While Ryan Fitzpatrick’s three interceptions became the unfortunate headline, the New York Jets defense was the top culprit for why their season is over.
By Robby Sabo
Wait a moment…there goes Sammy Watkins for another 10-yards on a quick hook.
11 receptions, 136 yards, and the universal name for toast quickly morphing into Darrelle Revis, and the New York Jets are now cleaning out their lockers today instead of getting ready to take on the Andy Dalton-less Cincinnati Bengals during Wild Card Weekend.
That’s what’s so frustrating for fans of green. They’ve once again taken us to the brink of something special and unexpected, only to make us feel phenomenally foolish in the end. The 2015 Jets became a bigger tease than a porn star on Twitter.
There will certainly be some fans who have the ability to turn emotions over quickly and point to the fact Todd Bowles’s rookie year as head coach turned up successful. After all, 10-6 is nothing to sneeze at.
But the seasoned fan doesn’t want to hear it. That guy understands what a cake-walk of a schedule New York truly faced in 2015 and what true opportunity awaited them in the AFC Playoffs with so few elite quarterbacks in the field.
The Jets second loss to Rex Ryan was an out-and-out disaster. Although quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick committed the most glaring mistake in the game – forcing a post into Eric Decker, only to have it picked off by Bills corner Leodis McKelvin – it turned out to be the defense who truly dropped the ball.
Bowles’s defense – who once played so well over the first month of the season it had some Jets fans dreaming of the 1985 Chicago Bears – didn’t look ready to play on Sunday.
The gameplan was flat-out strange.
It was obvious they didn’t want Watkins to beat Revis over-the-top. The kid out of Clemson has elite speed, making it almost impossible for any corner to completely shadow him 25+ yards down the field in a one-on-one scenario. Thus Revis provided Watkins a little space. Actually, a little space is the understatement of the decade. The man was routinely giving 10+ yards to the dynamic second-year receiver.
This presented an enormous problem early on because Tyrod Taylor looked very clean and comfortable in the pocket. His intermediate throws were working from the get-go. The Jets rarely blitzed and the conventional four-man pass rush wasn’t sniffing Taylor in the least (two sacks all game which came on broken Taylor scrambles).
What should have happened during the game, never did.
The Jets acted as though the 30-year old Revis was the same guy Rex Ryan leaned on in 2009 as he led New York to the AFC Championship Game with exotic all-out blitzes. They acted as though the guy didn’t need help on one of the more explosive weapons in all of football.
They needed to bracket and double-team Watkins. The Jets needed to dare Taylor to chuck it deep on occasion and look for somebody else not named Sammy.
LeSean McCoy missed the game, leaving Watkins as the only real explosive threat Taylor had to work with. How Bowles allowed this mismatch to take place all game will be one of the more serious questions Jets fans will ask themselves all offseason long.
This wasn’t Tom Brady – a guy who you simply cannot blitz and expect to play another down. Tyrod Taylor is very green as a pocket passer and six and seven man rushes affect his play greatly. We didn’t see enough of that.
The defensive line consisting of Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams, and Damon Harrison – the supposed far-and-away strength of the team – played their worst game of the season. They literally melted on the biggest stage.
Zero sacks, only one pass deflection, and only two tackles for loss were the horrid numbers for these four men combined. The only moment worse than seeing Big Mo feeling the emotions of a broken leg without a long-term contract was when Richardson inexcusably jumped offsides on a crucial fourth down in which the entire stadium knew they weren’t running a play.
Richardson’s actions made E.J. Manuel celebrate. That’s saying something.
More than stupid penalties (hello Leonard Williams and your personal foul in the fourth quarter), was the absolute manhandling the Bills offensive line performed on the Jets front. Buffalo rushed for 113 yards on the day. While it did take them 43 carries to get there (2.6 YPC), it didn’t matter. The time of possession difference was killer (39:13 to 20:47). Fitz and offense just didn’t have enough time on the field.
These guys never made a play for their team.
Worst of all was this: Despite all the mistakes, and the squad looking like they just weren’t ready to take the field for such an important contest, New York was right there to capture the moment. Instead what we saw was Fitzpatrick throwing a crucial interception in field goal range down just two points, and the defense yielding first down after first down in the most critical situations.
The Bills offense converted on 11-of-22 third and fourth downs. I don’t care who you are, if you’re giving up 11 third/fourth down conversions in one game you’re not winning unless a guy named Unitas or Montana is your quarterback.
There is no sugarcoating this loss from a Jets perspective. This is the NFL, a league for which most teams are just bad enough to be called below-average and just good enough to be called above-mediocre. Once in the tournament, all bets are off – and especially this particular season in the AFC for which very few elite quarterbacks are present.
The Jets organization surely needs to swallow this bitter pill. Worse yet, they need to understand that their so-called strength, the defense, came up as soft as it could in the biggest moment.
The spotlight is now on you Mikey Mac.