The Jets faced a rocky road, coming into this afternoon with a 1-5 away record and second-year QB Bryce Petty taking the snaps to play Drew Brees and the Saints, in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt and on a five-game home winning streak.
The Green & White put last week's shutout loss at Denver and the deactivation of DL Muhammad Wilkerson in their rearview mirror and played the Saints tough. The defense harassed Brees into an off game and grabbed an unexpected three takeaways.
And when the Petty offense, which had been bottled up much of the game, drove to the QB's first TD pass of the season just after the two-minute warning, the Jets were suddenly within five points of an upset. But Mark Ingram's late TD burst dashed those visions as the Jets fell to the Saints 31-19 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Here are nine chronological takeaways from todays' loss in the 'Dome:
1. Saints Break into Lead
New Orleans opened with an ominous thrust as Ingram took a Brees toss out of the backfield 54 yards to the Jets 10. But the defense made a stand, yielding no yards on three plays, and the Saints settled for Wil Lutz's 28-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead. It was the opponents' fourth straight game with a score on their opening drive ( one TD, three FGs).
2. Expanding the Advantage
The Saints' second drive was less quick strike, more grind it out. They picked up seven first downs en route to Brees' touchdown pass on a WR screen to Michael Thomas, a booth review that overturned the TD call, and Ingram's 1-foot carry for the score and a 10-0 lead with 3:07 left in the first quarter.
3. Running to Paydirt
Petty had a one-first-down opening drive, then got the visitors moving across midfield, into the red zone and into the end zone on his second drive with a muscular running game. OC John Morton, back in New Orleans after coaching for the Saints in 2015-16, called eight straight runs to move the ball (plus a 15-yard pass interference) and Bilal Powell capped the drive with a 2-yard sweep to the left to cut the deficit to 10-7 five minutes into the second quarter. It was the Jets' 18th straight red zone score over the last nine games (12 TDs, six FGs).
4. Yards Hard to Come By
Petty was under the gun after Brees and the Saints drove to their third straight score and second straight touchdown on a pass to rookie RB Alvin Kamara. The Jets' second penalty of the game for too many men in the offensive huddle set them back at the start of the series and they went 3-and-out. Petty was on his way to 46 passing yards and 103 yards of offense in the first half. But the Green & White got an unexpected boost late ...
5. Timely Pick
A good rush up the middle by DL Xavier Cooper forced Brees into a rare mistake as he threw under pressure and DL Leonard Williams snagged the interception and returned it to the NO-11. It was Williams' first pro pick and in fact the Jets' first pick and takeaway in the last four games. And although the offense gained no yards on three plays, Chandler Catanzaro came on for the 29-yard field goal with nine seconds left in the first half and the deficit was down to 17-10 at the half, with the Jets set to receive the second-half kickoff.
6. Hangin' Around
The teams exchanged punt drives to start the second half, then the Jets moved again, 58 yards to Catanzaro's second short field goal to slice it to 17-13. Big plays on the drive were JoJo Natson's 15-yard end-around, Petty's 13-yard scramble to convert third down, and Petty's 38-yard mortar shot for Elijah McGuire to set up the field goal. The Jets were still showing life in the Dome.
7. Gift Exchange
Petty had been protecting the ball well but he was victimized by a ball intended for TE Neal Sterling that was batted in the air by CB Ken Cawley. Sterling wanted pass interference but what the Jets got was LB Craig Robertson's interception. Yet five plays later the Saints returned the favor when WR Brandon Coleman was hit by CB Buster Skrine and S Jamal Adams, Adams' hit forced the reception loose, and LB Jordan Jenkins pounced on the backward bouncer. That was the Jets' first fumble recovery in five games and the Saints had turned the ball over twice for the first time in six games.
Top Gameday Photos from Week 15 in New Orleans
8. Saints Go Marching In
Things were still bouncing the Green & White way when Thomas had his second TD of the game wiped out by a booth replay review, this one because his back foot stepped on the back line on a 32-yard strike from Brees. Following that play, Skrine hit Coleman again after a reception and this time forced and recovered the fumble himself. But again the Petty offense couldn't move and the Saints took over at their 36 with 12:22 to play. This time Brees and the Saints, one of the NFL's top-five offenses, didn't let turnovers by their team or overturns by the replay booth stop them. They drove 64 yards, with the crowning touch coming on second-and-goal as Brees flicked a 4-yard dart to Thomas, who this time scored the touchdown for the 24-13 lead with 7:39 to go.
9. Close Finish ... No Cigar
Petty hit some big completions on the visitors' final possession, to Chad Hansen for 24 yards and Natson for 19. Then a holding call on S Kenny Vaccaro against TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins gave the Jets first-and-goal from the 2, from where Petty rolled out and hit McGuire for the TD with 1:51 to play. Petty's two-point pass was swatted down by DE Cameron Jordan but the Jets had a window of opportunity.
And the window was slammed shut when Catanzaro's onside kick was fumbled by the Saints out of bounds, then Ingram broke loose off his right side for a 50-yard sealing score with 1:33 to play.