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Chargers 27 Jets 6: Same Offense, New Result

The Jets’ poor offensive play finally caught up to them in a loss to the Chargers

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at New York Jets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Losing games happens to every team in the NFL. Other than the 1972 Miami Dolphins, being part of this league means having to deal with defeat.

Some losses don’t tell you much about a team. A key player might have an off day. Sometimes it’s an entire unit or even an entire team that has the bad day at the office. Other times a bad break or two go against you. The ball bounces to the wrong spot, or an official blows a call.

Some losses, however, are very meaningful. They can come in a must win game. They might come against an inferior opponent your team will regret losing to by the time the standings are finalized.

They might also reveal inherent flaws within a team that can be exploited going forward by future opponents.

I fear the Jets’ 27-6 Week 9 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers is among the latter. At this point the issues within this offense are clear as day. Anybody who watched that game knows that the offense took the Jets out of the game.

More distressing is this isn’t a one time deal. The Jets might have entered the contest with the Chargers on a three game winning streak, but the offense was very much a problem going in.

The way the Jets were playing was going to make it difficult for them to continuing winning.

If you don’t believe me, here is what I wrote three weeks ago after the Jets beat the Eagles by forcing four turnovers.

Is this a sustainable formula for winning? The answer is almost certainly no. Again, you can’t count on four turnovers consistently no matter how good your defense is. The Jets will certainly need more than 244 total yards of offense, and Zach Wilson has to throw the ball more efficiently than today’s 5.6 yard average per attempt going forward.

The Jets defense was outstanding against the Chargers. The unit was responsible for only 13 of the 27 Los Angeles points. The defensive line sacked Justin Herbert 5 times. The Chargers averaged only 3.5 yards per play. The Chargers, however, did not turn it over despite three fumbles.

Turnovers partially come from great defensive play, but they also partially come from the ball bouncing in the right place. The Jets didn’t play with any less skill against the Chargers than they did against the Eagles. In many ways I would argue the defense was better in the LA game than it was the Philadelphia game. The team’s turnover luck just evened out so the defense couldn’t give a struggling offense short fields to make its life easier.

On the offense’s woes, here is what I wrote last week after the win against the Giants.

The Jets are constantly putting themselves behind the eight ball, trailing in the fourth quarter and needing unlikely plays to pull out victories. While they have been making a lot of these plays, this is playing with fire. Eventually if an NFL team isn’t playing complete football, the wins will stop.

The first thing the Jets need to clean up are the penalties. The one Giants touchdown drive was aided by a pair of sloppy 15 yard penalties. The Jets finished the day with 9 penalties for 85 yards. I do believe the Jets can fix this. I don’t expect them to commit bad penalties at this rate going forward. That would be almost impossible.

What will be much more difficult to fix is the offense. The Jets needed a miracle to win a game where their opponent finished with negative passing yardage. With the defense and special teams playing great, that speaks to the troubles the Jets had moving the ball.

There’s no one problem with the offense. The issues are across the board. I think you could say everything other than Breece Hall and Garrett Wilson could be considered a problem.

Zach Wilson’s clutch passes in the last half minute of regulation and overtime will likely be one of the lead stories to come from this game. The hard reality, though, is a team cannot win many games when its quarterback provides so little until less than 30 seconds remain in the fourth quarter.

I feel like Jets fans have been living the same story for the better part of the last 15 years. We so badly want it to work for the young quarterback that we latch onto any incremental sign of improvement as a sign the quarterback is on his way to making it.

Zach Wilson in 2023 is a better quarterback than he was a year ago, sure. I’m not sure Wilson makes those clutch throws last season. That said, he’s still an extremely limited passer who is way too inconsistent with his reads and pocket movements. At this point I think you’d have to say he’s a bottom tier starting quarterback. When the Jets win, it tends to be because he was a neutral on a good day, or the team won in spite of him on a bad day. I know a lot of people won’t want to hear this and will point to the plays made late in the game as proof he’s turning a corner. If Zach Wilson plays like this 100 times, the Jets might lose the other 99.

Wilson isn’t the only problem, though. The issues are system wide. The play calling could at least make life easier for Wilson. It isn’t.

The group of pass catchers behind Garrett Wilson is weak. The second best receiving target on the team is Allen Lazard, a big bodied receiver who can’t consistently make tough catches in traffic (which is what you want in a big bodied receiver). I counted no less than three catchable balls in his direction that fell to the ground incomplete. The quality falls quickly once you get past Lazard.

Last but not least is an offensive line that has been decimated by injuries for the second straight season. The Jets had to use three centers in this game alone.

There aren’t many obvious solutions for any of these problems other than to hope some offensive linemen recover quickly.

Most of that could apply to this week. The offense played extremely poorly, and by the time there was a half minute left in the fourth quarter the game was out of reach. Miracle comebacks are great and memorable, but you can’t count on them in lieu of solid play for four quarters. This issues with Wilson, Lazard, the rest of the receivers, and the play calling remain.

My point isn’t to try and make myself out to be some sort of great prognosticator. I’m not.

I was hardly the only one saying these things because they were obvious.

There were only two realistic outcomes for the Jets coming out of the Giants game. They could play better, or they would likely lose going forward. They might have found late game magic against the Eagles and Giants, but that is nothing to bank on in the future.

Unfortunately, when a team plays like this so many times in a row, it might be a sign that’s what the team actually is. It bodes poorly for the rest of the season if so.