The Jets became the first team to lose a game to the Cleveland Browns in over 600 days. Cleveland defeated New York tonight 21-17 on Thursday Night Football.
Defeats seldom come uglier than this. The Jets squandered a 14-0 lead. Baker Mayfield in his first significant NFL action led a comeback against the defense that was supposed to carry this team.
We will have plenty in the days to come, but let’s start to look at the wreckage.
Sam Darnold: Let’s get a few things out there. This was a ghasty performance by Darnold. He looked totally rattled. A high percentage of his passes that weren’t screens looked like wounded ducks. The pass rush seemed to be in his head. This was about as bad of a performance as you will see. He was badly outplayed by fellow rookie Baker Mayfield.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, allow me to remind you that this was his third professional start. Also let me remind you that he showed plenty of promising traits in his first two. Also let me remind you that you should have expected him to look totally hopeless like this at some point this year. Even the greats had rookie moments like this.
Offensive Line: I’m not sure there’s a single good player on this line, but the whole still might be worse than the sum of the parts. It felt like there were multiple drives in this game where somebody was getting into the backfield untouched on every play.
Robby Anderson: I think Anderson is getting way too much of a pass for his performance this season. People are blaming Darnold or Jeremy Bates for not throwing down the field. Well, maybe it’s a good idea to be capable of doing more than one thing well. Another fumble leading to points in an otherwise invisible night is totally unacceptable.
Trumaine Johnson: Johnson was really lucky in this game. He was beaten cleanly multiple times down the field, and Cleveland quarterbacks either didn’t see it or missed the throws. He also picked up a boneheaded taunting penalty and added a pretty careless personal foul to go with it. That’s not the stuff you want to see from your highest paid player.
Morris Claiborne: We saw multiple penalties. One wiped out a stop on a two point conversion. Like Johnson, he got lucky a few times when he was beaten.
Parry Nickerson: I don’t want to get on a rookie sixth rounder playing his first significant action, but he had a lot of trouble in the slot.
Second Half Pass Rush: I don’t want to take away anything from what Baker Mayfield did in this game. He was throwing balls on the money left and right. He also seemed to bring an energy that radiated through Cleveland’s entire team. With that said, the Jets didn’t exactly make his life difficult. The Browns started picking up every blitz the Jets threw at them in the second half.
Coaching: Over the last four years I haven’t been as critical of Todd Bowles as a lot of people. I think it takes a long time to get a good feel for a coach. I also think coaches should be allowed time to grow into the job.
This team isn’t that talented. Players also have to execute. With that said, I just see too many problems with this team that can’t be explained away. How do you blow a 14-0 lead like this? How does this team take stupid penalties in key spots like that? Why can’t these guys read their keys on a trick play like we saw on the two point conversion? Why does it feel like I keep asking these same questions over and over about the team self-destructing in key spots and not playing disciplined football?
On the offensive side of the ball, I don’t think it’s fair to say this gameplan was a total disaster for four quarters. I thought against a defense like this, it made sense to come out conservatively. When the Browns were struggling on offense, there was a wisdom in staying conservative for a stretch, particularly when the Jets got the run game going on their second touchdown drive.
I’m also sympathetic to a degree simply because no offensive coordinator will look good when his line can’t block and when his quarterback is playing lousy football.
But there are things I just can’t understand. Did the Jets have more than 10 plays in their gameplan? It sure seemed like they kept running the same plays over and over. I don’t have a problem repeating stuff that is working. I also don’t have a problem with building a tendency. But eventually you have to figure out a way to build something off that tendency. If the defense is going to stick eight or nine men in the box, at some point you have to stop slamming a running back into the line. You have to run a bootleg. Maybe an easy pass or two can get your quarterback going. An effective screen game is a nice way to move the ball. But once a few of them work, why not fake a screen, run a pump fake, and send a receiver down the field to try and hit a big play?
I always watch these games over. Sometimes I realize my initial reaction was off and that I’m being unfair to the coaches. I’ll let you know in the days to come if that’s the case here, but as I was watching this game I was puzzled by these things.
Avery Williamson: I thought he was the best Jet on the field. He threw up a monster 14 tackle, 1.5 sack stat line. He was all over the field.
Darron Lee: He was quiet in the second half, but he was incredible in the early going of this game making splash play after splash play.
Bilal Powell: This zone running game seemed to fit Powell like a glove. He found all of the correct holes running for 73 yards on 14 carries.
Isaiah Crowell: I could have done without the taunting penalty, but he at least contributed both Jets touchdowns on the evening.
Quincy Enunwa: The Jets were challenged attempting the forward pass in this game. Enunwa’s work on screens might have been the only good thing as he converted a few third downs on his way to a 4 catch 57 yard stat line.
It is going to be a long 10 days in New York until a very difficult game against the Jaguars.