Jets DT Dewayne Robertson hassles Colts QB Peyton Manning during the Jets 28-23 loss on Sunday.
A down-trodden Jets team returned to Hempstead on Monday to review the positives and negatives of a tough Week 4 loss against the Indianapolis Colts. While the Jets surprised many by hanging in with the undefeated Colts for 60 minutes, the team took no consolation in losing by just three.
Two plays are all it takes to describe the two sides of the game for the Jets. The first play was rookie head coach Eric Mangini’s decision to go for it on fourth and goal during the third quarter. Rather than kick a field goal and settle for three points, Mangini called for a play-action bootleg pass for quarterback Chad Pennington that resulted in an interception in the back of the end-zone. A field goal would have accounted for the difference in the final score, possibly sending the game to overtime.
“If I had to do it again, I’d do the same thing,” Mangini said of the decision. “I’d put the ball in the offense’s hand. We’re committed to being aggressive.”
Pennington, who had not thrown a red-zone interception in 120 career trips prior to Sunday, backed his coach’s decision.
“Hindsight is always twenty/twenty, but I believe in my coach and I believe in my team,” the veteran said. “We’ve got to punch it in and we didn’t do that.”
The other play was the final play of the game. Perhaps no play thus far this season has better illustrated the character of this Jets team than the schoolyard, do-anything-to-keep-the-ball-alive effort the Jets gave to get into the end-zone.
“It is important for us to just stay alive, keep fighting,” rookie running back Leon Washington said of the play. “The game ain’t over until the fat lady sings. That was a great job by our team, fighting down to the last play.”
Though their fight is admirable, there is no doubt that Gang Green has several improvements to make. The most glaring problem through the first three weeks was clearly the running game. Although the Jets’ ground attack was much improved on Sunday, racking up 135 yards on 37 carries for an average of 3.6 yards per carry, it is important to realize this came against a team ranked 30th in stopping the run. The Colts actually improved their rushing defense against the Jets, lowering their yards allowed per game to 155.
It looked like the Jets may have found the answer to their rushing woes in second-year running back Cedric Houston. Houston, a power-back listed at 6 feet, 220 pounds, ran for 49 yards on 12 carries for an average of 4.1 yards per carry. However, Houston went down with a left knee injury right before the fourth down attempt in the third quarter.
“Cedric will be evaluated during the early part of the week and then I’ll meet with the team doctors and we’ll figure out where he is for the week,” Mangini said. “A detailed injury report will come out on Wednesday.”
The biggest problem for the Jets on Sunday, however, was the defense’s inability to stop Peyton Manning and the Colts. Indy had its way with the Jets defense, particularly in the fourth quarter. Defensive captain Jonathan Vilma was clearly frustrated with the unit’s effort.
“The defense didn’t do it and it cost us the game,” the middle linebacker said. “Especially on the last two drives.”
The Colts got touchdowns on their final two drives of the game, including a nine play, 61-yard drive in a minute and a half with no timeouts to take the lead, and ultimately the game. In all, the Colts ran up 17 points against the Jets in the fourth quarter. For the season the Jets have now allowed 43 fourth quarter points.
If they are going to find success next week in Jacksonville, the Jets will have to play stingier defense late in the game. The Jaguars have scored 40 points in the fourth quarter in their first four games.
-Mangini explained that the decision to make third string tight end James Dearth the primary receiver on the fourth and goal play was based on a surprise element. He compared it to plays where guys like former tackle Jumbo Elliot and Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel have caught touchdown passes.
-Mangini laughed off a question asking if he thought of himself as a gambler when it comes to his play calling.
“No, I have mostly index stocks and blue chips,” Mangini said, tongue in cheek. “When it comes to the play calling, that’s more educated risks.”
-The mood in the locker room was somewhat subdued. Mangini chalked that up to the team’s competitive nature.
“That’s why we draft competitive guys,” the coach said. “We want guys that hate to lose, whether it’s football, Scrabble, or a pick-up game with your uncle.”
The Jets are off on Tuesday and will return to Hofstra on Wednesday to begin preparation for their Week 5 showdown against the Jaguars. An injury report will also be given on Wednesday.