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9 Observations: Cards Wear Down Jets 28-3

Green & White Struggles in the Desert on Monday Night (with David Harris Inactive) to Fall to 1-5


*Updated, 1:05 a.m. ET

*Another week, another road game in a loud stadium against a playoff-caliber opponent. That's been the norm so far for the Jets, who played their fourth away game of the year at Arizona tonight on Monday Night Football.

But for the first time since 2008, the Jets were playing a game without LB David Harris on patrol in the middle of the defense. Not even CB Darrelle Revis' return from a hamstring injury or head coach Todd Bowles' return to the stadium he called home for two seasons was enough to help the Jets, who were worn down by the Cardinals, 28-3.

It was the fourth consecutive loss and fifth in six games for the Jets, who couldn't get a takeaway for the third time in four games nor a sack of QB Carson Palmer. Additionally, the Green & White had their six-game winning streak against their infrequent NFC rivals snapped.

It was also a game in which Ryan Fitzpatrick left the game early, not with an injury, for the first time as the Jets QB and Geno Smith played for the first time this season.

"They beat us all the way around. ... They beat us clean," Bowles said at his postgame news conference. "We've got to get a spark somehow. We're in games but we're making too many mistakes at critical times. Injuries are going to happen. That's not an excuse for us. We've got to make a play at a critical time to get us going."

Here are nine observations about the game as it unfolded in primetime.

1. Opening MovesThe Jets defense looked sharp on the opening drive, stopping the Cards after one first down, but the offense couldn't move from deep in its own end, and the hosts took a high, short Lachlan Edwards punt from their 42. It took only one play to capitalize as David Johnson's quick-cuts burst off the left side went for 58 yards and a TD — the opponents' longest run since the 2014 finale at Miami and the Cards' first first-quarter points this year.

2. Opening JittersThe Jets got hit with five penalty flags in the first quarter (and 10 for the game) — two back-to-back false starts on offense, then four flags on three plays (one declined) on defense. Fortunately, all were 5-yarders and the defense stiffened to force a punt on its third series. Then a 3-and-out on Drive No. 4 and maybe the D had steadied itself.

"We've got to quit making penalties and get back to work," C Nick Mangold said afterwards. "Execution, penalties ... .we've just got to get better."

3. GiddyupAfter three drives, the Jets offense had 25 yards on 10 plays. Then they finally seemed to get untracked with Brandon Marshall drawing a pass interference against CB Patrick Peterson — Marshall's seventh flag forced against opponents — followed by a 36-yard catch-and-run crossing route from Fitzpatrick. The Green & White just barely got into the red zone, then were pushed out, and settled for a 39-yard field goal from Nick Folk, the U. of Arizona grad who converted his 11th FG on 12 tries this season, trimming the early deficit to 7-3 with 12 minutes left in the first half.

4. Next StrikeMuhammad Wilkerson swatted down a Palmer pass behind the line on first-and-goal, Mo's third PD in the backfield this season and 19th since 2012. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to prevent the next play as D.Johnson motored untouched up the middle past some textbook blocking for his second TD. That made it 14-3 and another long game beckoned.

5. Two-Minute FizzleOne of the many coaching points Bowles has stressed is two-minute performance. So far this year the Jets had only seven points in their two-minute drives. They had another chance against the Cards and moved from their 20 with 1:23 to go to the Arizona 39. But a false start by Fitz and two incompletions were followed by Edwards' sixth punt of the half and another two-minute drill came up short.

Top Photos from Monday Night Football in the Desert

6. Defense Wearing DownExcept for the first two touchdown runs — a big exception — the Jets run D was slowing David Johnson. On all his other first-half runs he had 9 yards on nine carries. Meanwhile against the pass, the Jets were blitzing more than they had in their first five games and were hitting Palmer, although not sacking him.

But CB Buster Skrine (four penalties) struggled in coverage on the outside, and when Darron Lee, starting for Harris, left after his right ankle was caught during a tackle, the Cards put together a methodical 14-play, 68-yard, 7:37 drive to Johnson's third rush TD and a 21-3 lead.

As questionable as some of the calls were on Skrine, Bowles said, "four penalties are four penalties. He had a bad game. He's got to be better with his hands."

7. Red Zone RepeatThe Jets' second drive of the third quarter shaped up like their last series of the first half — a steady move into the red zone, only to be thrown back out by a penalty. But instead ending with a punt, it concluded with the game's first turnover, a Fitzpatrick heave under pressure on third-and-7 from the Cards 14 that was snapped up by S D.J. Swearinger in front of B.Marshall in the end zone.

8. And Seven If by AirWith the defense back on its heels, the Cards followed up their previous drive with a similar march of 14 plays, 89 yards and 7:26. This one ended with a Palmer strike to Michael Floyd beating CB Darryl Roberts to the flag for the first TD pass of the night and a 28-3 edge.

9. Geno's TimeWith that fourth Arizona score, Fitzpatrick came out and Smith entered the game with 8:20 to play. He hit his first four passes and picked up two first downs, but then, facing fourth-and-11 just across midfield, tried to muscle a sideline throw to rookie Charone Peake and instead found S Tyrann Mathieu.

"The score was 28-3, there were eight minutes left, we weren't doing anything. I just wanted to get him some reps," Bowles said of putting Smith in the game. "It definitely wasn't Fitzpatrick's fault. He barely had time to throw. Anybody we would've put back there would've had a problem today."

"Nobody's going to feel sorry for us, so continue to put the work in and good things are going to happen," said Fitzpatrick. "We've got to stay together. That's the only way we're going to dig ourselves out of this hole."

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