The New York Jets squandered their season opener thanks in large part to numerous missed opportunities.
Let’s face it. This was a game the New York Jets had to have.
Preceding a quick, three-day turnaround in Buffalo, followed by extremely challenging matchups with the Chiefs, Seahawks, Steelers, and Cardinals, it was imperative that New York tallied a win on their home turf.
In losing to the Cincinnati Bengals 23-22, a tough opening six-game slate just became even tougher.
The worst part: the Jets did it to themselves, plain and simple. Following an outstanding opening possession which resulted in a touchdown, the offense failed to capitalize on each and every offensive possession.
Three was the number of times New York worked the ball inside the 10-yard line. Six was the number of combined points the Jets managed on those vital possessions.
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Perhaps the most frustrating of the bunch was the first. Tearing Cincinnati apart and on the verge of going up 14-nil, Gang Green’s opportunity read, “1st & Goal, 4-yard line.”
Three Chan Gailey-induced passing plays later and the Jets were settling for a field goal. Three points would have been a colossal failure, but a blocked field goal — resulting in zilch — can be chalked up as an utter catastrophe.
A drive which would have propelled New York to a convincing advantage turned into a major turning point in a pivotal game.
Fast forward to the fourth quarter and the transgression was committed twice more.
The Jets were buzzing, running the ball up the gut with Matt Forte and Bilal Powell. A dynamic tandem was in full effect and the Bengals had no response.
However, inside the five-yard line, the baffling play calls surfaced. Out of the shotgun, with an empty backfield, Ryan Fitzpatrick lowered his shoulder up the middle on a keeper while gaining enough to put New York at the one. If the risk of hurting Fitz did not boggle the minds of Jets fans enough, consider that Powell and Forte were nowhere to be seen.
On the next down from scrimmage, Forte was stuffed for a loss of a yard (one down too late), creating a 3rd-and-Goal scenario from the two.
That was when Chan Gailey, confusingly enough, called for an ill-advised fade route which resulted in a miscommunication between Fitzpatrick and Eric Decker.
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After failing to put the ball in the hands of their reliable backs, the Jets settled for three.
12 plays, 73 yards; but to what end?
If that was painful, a third missed opportunity put a nail in New York’s ready-made coffin.
Trailing 22-20 late in the fourth quarter, Fitzpatrick led the Jets inside the red zone and, ultimately, inside the 10-yard line.
However, faced with a 3rd-and-3 situation, Powell came up a yard short of a first down, creating a 4th-and-short decision. Yet again, Todd Bowles, wanting to ensure a lead, opted for a field goal.
Nick Folk knocked through a 23-yard try, but, as most fans feared, it was not enough.
In some instances, it was play calling. In evaluating some scenarios, it was a matter of the “what if?” game. Ultimately, it was a matter of poor execution.
The New York Jets could have scored a maximum of 21 points in three inside-the-10 opportunities. They ended up with six.
All it took was one offensive line-induced gap, one successful jump ball to two red zone threats, or a simple, yet consistent, ground-and-pound attack. The Jets utilized none of those red-zone-efficient tactics — all which have worked to perfection for this group at some point.
They looked lost, essentially coming off as a team that had no business being on that end of the field, particularly within striking distance.
So, no, it was Nick Folk’s blocked field goal or clanked extra point. It was not Brandon Marshall’s drop on the final possession. It certainly was not Ryan Fitzpatrick’s interception into the arms of Josh Shaw.
The game was lost in the red zone, an area which produced nightmarish outcomes for these Jets.
Each time an outside force wanted to provide New York with a beautiful, breezy, fall day, the Jets opted for a dreaded, awfully humid, April thunderstorm.