The Jets were not able to build off their thrilling victory in Cleveland from last week. Today they fell 27-12 to the Cincinnati Bengals at MetLife Stadium to fall to 1-2 on the 2022 season.
I think that score is a bit deceptive. Yes, it was a two score game. The Jets even drove deep into Cincinnati territory early in the fourth quarter down 15. Still it never felt like the team was truly within striking distance. Aside from kicker Greg Zuerlein, who connected on all four of his field goal attempts, it isn’t easy to find many Jets who should be happy with their performance in this game.
The defense failed in every way imaginable. Cincinnati began the game driving right down the field in 11 plays for a touchdown. In the early stages, the Bengals built a lead throwing the ball as the pass rush failed to get past a struggling offensive line.
The Jets made unforced errors. A John Franklin-Myers roughing the passer penalty negated a third down stop. It set up a touchdown that came because Jordan Whitehead whiffed on a tackle, turning a routine completion into a catastrophe.
For the fourth time in three games, the Jets allowed a touchdown on a bust in coverage caused by miscommunication. Today’s vintage came early in the second half as the Jets failed to cover star receiver Ja’marr Chase in the red zone, a bad idea.
Not to be outdone, the run defense failed at the worst time imaginable, allowing the Bengals to eat around eight minutes off the clock during a run heavy drive in the fourth quarter.
After all of the resources the Jets have thrown into the defense, the unit doesn’t look much more effective than last year’s bottom of the league group. It probably says it all that three games in the “good” defensive game the Jets have registered was the one where they allowed three long touchdowns.
The offense’s struggles are at least a little easier to explain.
Joe Flacco’s limitations are well-known at this point. Sure, there are some box score scouters and a few media members trying to create a quarterback controversy. If you have watched the three Jets games, you probably see how little Flacco is capable of lifting the offense.
Through much of the first half of the game, Flacco continued his tendency to avoid tight window passes. Garrett Wilson’s route running and ability to separate at least allowed the team to make some big plays in the passing game. Once Wilson left with an injury, however, the Jets offense became relegated to checkdowns.
Wilson returned in the second half, but it isn’t clear whether he was playing at full strength. The offense didn’t seem rejuvenated. Flacco for his part at least seemed more willing to challenge the Cincinnati defense, but it felt like he was just throwing the ball up without any idea where it was going. He came close to hitting the goal post a couple of times.
Objectively speaking, few teams are built to sustain an extended stretch with a backup quarterback. We know the Jets could have given themselves options better than Flacco, but there is no need to belabor the point.
Flacco wasn’t the only problem on offense. The line was consistently losing. George Fant struggled in particular, committing a penalty and allowing a couple of sacks.
Fant has missed practices and appeared on the injury report regularly over the last few weeks. It stands to reason he has been playing at less than 100 percent. After he was beaten for a strip sack, he finally left the game and was replaced by Conor McDermott. As uninspiring as Fant’s play has been McDermott looked completely incapable of holding up one on one. Combined with Flacco’s own limitations, the results were predictably unproductive.
The offense’s woes are a bit easier to excuse. They are down a quarterback and their top three tackles. The team’s top receiver also could be playing hurt.
That said, this unit’s issue could have bigger implications going forward. The quarterback seems on the verge of returning. However, the Jets clearly wanted to surround Zach Wilson with a stable infrastructure. The thought of him stepping into a lineup with Max Mitchell and McDermott as his tackles is a bit unnerving. Any injury to Garrett Wilson would also be problematic since some players on the offense (tight ends, Elijah Moore) haven’t played up to expectations early this season. Still, Wilson will likely be returning sooner rather than later.
It isn’t hard to imagine Zach making a positive difference. Still, an unproductive Flacco is far from the team’s only problem. There needs to be a better performance across the board for more wins to come.