New York Jets
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The New York Jets took six false start penalties on Sunday afternoon in Chicago. Now, they’re trying to make sure it doesn’t become a trend.

Geoff Magliocchetti

FLORHAM PARK, NEW JERSEY—The New York Jets‘ autumn has featured a distinct shade of yellow. Unfortunately, it comes not from the fall foliage emanating from the trees around Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, but from penalty flags that fall from the pockets of referees.

The Jets’ most recent sloppy effort, a 24-10 road defeat at the hands of the Chicago Bears on Sunday, was punctuated by penalties, namely those of the false start variety. The team had gone over a month without jumping before the snap, their previous such infraction coming in the Week 3 loss in Cleveland.

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However, the Jets jumped five times against the Bears, stifling any momentum they were hoping to gain on offense. Already missing several regulars when they had the ball, the Jets’ efforts at making up an early deficit were over before they really even began thanks to the penalties.

“If we don’t have the penalties, if we don’t have the early false starts, the game is a different game,” quarterback Sam Darnold said in a Monday afternoon conference call. “It’s just about controlling the penalties and controlling what we can control to make the game easier.”

The flag fest has happened, so there’s no looking back now. The focus now shifts to ensure it never occurs again.

The Jets reconvened in Florham Park on Wednesday afternoon, preparing for this upcoming Sunday’s divisional showdown against the Miami Dolphins (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS). With both Darnold and head coach Todd Bowles each taking the podium, they offered their takes on the false start contagion.

“It’s not a cadence issue or a center issue,” Bowles said, absolving center Spencer Long. “It’s a concentration issue.” On that latter note, he added “We’re working on it individually each time. You can coach it all you want, but the player himself has to concentrate and know the different (cadence) each time.”

In the locker room, Darnold addressed questions of potentially using different cadences, and he agreed that it was “super important to mix things up”.

The quarterback, however, was also willing to assume at least responsibility for the pre-snap mishaps.

“It’s up to me to communicate a little bit better in the huddle, make sure everyone knows what the snap count is,” he said. “Being on the same page and moving as one is the biggest thing. (We can’t) shoot ourselves in the football with penalties, false starts, anything like that.”

Guard Brian Winters, one of the anchors of the line, says it will take both an individual and collaborative effort to kill the penalties, ones that have the potential to sink the Jets further. Time will only tell if the continued flags will cost some players their jobs.

“That’s more mental,” right guard Brian Winters said Monday. “That’s on the individual players. We just got to lock in. That’s more on us.”

The Jets currently rank eighth in the AFC in offensive penalties with 24. After Sunday, half of those flags are false starts, a dubious distinction that stands at fourth in the league after Sunday’s haul.

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