Stealth black uniforms, Le'Veon Bell, Jamal Adams and a MetLife Stadium crowd. Those elements weren't nearly enough to get the Jets over the hump and pay the Browns back for that first Monday Night Football loss in Cleveland in 1970.
The Green & White lost QB Trevor Siemian to an ankle injury after losing Sam Darnold last week to mono, then added Jordan Jenkins to C.J. Mosley on the injured linebacker list. The defense, also playing without CB Trumaine Johnson, fought but was outmanned — and then late in the third quarter was punctured by Odell Beckham Jr.'s 89-yard catch-and-run from Baker Mayfield in the stadium he used to roam as a Giant. Meanwhile, the offense, other than when Bell was cutting and leaping for his first 100-YFS game as a Jet — found it hard to sustain any rhythm en route to 262 yards and three points.
The result was the Jets' 23-3 loss to the Browns to fall to 0-2 for the season with their first road game, at New England, ahead on Sunday. Here are three quick observations about the way the game unfolded:
1. Slow Start
Missing Darnold on offense and Mosley, Johnson and rookie Quinnen Williams on defense, it wasn't surprising that the Green & White, er, Stealth Black Jets got off to a slow start. The defense yielded 76- and 22-yard drives to Austin Seibert field goals, while the offense got only two Bell runs — one out of a direct snap — three Trevor Siemian incompletions and one sack by Myles Garrett. After three series the offense had managed 1 net yard on 12 plays. And with Lachlan Edwards punting from his end zone, the Browns moved near midfield for their third drive.
Early in the second, the Browns decided to go for it on fourth-and-2 at the Jets 24. The pass was incomplete but Nate Hairston, playing CB for Johnson, was flagged for holding WR Taywan Taylor. On the next play, Nick Chubb dashed 19 yards for the game's first TD and a 13-0 lead with 10:16 left in the first half.
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2. Drive to Three
Things took a small turn (no pun intended) when Siemian was roughed for the second time by Garrett, on this one getting his ankle twisted beneath him on the offending hit. He left the field and Luke Falk came in at the suddenly snakebit QB position for the Jets to make his pro debut. Jets fans took to the situation by alternating chants of LUUUUKE! between cheers for Bell, who suddenly started to find some creases for first downs.
Finally a Ty Montgomery sighting — on his second carry of the game, on third-and-19, he gained 10 yards to the Browns 28, the last play of a 47-yard drive. That got Sam Ficken into range to try his first field goal as a Jet, from 46 yards out. He feathered it through and the Jets trimmed the Cleveland lead to 13-3 with 2:56 left in the first half.
3. Cashman vs. Killer Hidden Yardage
As mentioned, the defense fought. Rookie LB Blake Cashman, who stepped into the the starting lineup due to Mosley's groin injury, continues to show he can play at this level. He swatted down a Baker Mayfield pass in the backfield off the blitz on second down near midfield and led the defense at halftime with five tackles plus one TFL. Early in the fourth quarter, Mayfield, after throwing his first interception, with Darryl Roberts on the Beckham deflection, was being held to 15-of-31 passing and the Browns had converted three of 11 third downs.
But with the imbalance between the units, the Jets offense was backed up near its goal line all night. Their first 10 drives started at their 15, 25, 9, 25, 10, 12, 13, 29, 19 and 12 an average of their 16.9-yard line. The drives they mounted ended short of the mark — a fourth-down try that came up short at the Browns 11, a Bell fumble at the CLE-7. The other hidden-yardage problem for the home side: a plethora of penalties. They had eight for 62 yards at the half, then got two more quick flags in the third period and two more in the fourth to end the night with 12 for 89.