We had a chance to win in the 4th quarter, but we didn’t (or couldn’t, in one player's case) execute. We also had no right to even be in that position, but thanks to an overall lack of Jets' discipline and one Jets DB's meltdown, we were. This game not only confirmed we are still in the early stages of rebuilding, but that the road is going to be a bumpy one.
The Jets’ penalties. Let’s face it: had the Jets not been penalized a record-setting 20 times for 168 yards, this game would have been much uglier, much faster.
Special teams. Why Dan Carpenter was unemployed is a mystery to me: he’s done nothing but hit 7 of 8, including a 55 yarder, which is tied for #2 in the league. Shawn Powell is finally starting to live up to his potential, consistently and also showing a deft foot with 3 punts inside the 2. Both coverage units were also solid. It’s too bad our kick return unit hasn’t had any opportunities – seems like every kicker we face kicks it out of the endzone.
Scott Chandler. Finally, the offense put him in a position to make an impact and he ran great routes and showed deft hands.
The team’s fight in the 3rd quarter. I liked our effort at times, specifically the team’s effort coming out in the 2nd half and early in the 4th. I also liked seeing Doug Marrone chew out EJ on the sideline (reading his lips, it was something like "That was not the right throw!" when EJ chucked it down the right sideline to Woods for another incompletion.) I liked the drive the ended in Chandler’s TD reception and Stevie’s two-point catch. And the defense stepped up so we could come back. The team fought.
No picks for EJ. Last week, I wanted E.J. Manuel to show more patience and let the routes develop. He did that this week to the tune of 8 sacks, but his receivers could not get open. He still has a tendency to chuck the (inaccurate) ball downfield in single coverage when faced with any sort of pressure – I lost count at 0 for 5. But at least he didn’t commit turnovers, and his drives led to field goals still kept us in the game.
Justin Rogers. The guy is in a tough place. Almost cut this year, he was elevated through attrition to the #1 CB job and demonstrated time and again that he’s out of his depth.
The offensive play calling and execution. Why we are through week 3 and have yet to see a screen pass is beyond me. The offense once again showed a few more wrinkles with the arrival of Scott Chandler, but the rushing game excluding Fred’s 59-yarder ran for 2.5 yards/carry. Stevie Johnson could not get open (6 receptions on 13 targets), and Robert Woods was brutal in the face of physical corner play (2 receptions on 10 targets). Is this because Hackett is out of his league? Or is it because EJ is making suboptimal decisions? Or… Regardless, the only consistent result this team is generating on offense is field goals.
The rest of the defense. But for one play where he got caught inside, I liked what I saw from Manny Lawson, who except for one play did a great job setting the edge. But the results were the same as last year – on the ground: 182 yards given up at 4.4 yards/carry, and this without doing a lot of blitzing; in the air: 331 yards of passing given up, 0 sacks and 2 QB pressures. You can’t blame all of that on cornerback injuries. Marcell Dareus is flirting with the b*** word. Mario Williams did a disappearing act, which is the exact opposite of consistency I was looking for this week.. Jerry Hughes is doing his best imitation of Aaron Maybin – all potential, no production, a liability in run defense. Blitzes were picked up with ease. It doesn’t help that our quick-tempo offense may tire out opposing defenses, but it also leaves our defense on the field longer and more likely to be injured: we’ve given up an average of 80 plays/game to opposing offenses in our first three games, and lost four more players to injury on defense already.
THE BOTTOM LINE
When your offense and defense are both bad, it’s pretty safe to say it’s a loss. What’s surprising is that we were in a tie game with 11 minutes left. The hope in this type of loss is that the team can see the positives, figure out the causes of the negatives, and fix them. The danger of this type of loss is that the team can tailspin out of control: players blaming coaches, coaches blaming players -- and no one being held accountable for their own actions. We’ll know more about the character of this team and whether it has the will to rebuild when it comes out of the locker room next week. But be prepared for a tough season – out of the remaining 13 games, only 5 are against teams with losing records, and 5 are against undefeated teams. 8-8 still looks best case, but 6-10 is more likely.