The Jets knew they'd need to start fast, as they've done recently, and finish strong, which they've struggled with, in order to beat the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
The Jets got the fast start with another first-drive touchdown, two first-quarter recovered fumbles, and leads of 7-0, 10-7 and 17-10. But Matt Ryan and the Falcons can move the ball in large chunks, and despite the game-long rain, they did that enough to gradually take control of the game for the 25-20 victory.
Both teams needed this interconference win to get off of losing streaks. The Falcons ended their three game skid to go to 4-3. The Jets lost their third in a row to fall to 3-5 and now have a short week in which to get ready to host the hot Buffalo Bills back home on Thursday night.
Here are eight takeaways from the Jets' soggy, disappointing loss:
1. Steady Rain, Fast StartJosh McCown and the offense didn't let the steady precip slow their game-starting pace of recent weeks. McCown completed all four of his passes on the game-opening drive, the last on a nice seam route to TE Eric Tomlinson for 20 yards and the score just 4:27 in. With first-series scores vs. New England and at Miami, the Jets scored on their opening drives in three straight games for the first time since 2008
2. Tough to Handle
The moisture showed it would likely be a factor all afternoon when, on Atlanta's first drive, QB Matt Ryan couldn't handle the center snap and Jordan Jenkins pounced on the loose ball for his second pro fumble recovery at the Falcons 34. But the hosts couldn't convert the great field position when Chandler Catanzaro's 46-yard field goal try faded right.
3. Ryan Rebounds
Ryan showed he wasn't going to let any raindrops slow him down for long as he also went 4-for-4 with his last pass also to a tight end — in this case big second-year man Austin Hooper on a 1-yard hookup in the back of the end zone to tie it at 7-7 with five minutes left in the opening frame. Another short TD pass between Ryan and Hooper failed with 8:09 left in the first half when Hooper couldn't handle the no doubt wet pigskin and the Falcons settled for a 10-10 tie on Matt Bryant's 23-yard FG.
Top Gameday Photos from the Week 8 Matchup in MetLife Stadium
4. Jamal Joins the Fun
But again Ryan and C Alex Mack failed to hook up on a center snap. This time rookie S Jamal Adams scooped up the loose ball for his first pro takeaway. It marked the first two-takeaway first quarter for the Green & White since the 2012 opener against the Bills. The Jets offense, still struggling to find its first-drive magic, settled for Catanzaro's 43-yard FG try. This one was down the middle and the Jets were back on top 10-7 in the opening minute of the second quarter.
5. Air Robby
After a driving Lachlan Edwards punt, a defensive 3-and-out, a punt from Atlanta's end zone and a short Jeremy Kerley return, the Green & White began their third drive of the first half in Falcons territory. This time they capitalized bigtime as McCown, on third-and-4 from the 24, found Robby Anderson single-covered by CB Desmond Trufant and hit him in stride in the end zone. Anderson's third TD of the year opened the Jets' lead to 17-10. When the Falcons drove to a last-second field goal to end the half, the Jets went into the locker room with their fifth straight halftime home lead against the Birds. They won two of those first four, lost two.
6. Field Position Battle
The Jets were winning that battle six minutes into the third quarter. After Atlanta started its third drive inside its own 7 and punted again from its own end zone, Kerley's fair catch gave the hosts their fourth drive start in Falcons territory. But for the second time, they couldn't convert the position into points as this time they were pushed back across the 50 and had to punt. Opportunity lost.
Then on Atlanta's ensuing drive, Ryan got enough time to load up and hit Julio Jones for 53 yards down the deep middle to the Jets 27. That big play enabled the visitors to creep to within 17-16 on Matt Bryant's second FG, a 37-yarder, with 5:12 to play in the third frame.
7. Crucial Muff
It was time for the Jets to turn over the ball to the Falcons deep in their territory. Usually sure-handed Jeremy Kerley tried an over-the-shoulder grab of Matt Bosher's booming punt, muffed it, and Atlanta's Kermal Ishmael recovered at the Jets 13. Bryant's third FG let it back out to 25-20 with 5:19 to go. Did the Jets have one more length-of-field TD drive in them on this soaking day?
8. Steady Rain, Fizzling Finish
The Jets just couldn't recapture their first-half mojo. Needing to move the ball from their 26 with 5:19 to play, they went 3-and-out. Needing a defensive 3-and-out, they yielded a third-down conversion from Ryan to WR Mohamed Sanu. Finally the Falcons punted, the ball went out at the Jets 4, and they faced an entire field with no timeouts and needing a touchdown to pull out the unlikely win. They couldn't get any closer than their own 38.