The Jets faced a chance to secure a 5-3 record at home and spoil an AFC West foe's postseason plans at MetLife Stadium this afternoon.
Bilal Powell did his level best on offense, and the defense had its moments in harassing Philip Rivers and in slowing the Los Angeles Chargers' ground game.
But in the end, QB Bryce Petty and company didn't have enough offense (one touchdown drive, 295 yards) and didn't stop L.A.'s big plays and two 70-yards-plus TD marches, and the result was a 14-7 loss to the Chargers. Only the New Year's Eve finale at New England remains for the now 5-10 Green & White. The 'Bolts improve to 8-7.
Here are nine chronological takeaways from the Jets' last home game of the 2017 season:
1. Eye-Popping Opening
The Jets won the opening coin toss and elected to defer for the fifth consecutive game. This time, though, they didn't intend to kick off deep. Chandler Catanzaro, reprising his onside kicks from late vs. the Saints, hit a high hopper on the opening KO that Marcus Maye recovered. Great call by ST coordinator Brant Boyer, great work by the teams for the Jets' first first-quarter onside recovery since 1971. But the Green & White could only get to midfield before punting.
2. Defense's Strong First
The teams traded several punts in the opening frame. For the Jets defense that was good as they bottled up Melvin Gordon and while Rivers continued to prove hard to sack, Demario Davis, Josh Martin and Leonard Williams all got hits on No. 17 and DL Xavier Cooper batted down a pass behind the line. As a result, the Chargers left the opening period with a modest 59 total yards and the D, after giving up 34 first-quarter points in the previous three games, had an opening-frame shutout.
3. Petty Offense Sputtery
The Jets offense, however, also opened slow with 35 yards. Petty was still struggling finding his receivers as he opened with 3-of-9 passing and four punt drives, two of them 3-and-outs. After the Chargers marched 71 yards to Rivers' 4-yard toss to TE Antonio Gates for the game's opening TD with 8:55 to play in the first half, the Jets trailed 7-0 and needed something on offense to get them going.
4. Bilal Steps On the Gas
They seemed to get that when Bilal Powell popped free for 41 yards — his third run of 40-plus yards this season — into L.A. territory. Two plays later, though, Matt Forte was crunched by LB Korey Toomer and lost his first fumble of the season, with the ball recovered by LB Hayes Pullard at the Chargers 24. Threat averted.
5. Another Bilal Burst
The offense was still having trouble generating momentum. But after Nick Rose missed his first field goal try as a Charger from 47 yards out, Petty handed the ball to Powell three times. On the third run, Powell broke loose around left end from his 43 and followed a few blockers, primarily C Jonotthan Harrison playing for Wes Johnson, all the way to the goal line. Powell became the first Jet with four 40-plus runs in a season and the first with three 50-plus runs in a season. And just like that, the Jets had tied the score at 7-7 five minutes into the third quarter.
6. Not So Fast
And just like that, the Chargers retook the touchdown lead. This time Rivers orchestrated an eight play, 80-yard drive to Gordon's 1-yard keeper to put the visitors from the west back on top 14-7 with 4:57 left in the third quarter.
7. Nearly a Gut Shot
The Jets' punt cover team yielded a 91-yard punt-return TD up the gut to Travis Benjamin ... except that the Chargers' Nick Dzubnar was flagged for holding. Given a reprieve that kept them in the game, the Jets defense got a stop after giving up one first down. Then after another Lachlan Edwards inside-the-20 punt — his fifth on the day, one of of Steve Weatherford's 2010 team mark — the D needed another stop and pitched a 3-and-out. But the Jets were running out of time. They needed the offense to mount another TD drive.
Top Snapshots from the Christmas Eve Matchup at MetLife Stadium
8. Only So Far
Petty — playing the entire second half with a right-side OL of Harrison for Johnson, Dakota Dozier for Brian Winters at RG, and Brent Qvale for Brandon Shell at RT — led his unit from the Jets 30 to the Chargers 17. But he couldn't find Austin Seferian-Jenkins on third down or Robbie Anderson in the end zone on fourth down. The Jets' NFL-leading streak of 21 straight red zone scores was over. More important, their chances in this game with 3:07 to play were hanging by a threat.
9. Endgame Scenario
The Chargers took over and faced a third-and-8 from their 19. The Jets couldn't get there as Rivers hit Keenan Allen for 20 yards. At the two-minute warning they had second down at their 42 and the hosts had two timeouts left. L.A. finally punted for the ninth time and the Jets, at their 5 with 3 seconds to play and no 95-yard play in OC John Morton's playbook, lost a last-play lateral/fumble and it was over.