The NY Jets fought long and hard on Thursday night. Facing a 4-2 Patriots team in front of a hostile Gillette Stadium crowd, the Jets did nearly everything right. They dominated time of possession by a gigantic 40 to 20 minutes margin. They kept the Brady led passing offense off the field most of the night. They scored on their first five possessions and did not punt until less than two minutes were left in the 3rd quarter. They ran for a ridiculous 218 yards. They never turned the ball over. Yet they still lost, again. This was a gut wrenching, soul draining, heartbreaking defeat.
New York is now 1-6 in the 2014 NFL season. The Patriots won at a rainy Gillette Stadium by a 27-25 margin as Nick Folk had a potentially game winning field goal blocked at the end of the game. This makes six losses in a row. The Jets season is now all but over. The Jets went through the gauntlet of an insanely difficult six games after the opening season win against the hapless Raiders, and they did not survive. The rest of this season will be without any realistic chance at making the playoffs.
Let's recap the game and see what went right or wrong.
Antonio Allen: Allen gave the Patriots their first touchdown on the opening drive with a blown coverage and an inexplicable vacating of his deep help position, allowing Shane Vereen to score without a Jet within 15 yards of him. Allen later gave the Patriots a crucial pass interference on a lollipop throw by Brady which Allen never located, setting up a Patriots field goal. Allen concluded a nightmare performance by being beaten for a touchdown on third and 20 on a ball he got completely turned around on and never located. Antonio Allen almost single-handedly cost the Jets the game.
The Pass Rush: Tom Brady had all day to throw through much of the first half. While the Jets brought more pressure in the second half by blitzing more, the only way to not have the Jets' bush league secondary exposed is to bring the heat with 3 and 4 pass rushers and drop everyone else in coverage. The Jets' vaunted defensive line proved unable to get any pressure on Brady with three and four man rushes, and as a result Brady was able to sit comfortably in the pocket and pick the Jets apart. If this defensive front four cannot get pressure without blitzing the Jets do not have the talent in the back of the field to succeed. With one sack all night on Brady and limited pressure until late in the game the pass rush didn't do its job Thursday night.
Geno Smith: I struggled with this. Smith did some really nice things in this game. He ran effectively. He avoided turning the ball over for the first time all year. He did some other things that represented progress. But in the end I felt we needed Geno Smith in both the bad and the good columns. The bad first. This was a game Geno had a chance to put his stamp on the Jets. It would have been his signature win, going into the lion's den of Gillette Stadium and coming out victorious. But it didn't end that way. One of the reasons it didn't end that way was Geno and the offense failing to punch it in for touchdowns and repeatedly settling for field goals. This wasn't all on Smith. The rest of the offense deserves the blame here as well. But in the end Geno just is not producing enough touchdowns. If a couple of the opening four drives had ended in touchdowns instead of field goals the Patriots would never have been in the game. If this was a one time thing I'd be more forgiving. But Geno has throughout his short career repeatedly failed to get the ball in the end zone after driving between the 20s. Further, on the touchdown drive to attempt to tie the game, Geno did a nice job in finally getting the team into the end zone. He converted some big first downs. But when it was all on the line on the two point conversion Geno failed to get the right loft on the ball that could have completed the pass to a receiver who had just enough separation in the end zone. It was a difficult pass, but one a good quarterback has to make in crunch time. Finally, on the last desperation drive Geno wasted too much time with dumpoffs over the middle. The result was an extremely difficult 58 yard field goal try that could have been much more manageable if Geno throws the ball down the field earlier in the drive. The bottom line with Geno is that even on a day when he finally doesn't turn the ball over and he finally produces more than 20 points, in the end everything in that offense just seemed much too difficult on a day when the running game completely dominated. It was a struggle even with 218 rushing yards, even on a day Cumberland finally showed up, even when the Jets' primary weapons were all healthy. It was better than it has been, but it wasn't good enough.
D' Brickashaw Ferguson: He gave up a crucial 15 yard sack to Chandler Jones at the start of the 4th quarter and was part of an offensive line that failed to protect Geno when it mattered most.
Ryan Quigley: Ugh. A 30 yard punt landing in Jets territory when they desperately needed to pin the Patriots back to give the Jets a chance to pull out a victory. The short field led directly to the Patriots' final touchdown of the night on the 20 yard scoring strike to Amendola. Just an awful time and place to shank a punt.
Eric Decker: Matched up against Darrelle Revis most of the night Decker still managed to lead the Jets with four catches for 65 yards. Nice job against a very tough opponent.
Jeff Cumberland: A rare Cumberland sighting in this game. Cumberland only caught three passes, but he made them count, with two big first downs, a 29 yard reception, and a touchdown. In a year when Jeff has been invisible far too often, he came to play tonight.
Geno Smith: We talked about the bad. Let's talk about the good. Geno finally didn't turn the ball over. Against the NFL's premier team in generating turnovers this was no small feat. Geno didn't even come close to turning the ball over this game. He made the right decisions most of the game. He did a mostly good job of managing the game and getting the Jets in position to win on the road against a quality opponent. Geno also threw a touchdown pass to Cumberland to get the Jets within a two point conversion of tying the game, and had another touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley called back on a holding call. He clearly showed progress in this game. I so much wanted him to get that signature win, punch in that two point conversion, get the Jets into good enough field goal range to win the game. If that had happened he would unequivocally have just been in the good column. But failing too often in the red zone and failing when the game was there to be won lands him in both the good and the bad columns. In a game where the running attack gets you 218 yards and controls the clock 40 minutes, Geno just has to find a way to win. He played better, good enough to be in the good column. But he failed just enough to also land in the bad.
Darrin Walls: It's been a rough year for Walls. He has looked overmatched most of the year. But he did some good things in this game. He made a bone crunching hit to break up a reception and stop the Patriots on third down. He also made a very nice pass breakup in the second quarter. He gave up some catches but was not involved in any really big plays against the Jets defense and made a few nice plays of his own. Enough to land him in the good column for once this year.
Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson: Ivory was the beast here, spearheading a dominant Jets running attack that the Patriots could not stop. Ivory went over 100 yards rushing, caught a few passes, and scored a touchdown in an outstanding performance of power running. Johnson was the junior partner here, but he too had a good night, amassing 64 yards rushing and running with authority like we have rarely seen him do with the Jets. The Jets ground game shredded the Patriots defense to the tune of 218 yards, and these two guys get major props for doing most of the heavy lifting.
Nick Folk: His perfect streak is over as his attempt at a game winning 58 yard field goal was blocked, but other than that he was perfect once again. I have not been a Folk fan, but he has been nearly perfect all year after a very good 2013. Give credit where it's due; Folk is long overdue some major credit.
Walt Powell: He had a 60+ yard kickoff return that set up a field goal at the end of the first half. Nice job.
That's a lot of "Goods" in a losing effort, but that's the kind of game it was. A dominant performance in many ways, completely monopolizing the clock, running the ball extremely successfully, playing turnover free football, holding Brady under 54% and the Patriots offense under 325 yards, out gaining the Patriots by 100 yards. And still, the Jets lost. A touchdown instead of a field goal here, a coverage not blown there, a missed two point conversion - the game was there to be taken, and the Jets refused to take it. As heartbreaking and frustrating and maddening as they come. There is no moral victory here, only the desolation of a lost opportunity given away.
The Jets now have ten days off to lick their wounds and try to regroup. The easy part of the schedule awaits, but it remains to be seen if the Jets can take advantage of this. It's going to be a long last nine games in a season in which playoff hopes have been extinguished especially early.