a big part of that nasty cycle that comes with falling behind early in games.

In the opener in Kansas City, the Chiefs had a 14-0 lead before CBS had a chance to introduce the lineups to its viewers.

Baltimore got up on the Jets early as did Buffalo in losses.

"It all has something to do with the lead,'' Edwards said. "Get a lead, and all of a sudden you can put a little bit more pressure on them and make them make some mistakes.''

Edwards said he has "no idea'' why the Jets are such a poor-starting team.

"We've got to fix it, though,'' he said. "We've got to find a way to get out and get some points up on the board early. We haven't been able to do it. We've always, for some reason, been behind. It's either, the Kansas City game, three plays, 85 yards, touchdown. All of the sudden, they get the ball back, go down there, get another touchdown and we're kind of fighting uphill.

"The next week it's Miami, we played pretty well and we get the lead early, and keep the lead. And from then on every other game, we never get anything going. We always seem to rally, we do a good job of rallying. We rally and close the gap. In the third or fourth quarter we find a way to close the gap but then we don't. We never finish it off.''

****

There's an alarming trend taking place with the Jets on the road _ a place where Edwards used to love to play because his teams were successful away from home. Not anymore, though.

The Jets are 0-3 on the road this season and 0-5 in regular-season road games dating back to last season. Their last regular-season road win came in Arizona against the Cardinals on Nov. 28, 2004.

The Jets were 7-1 on the road in Edwards' first season with the team, in 2001, and have not had a record better than .500 since. They were 4-4 away from home in 2002, 2-6 in 2003 and 4-4 last season.

This year, of course, they've started 0-3.

"Yeah, we've managed to play on the road well (in the past) and we haven't won a road game yet,'' Edwards said. "That's disheartening.''

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