How do they do it? You know when a team has gone bad — when they’ve lost their focus, when they’ve stopped believing in their coach and themselves, when they lose games for different reasons — when the only thread that runs through the losses are the astonishing inconsistencies.
Let’s get this out of the way up front: The NFL schedule makers should have their heads examined. On Sunday night, the Jets had one of their toughest games of the year against New England, then had to get on a plane and go to Denver to play the Broncos with just three days in between. But the Broncos aren’t a very good team, they don’t seem to have the huge advantage they enjoyed at home for years. No matter how you look at , the Jets should have won this game. Take a look at video with commentary by the Broncos radio guys.
The Jets had 22 first downs to the Broncos’ 11; they outgained Denver in gross yards, 335 to 229; Denver had six penalties for 51 yards to the Jets’ 2-for-15. How do you lose a game like that?
Well, first, you fumble the ball three times (though it must be admitted that the Jets had a huge piece of luck on one of those when Matt Slauson recovered the ball in the end zone when rookie running back Bilal Powell fumbled). Then you give — or I should say, continue to give, as it’s been the Jets’ weak spot all season — really crappy protection to your quarterback. Mark Sanchez was sacked three times, but that isn’t even half the story: he was knocked down eight times. Among AFC quarterbacks, only Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked more than Sanchez, and by the admittedly unreliable knockdown stat, he’s been the most-hit QB in the league.
All the Jets’ problems start with that offensive live, with the pass blocking. Remember last year when Sanchez was throwing all those miracle last minute passes for game-winning touchdowns? That’s because he had time to throw. This year, he doesn’t. It’s really as simple as that.
On two sacks last night, he never had time to set up. And that was after taking snaps out of the shotgun. This eliminates any possibility of a long passing game; there’s no time to do anything but take two steps and throw short. What it’s come down to is that most of the Jets’ offense takes place within 10-20 yards of scrimmage — they simply can’t stretch opposing defenses.
That said, with all the heat coming down on Sanchez it ought to be noted that despite the one truly terrible throw he made last night — the one Denver cornerback Andre Goodman intercepted and ran back 26 yards for a touchdown — the loss cannot be pinned on Mark Sanchez. Blame part of it on the injuries to the Jets’ best running backs, LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene, who was injured and out after just three carries, but put the rest of the blame on the atrocious play of the offensive line.
Sanchez hit on 24 of 40 passes for 252 yards — good enough to win most games, and it should have been good enough to win this one. Beginning in the second quarter and into the third, he was on fire with a career-high eleven straight completions. But as usual, he got absolutely no support from the running game or the pass blocking.
One thing is for sure: Denver did not win this game because of Tim Tebow. Tebow was awful last night except on the final drive — a sensational 95-yard, 12-play possession — which he shouldn’t have been in a position to make in the first place. Tebow completed just 9-of-20 passes for 104 yards; the week before, in another Denver “miracle” win over Kansas City, he was just 2-of-8 for 69 yards. You don’t have to be a stat nerd to know that he is having a lousy year throwing the ball. (He’s completed a ridiculously low 44% of his passes, averaging 5.7 yards a throw.)
Right now, the football press is making a great deal of how “up” Tebow has his teammates, but these bad numbers are going to catch up to him. Just like he did at Florida, Tebow ran wild in a big game, 68 yards on eight rushes. The final touchdown run, which produced the winning margin, was a 20-yard scamper around his left end in which no Jet touched him until Eric Smith failed to make the tackle at the three. But the Jets should have had the game well out of reach before Tebow began that drive.
It was, by the way, the only real defensive lapse the Jets had the entire night, and, of course, as is the case with a demoralized team, it could not have come at a worse time. I don’t know that I agree with Gary Myers in today’s Daily News that “It’s the Jets’ most shameful loss of the Ryan era” — I think I would save that one for last week’s three-touchdown loss to the Patriots, coming after a string of Jets’ victories and a New England loss to the Giants — but it may well be the loss that finishes the Jets’ season. And, possibly, the beginning of the end of the Rex Ryan-era.
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