Jets head coach Eric Mangini knows his team hasn't met a desired level of consistency. He remains adament that there is not "one set answer" to the Jets' recent struggles, but asks that his players re-evaluate their preparations.
"That goes back to the question that everybody has to ask each game-are you doing the same things that you were doing? Are you improving on those things? Is the consistency there? That's a question I'll ask this week, like I asked two weeks ago and like I asked 12 weeks ago," Mangini said.
After the Jets' 34-13 win over the previously undefeated Titans three weeks ago, the Jets were responding to Mangini's questions with a collective "yes" and in turn, had elevated themselves toward the top of the conference. Whispers of a "Subway Super Bowl" had turned into screams and shouts within the city.
Those talks were all but left for dead yesterday, as the Jets now find themselves fighting for their playoff lives after losing 24-14 to the lowly 49ers. Although the Jets are in a recent swoon, three victories to finish out the season will still net the Jets a division title. Guard Damien Woody knows that factor is enough to keep the team focused.
"There is always going to be ups and downs. There is always going to be adversity. Nobody said it was going to be easy getting this thing done, but we have a bunch of good guys in this locker room," Woody said.
While Mangini remains noticeably disappointed after yesterday's debacle in San Francisco, he knows the Jets have a "great opportunity moving forward." Mangini noted that he showed his team a 267-day outline that dated back to the start of the offseason workouts, stressing how long a ride the NFL season can be.
"Any kind of distraction or any kind of bump and bruise, any of that stuff, it's really so, so small in the grand scheme of things as you look at our body of work," Mangini said.
After all, linebacker David Bowens knows the Jets need to look toward their previous wins as answers.
"I think we have to figure out what we did in those eight wins," Bowens said of what it will take to turn the Jets' season around. "I think the level of communication was a lot better. Our tackling was better. Our missed assignments were down, penalties were down, things like that, the intangible things that don't show up in the statistics."
Within the final strech, Mangini explained that he's still looking for "improvement" within his team. Improvement can be pointed toward the Jets' defense, which was threaded by the opponent's passing attack for the second consecutive week. Quarterback Shaun Hill threw for 285 yards and two touchdowns and the Jets recorded just two sacks. Mangini explained that generating an improved pass rush is directed toward "better execution of the core things we've been doing."
In speaking with the team, Mangini explained that "all the things that went into the games that have been successful need to go into every single game, regardless."
Again, the Jets head coach is searching for a consistency that has been lacking in recent weeks. The results have looked like anything but a team hoping to ride into the playoffs. In last week's 34-17 loss to the Broncos, the Jets' offense couldn't get out of its own way and the defense struggled to make stops. Yesterday proved to be much of the same.
Although teams change their game-planning and their gameday approach for each Sunday, Mangini knows there should be a level of consistency week to week.
"When I say consistency, I'm talking about practice, preparation, conditioning and execution in the game. That to me, regardless of who you're playing, is extremely important," Mangini said.
While Mangini knows that his players need to step up, he says that the coaching staff is accountable as well.
"It's a collective effort. When we win, it's collective and when we lose it's collective. Every single person needs to improve."
"Great Opportunity" Goes Bad
After Bryant Johnson's three-yard touchdown reception gave the 49ers a 24-14 lead with 6:12 remaining, Jets wide receiver Brad Smith botched a lateral on the following kickoff, sending Leon Washington back to retrieve the ball at the one-yard line. Mangini explained that the option was planned and the Jets had a "great opportunity" for a long gain if the lateral was executed properly. Mangini said that "so much of the [49ers'] coverage had pushed over" toward Smith, leaving less containment on Washington's side.
Smith Being Evaluated
With 2:22 remaining in the fourth quarter, Smith was injured after he was sandwiched between safety Michael Lewis and linebacker Patrick Willis after a seven-yard catch. Smith was noticeably shaken up as he lay on the field for several minutes and was helped off by teammates. Mangini explained that Smith will be evaluated today.
Washington's Work a Matter of Time
While Thomas Jones (ten carries, 56 yards, one touchdown) received a lessened workload yesterday, Washington was an afterthought in the rushing offense. Washington only had one carry for one yard. Pressed with why Washington didn't receive a great workload out of the backfield, Mangini pointed toward the time of possession battle yesterday.
"We had the ball for 20 minutes and we were behind for part of those minutes. When it's that skewed, there are very few balls to go around," Mangini said.
Nullified Touchdown Hurts Jets
Early in the fourth quarter, Washington had a kickoff return for a touchdown nullified by a holding penalty. The call cost the Jets 70 yards and the potential lead. Today Mangini didn't have much of an explanation for the call.
"They called it. I can't do anything about it. There's nothing I can do about it," Mangini said. "It was called and that was their decision."
Execution Rather than Preparation
After last week's 34-17 loss to the Broncos, there was a collective belief within the Jets' locker room that the team's practice habits could have been better. While yesterday's loss could have been attributed to any area, rookie tight end Dustin Keller says that the team's struggles are "more executing than anything."
"Us, as players, we have to take the game plan and whatever it is, every single play is designed to win and we just have to take that any everybody has to do their job.
The 'Old Lobster Trap'
The Jets certainly haven't responded to the "Subway Super Bowl" talk very well. While it's difficult to pinpoint the Super Bowl hype as distracting for the Jets, Bowens knows the players must ignore it.
"You can say it was a distraction because of what happened the last two weeks, but if it was, it can't be. We can't allow things like that, it's the 'old lobster trap.' You just can't fall into that. Sometimes you have to turn the television off for awhile, watch movies all week like I do and don't pay attention to it.