New York Jets fans like to spell out their team’s nickname in unison as some sort of rallying cry. But after today’s listless 21-12 defeat to the Buffalo Bills, they might want to have that acronym stand for “Just End The Season.”
There were too many “missed assignments” by Gang Green, as head coach Todd Bowles noted afterwards, and not enough impact plays from a defense that’s actually loaded – which is more than the Jets can say about its lackluster offense.
Bowles was particularly miffed by the Jets’ inability to contain the one true offensive threat that Buffalo has, running back LeSean McCoy. The slippery McCoy tallied 110 rushing yards and added 49 more in receiving.
“We played hard, [but] we didn’t play smart,” Bowles said when asked to assess his defense.
If the Jets had a difficult time slowing down a predictable one-trick pony offense, they’re really going to be in trouble when they travel to the Black Hole, next week, to take on the Oakland Raiders, who have a terrific run-pass balance.
But back to focusing on today’s dreary opener. Bowles’s defense is supposed to be the team’s linchpin – a unit that hoped to carry the franchise until the offense showed any semblance of cohesion. But there was quarterback Tyrod Taylor, McCoy, and even relative unknowns roaming through the Jets’ supposed vaunted defense. Buffalo gained 408 total yards – 218 through the air and 190 on the ground. They tallied 18 plays with 10 or more yards and eight plays with more than 20 yards. Five Bills’ receivers had catches for 20 yards or more.
Last year’s first-round pick, linebacker Darron Lee, was the lowest-graded Jets defender. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), a website that does extensive statistical tracking of every player and team, Lee didn’t play as well as his stats looked on paper. He finished with seven tackles (three assisted) and a sack, but according to PFF’s rating, the speedy linebacker was atrocious in covering backs and receivers, allowing a 134.7 passer rating in coverage.
The Jets’ offense only gained 214 total yards with minimal explosive plays. And even with such ineptitude, Gang Green was still within striking distance deep in the game. Quarterback Josh McCown scored on a one-yard sneak to get New York within 14-12, late in the third quarter. The two-point conversion failed, thanks to a McCown interception (providing some foreshadowing). But at that moment, it seemed like the Jets would be able to steal a rare road win. Taylor and co. had other ideas, however, as Buffalo immediately answered with a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to take a commanding 21-12 lead.
A two-possession lead over the Jets, pretty much at any juncture of any game will likely suffice. And if the defense can’t at least make up for the Jets’ offensive malaise, it’s already looking like a long season for this tortured, yet loyal fanbase.
This was to be the start of one of the very few winnable games during the early part of a brutal Jets’ schedule. But they fell flat on their face. The Bills, meanwhile, get to enjoy this conquest, since they’re the only team in the division to earn a win on opening weekend.
Salute Magazine takes a look back at the key moments of today’s opener, as the Jets and Bills played for the right to briefly enjoy first place atop the American Football Conference East division.
#1 A new era at New Era field … Sean McDermott earned his first-career win as a head coach in the National Football League, as the Bills looked inspired to play for the lifer coach. Long an assistant and coordinator, this was McDermott’s maiden game and his team made sure not to let him down, especially at their home opener and against a bitter divisional rival.
“Sean McDermott is a leader,” McCoy said. “A lot of coaches can be great coaches, but some of them lack leadership …We follow him.”
#2 Joshin’ around … McCown played like what most Jets’ fans figured — a journeyman quarterback who needs a lot of talented support around him to make him look good. He has none, and the result was what most expected. He threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter to effectively end any chance of a Jets’ comeback, while going 26-of-39 for 187 yards. McCown’s offense dinked and dunked for the most part and only averaged 3.9 yards per play. It’s going to be a long season if they can’t push the ball down the field and find a way to get their running backs more involved.
#3 Speaking of that running game … Matt Forte and Bilal Powell combined for 38 rushing yards. Forte toted the ball six times for 16 yards, while Powell carried it seven times for 22 yards. Powell out-touched Forte, 12-9, but neither was able to do much. If McCown’s best weapons can’t be factors, the Jets’ offense will contend for the only title that’s attainable, the league’s worst unit.
#4 Mo’ money, no production … Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson inked that huge deal, last year, and is set to earn a base salary of $14.75 million, this season. But on the very first day to really earn that money, he fell well short of expectations. Wilkerson is arguably the second-best defensive player on the Jets, behind ascending bookend Leonard Williams, who had the highest defensive grade on the Jets’ defense, via PFF, as he notched two quarterback hits and four tackles. Wilkerson, conversely, had just two tackles – none for a loss – no sacks, and no quarterback hits. Not good enough.