The Jets lost a heartbreaker to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 13. Let’s give out some anti-game balls to the culprits along with a single game ball to a worthy player.
Mike LaFleur: The offensive coordinator is always the low hanging fruit. He usually receives effusive criticism when the team losing. When the team wins, he usually gets ignored. It isn’t really fair. The proportion of blame that falls on the play caller is usually too great. Any play looks bad when the players don’t execute it correctly.
I get the feeling some Jets fans put like 60 to 70 percent of the blame for the loss the Vikings on LaFleur. It is a bit over the top. The Jets put up over 500 yards of offense. How bad could the play calling have really been?
While LaFleur is probably getting too much criticism, I still say he deserves some. The Jets settled for five field goals and were stopped at the goal line once. The team scored only one touchdown despite moving the ball well. Why was this? There are plenty of reasons, but LaFleur’s red zone play calling stands out.
The red zone isn’t an easy place to play offense. The area of the field is constricted, meaning defenders don’t have to cover much ground to run to the ball and make tackles. LaFleur called an awful lot of long developing plays in these situations. I think you also have to question the wisdom of going to an empty set on fourth and goal from the one with the game on the line late in the fourth quarter. Without a mobile quarterback, you eliminate any pretense of a run.
If these plays worked out, nobody would be complaining about LaFleur. This isn’t completely results driven, though? Did the red zone plays maximize the Jets’ chances of success against the Vikings? I’d have to say no so LaFleur gets an anti-game ball.
Tyler Conklin: There are players who fail quietly. You don’t notice them because they don’t produce. In his first year with the Jets, Conklin has shown a tendency to fail loudly. You notice him when he doesn’t deliver. He’s usually leaving something important on the field by failing to execute what should be a routine play.
Conklin had arguably his worst game of the season against his former Vikings teammates. He failed to haul in no less than three passes which hit him in the hands. All three were important plays on their respective drives.
Jordan Whitehead: The roller coaster season for Jets safeties took another downward turn in Minnesota. Whitehead got lost on multiple key plays, a long completion to Jalen Reagor and a long touchdown run where he got taken out of the play. On a number of other plays through the game, he was a step late on a successful Vikings gain.
Lamarcus Joyner: Whitehead’s safety partner found himself out of position on some big plays that went against the Jets in both halves.
DJ Reed: Reed has been outstanding all season long so I don’t want to be too hard on him, but I thought he had a tough Sunday. Reed’s raw coverage numbers weren’t terrible, but he did allow a touchdown in coverage to go with a missed tackle and a penalty. He also was beaten once or twice for what could have been a big gain on an off target pass.
Sauce Gardner: Like Reed, I view this game as a footnote in an otherwise stellar season, but there were too many hiccups by Sauce, particularly in the first half. He took a penalty, allowed a critical conversion because his coverage was too soft, and completely whiffed when he was the last defender there to prevent a touchdown run.
Braxton Berrios: Berrios’ fourth down drop stands out as a play that cost the Jets the game. In reality it was one of at least five that could have swung the game. The biggest difference was how late in the game Berrios’ play came. With this in mind I don’t think it’s fair to completely annihilate the receiver. That said, one of his biggest attributes is that he usually catches anything thrown to him. The timing of when he failed to do so is unfortunate.
Greg Zuerlein: Even in the loss, Zuerlein deserves a shoutout. With the offense stalling over and over in scoring range, the kicker played a big role in keeping the Jets within shouting distance. His 5 for 5 field goal game includes a 60 yarder right before halftime. Had the Jets won, this performance would have been one of the biggest reasons.