When the Jets ended last season by losing to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game, their fans had at least one big consolation: the Jets, it was assumed, were the team of the future. Now, eleven months later, it seems they still are the team of the future. To paraphrase Clemenceau on Brazil, they are the team of the future – and always will be.
Yesterday’s 10-6 loss to the Miami Dolphins has left fans baffled. Among the unanswered questions are How do you hold a team to 131 yards and lose? How do you hold a team to five completes passes and lose? How do you hold a team to 1.3 net yards per pass play and lose? How do you outgain the opposing team by 150 yards without scoring a touchdown? How do you get the ball inside your opponent’s 35-yard line five times and come away with just two field goals? How do you go an entire game with a sputtering offense and throw the ball just one time to Braylon Edwards (for one catch, 17 yards)?
These are all piled on a bunch of larger questions, such as How does a team that was one of the top three betting favorites in the preseason lose four games in which they failed to score a touchdown? And how do you lost three of those games at home? In losses to Baltimore, Green Bay, and now Miami, all at the Meadowlands, the Jets have scored 15 points and never crossed the goal line once.
And here’s another unanswerable question: How does a team that only two weeks ago was gunning for the top spot in the AFC East and thus a serous contender for top seed in the entire conference lose two games to two teams — New England and Miami — that they beat solidly the first time they played them. In defeating the Patriots in week two and the Dolphin sin week three, New York scored a total of 59 points. In losing to the same two teams in the last two weeks, the Jets scored a total of nine points.
Does this perhaps suggest a certain predictability has crept into the Jets offensive game plan that their divisional opponents are exploiting? (BTW, the Jets lead the NFL in percentage of running plays on first down, 64 percent. As former Jets defensive lineman and astute radio analyst Marty Lyons observed, the Dolphins continually moved eight men into the box on first down, a tactic to which Rex Ryan had no countermove.)
And here’s yet another rhetorical question: How does your offensive line rate the over of Sports Illustrated just three weeks ago and then give up 12 sacks in two weeks on your quarterback? Some of this can be laid at the cleats of Mark Sanchez, but honestly, how much? “I can’t play like that,” he told reporters in the locker room after the Miami game, ‘I can’t be a roller coaster.” Well, right now, Sanchez is not a roller coaster: roller coasters go up after they go down, and Sanchez just keeps going down. In the last two games he has had only one completion longer than 30 yards.
But there are mitigating circumstances. Over the last two games, the Jets haven’t had even a semblance of a rushing attack, averaging just 2.7 yards per rush, and Sanchez has been sacked or knocked down 22 times. How quarterback is supposed to win without either a running game or pass blocking is something the Jets will have to figure out quickly as they prepare to face what is possibly the AFC’s best defense, that of the Steelers, in Pittsburgh next week. We’re guessing that the Steelers will put a merciful end to the Jets’ postseason hopes and extend the touchdown drought to a ridiculous 12 straight quarters.
Oh, yes, we almost forgot. With 3:31 left in the third quarter, Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi deliberately tripped Miami cornerback Nolan Carroll as he came down the sidelines covering a punt — Alosi admitted it after the game. By the time you read this, the Jets will at the very least have suspended Alosi for the rest of the season without pay. It would be a shame if the Jets punished him any more harshly than that — Alosi, after all, showed more aggressiveness than anyone on the Jets’ offense yesterday.