Jets CB Darelle Revis tries to defend Bills WR Lee Evans as he scores the TD that seals the win as gang green loses 13-3 to the Bills.
Well, Jets fans finally got their wish, with a late-game Kellen Clemens cameo.
However, it was almost as if the second-year Oregon product was set up for failure. One play following an 85-yard touchdown strike from Bills QB J.P. Losman to WR Lee Evans—a “horrible play” as described by CB Darrelle Revis where S Abram Elam and the rookie cornerback collided with each other—the Jets found themselves down 13-3, the margin they would eventually lose by, after a full game of inefficiency coupled with an inability to score.
And with under 4:00 to play, head coach Eric Mangini, in a confusing, questionable decision, entered QB Chad Pennington’s back-up into the game, ice cold with his back against the wall.
“At that point, the game had shifted from a three-point game to a ten-point game,” Mangini said. “It had gone from a very tight situation where I felt Chad gave us the best opportunity to the ten-point mark where I thought I would take a look at Kellen.”
The chain of events to follow could have been scripted by any football fan. Showing obvious nerves and the jitters of an inexperienced quarterback, Clemens was erratic, throwing two bad incompletions to start the drive. Then, after a flash in the pan with back-to-back first down passes, Clemens fired another incomplete pass, followed by a bad interception picked off by CB Terrence McGee.
In his final drive, Clemens was forced to heave the ball downfield, on the field with less than a minute and no time outs, culminating in a Hail-Mary interception to end the game, in turn leading to a Bills sweep of the Jets on the season.
Watching this game with no knowledge of the Jets’ quarterback controversy, and no knowledge of the pressure from the New York media and fans placed on Mangini to switch to Clemens, it would appear as if Mangini threw in a young quarterback during garbage time with the game out of reach. However, knowing the situation, it seemed conspicuous as to why New York’s quarterback-of-the-future would be brought in a virtual lose-lose situation. Pennington was even surprised about the move.
“I don’t think its in our beings as professional athletes where you think negatively, or where you think you’re going to be sat down,” Pennington said of when offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer broke the news to him.
Had Clemens orchestrated a touchdown drive, he would have been made out to be a hero. However, over two hours after pre-game warm-ups, in cool, blustery conditions, in front of a shrinking, agitated crowd, the odds were clearly against Clemens’ favor. The former Oregon quarterback, however, refused to look for excuses.
“It was good to get in,” Clemens said. “I thought with more than 3:00 left, with three timeouts and only down 10, I thought the game was not out of hand at that point, and unfortunately the first interception there really hurt us.
“As far as just getting in there and getting some time, it was a good experience,” he added.
Moreover, the change may not even be permanent, as Mangini, not surprisingly, said that he will have to reassess the situation during the week of practices.
The rest of the game for the Jets, meanwhile, put the exclamation point on an embarrassing first half of the season.
New York failed to execute against one of the league’s worst defenses.
Play-calling was constantly suspect, with power RB Thomas Jones left on the sideline on numerous third-down-and-short situations.
And, of course, the crowd was relentless, as they have been at a majority of the home games this year. Each time Pennington touched the ball, he was booed; each time the Jets gained less than 10 yards on a play, they were booed; and of the paid attendance of 76,688, about 50 percent showed up, with less than one-tenth sticking around for the entire game.
There were bright spots for the Jets, perhaps more so than other games this year, although exclusively on the defensive end.
Linebacker David Harris, starting in place of the injured Jonathan Vilma, recorded his first career sack and an eye-popping 17 tackles.
“My teammates did a great job of helping me practice this week, especially Jonathan Vilma and Eric Barton,” Harris said. “We had a really focused week of practice.”
Elam and Revis, save the downfield collision that led to the Losman-to-Evans touchdown strike late in the game, played great defense, with Elam in on a majority of the stops in the backfield and Revis looking like a veteran when sent toward the quarterback on blitz packages.
“I still think I had a productive game,” Revis said. “We prepared great for the Bills. We wanted to show them something different for the game, and it was very productive and we did great things on defense.”
Even the rest of the Jets front seven, including DT Dewayne Robertson, NT Sione Pouha and LB David Bowens, who have drawn much criticism thus far this year, showed flashes of brilliance with their ability to stop the run.
Universally, though, the mood was the same, as milestones and exceptional play were overshadowed by the loss.
“I don’t care about that,” Harris said regarding his 17 tackles. “The only thing I care about is if we win or lose.”
Taking the positives from losses will not deliver Gang Green their much-elusive second win. This week’s practices and press conferences will certainly give fans a hint as to whether or not the Clemens rebuilding plan begins, or if it is still Penny and the Jets for the time being.
After the Jets’ first quarter field goal knotted the game at three apiece, the defenses turned into lockdown units, stifling any scoring until the fourth quarter. The length of the combined scoring drought for the two teams was 30:22. Partially to blame for the Bills were costly penalties—they were penalized seven times for 50 yards in the game—while for the Jets, poor field position definitely played a part; New York’s average starting field position in the second half was the 22-yard line.
Harris may have put together a better performance than any of Vilma’s efforts this year; however, the captain’s on-the-field presence and vocal nature were admittedly missed on the field.
“Its kind of different [without Vilma],” Revis said. “He’s the leader, he’s always putting everybody where they need to be, he’s a vocal guy and he was a vocal guy on the sideline today.”
The extent of Vilma’s injury beyond this year is unknown, as details regarding the severity and nature of his knee injury—which knee is even still in question—have not surfaced.
While Buffalo has been coined as one of the worst teams in the AFC, since their first win over the Jets, they have actually been one of the league’s biggest threats. Buffalo is now 3-1 in their past four games—albeit two of those wins over the Jets—with a victory over the Ravens and a last-minute one-point loss to the Cowboys.
Moreover, Evans has regained his all-star form the past few games; his 138 receiving yards today upped his total in the past two games to 236 yards.
Bills have a QB saga, too
News circulated prior to the game suggesting that Bills’ head coach Dick Jauron’s switch from Losman to QB Trent Edwards was not entirely due to on-the-field performance, but also fiscal reasons.
Losman got another shot in today’s contest though, relieving the injured Edwards in the final Bills’ possession of the third quarter. Losman played okay, with the stat line deceptive due to the great catch made by Evans on the under-thrown downfield pass. His numbers ended up at 3-for-5 with 113 yards and the touchdown; Edwards went 14-for-21 with 130 yards and an interception.
TJ gets some touches
The Jets starting running back, who has been relatively absent from the stat line with very limited amounts of touches this year, received a fair amount of action until late in the game.
Jones ended up with 16 carries for 70 yards and five receptions for 34 yards. However, he was once again held out of the endzone, prolonging his season-long touchdown drought.
Fourth quarter woes
Late-game troubles continued for the Jets, as has been the story for the entire season.
Ten of the 13 points allowed by Gang Green came in the decisive fourth quarter, starting with a 40-yard field goal by Ryan Lindell, and ending with the long touchdown pass to Evans. The 10-0 fourth quarter deficit upped the amount New York has been outscored this year in the final period to 93-35.
Mangini said that although different problems have plagued the Jets in the fourth quarter, the losing outcome has been consistent.
“It’s the same ending,” Mangini said. “It’s not the same movie, but it’s the same ending.”
Some other notable stats for the Jets in their losing effort:
Pennington was 13-for-20 for 106 yards.
Clemens was 5-for-12 with 67 yards and two interceptions.
Laveranues Coles, who left the game late after getting hit hard after a catch, had just one reception for 13 yards.
Darrelle Revis’ second quarter interception of Edwards was the first pick of Revis’ career.
New York was 3-12 on third downs.
JI Misc. Game Facts
LB David Harris made his first career start at inside linebacker and sacked Trent Edwards in the third quarter for his first career sack. He finished the game with 17 tackles to lead the Jets.
CB Darrelle Revis intercepted Trent Edwards in the second quarter and returned it 19 yards for his first career interception.
RB Leon Washington posted a 17-yard run in the first quarter. It was his longest run of the season.
Mike Nugent kicked a 27-yard field goal in the second quarter to tie the game (3-3). He has made six consecutive field goals since missing a 44-yarder vs. the Eagles.
P Ben Graham booted a 62-yard punt in the second quarter. It was his longest punt of the season and longest punt since 11/19/06 vs. Chicago when he posted a 67-yard punt.
RB Thomas Jones recorded a season-high five receptions for 34 yards. Jones carried the ball 16 times for 70 yards. He now has 5,941 career rushing yards and passed Larry Brown today for 69th on the NFL’s all-time rushing list.
WR Brad Smith registered his third start of the season at wide receiver, catching three passes for 43 yards. Smith also took one snap from center.
WR Jerricho Cotchery caught five passes for 47 yards. He has now caught at least four passes in 14 consecutive regular season games. It is the second-longest active streak in the NFL, trailing only the Rams Torry Holt, who has caught at least four passes in 16 consecutive games. Holt has six receptions today vs. Cleveland.
WR Laveranues Coles caught a 13-yard pass in the fourth quarter to extend his streak to 69 consecutive games with at least one reception. He has now started 104 consecutive games, the longest current streak in the NFL by a wide receiver.
QB Kellen Clemens relieved Chad Pennington in the fourth quarter, completing 5-for-12 passes for 67 yards with two interceptions.
QB Chad Pennington, who was 13-of-20 passing for 106 yards, now has 1,849 career pass attempts, putting him in front of Vinny Testaverde (1,833) for fourth on the Jets all-time list.
OL Jacob Bender and DL Mike DeVito were active for the first time this season. Bender, the Jets 2007 sixth-round draft pick, made his NFL debut on special teams in the second quarter. Mike DeVito, a free agent signee from Maine, made his NFL debut in the second quarter at left defensive end.
LB Matt Chatham made his 2007 debut on the opening kickoff and ended the game with two special teams tackles. Chatham was activated Saturday from the PUP list.
With the 13-3 loss, the Jets now trail the regular season series, 52-42.