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Another Bitter Pill as Jets Fall to Falcons, 10-7


2009 Week 15 Jets vs Atlanta Photos

"Well," Rex Ryan opened his postgame news conference. Then he paused for perhaps 20 seconds, that single word hanging in the air. The Jets head coach had been this way before. Too many times before. He wasn't happy.

"Obviously this was a hugely disappointing game," he finally continued. "I thought we had a great chance to make it to the playoffs, but Atlanta found a way to win."

Instead, the Jets found several ways to turn a solid defensive victory over Atlanta into a depressing 10-7 loss to the Falcons, who knew after Dallas' win over New Orleans on Saturday night that they were out of the playoffs. Now it's the Jets who teeter on elimination, mathematically alive at 7-7 but realistically dead in the water, as Ryan declared:

"This group's good enough to win the Super Bowl. It just isn't going to be this year."

Just as team wins are highly satisfying, team losses are highly frustrating. All three phases contributed to this defeat, which took place in front of a half-filled Meadowlands due to the nor'easter that dumped large amounts of snow on the region overnight and made the playing conditions cold and windy.

*  As in the Jacksonville loss and the Monday nighter at Miami, the defense couldn't find a key stop when it was needed. Today the Falcons moved 51 yards on two snaps to get inside the Jets 10 at the two-minute warning, then on a do-or-die fourth-and-goal play, they "did" when Matt Ryan hit TE Tony Gonzalez just over the goal line for the go-ahead touchdown.

"I agree with Rex," cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "If we want to be the great defense that we want to be and that we always preach about, we've got to go out there and make plays at the end of the game. We had a bunch of third-down stops, but at the end of the day, we just didn't get it done."

*  As in the Buffalo loss and the home Miami game, the special teams struggled. Today it was three field goal formations in the final 36 minutes, all resulting in no points — one fumbled snap by Kellen Clemens on a 19-yarder that was never kicked, one on a 38-yard Jay Feely miss, the last on a 37-yarder blocked after a high James Dearth snap.

"It's not something that we don't practice," Feely said of going over kicking fundamentals in adverse conditions. "We practiced hard. We were out in the elements all week. We practiced into the wind. It is what it is. We didn't execute and we lost a game we should've won."

*  As in the New Orleans, Buffalo and New England losses, there were offensive turnovers. Today rookie QB Mark Sanchez returned to action after sitting out Tampa Bay with his sprained knee and threw three more interceptions, giving him 20 for the season. The first led to Atlanta's short drive to its early field goal, the last came with on a desperation throw with 1:05 to play to seal the loss.

"It's tough to swallow," Sanchez said. "It's never good when you play that poorly. We played well in spurts and then I turned the ball over. There's a lot of work to do. It's disheartening, very unfortunate."

Add to these shortcomings some dropped interceptions and untimely penalties and it's easy to see how the Jets stumbled, at home in what Rex Ryan had called "our conditions" to a dome team from the South that knew its postseason hopes were done.

And it's hard to see the positive things that the Jets did during the course of the game. Sanchez's play-action post-pattern strike to Braylon Edwards for 65 yards gave the Jets the 7-3 lead that they held for 46:10 of clock time. It was Sanchez's longest completion as a pro and was the centerpiece of Edwards' first 100-yard receiving game as a Jet (105 yards on five catches).

The defense, meanwhile, continued to dish out, if not 60 minutes of pain, a lot of it to opposing offenses. The Jets came into this game leading the NFL in total offense and passing offense and should continue in the lead after allowing 238 total yards and 152 passing yards. They entered with the top scoring defense and their league-leading average dropped to 15.8 points per game. They began the day with the best three-and-out machine going and added to that with five more three-and-out series.

But almost Jacksonville-like, the good work achieved and the unfortunate plays overcome went for naught on that final 73-yard Falcons drive. On third-and-9 Matt Ryan hit Roddy White for 16 yards and Donald Strickland got his hand on White's facemask going out of bounds for 15 more yards. On the next play, Jason Snelling, filling in from the first series after Michael Turner couldn't return, barged 20 yards up the middle to first-and-goal at the Jets 8.

Still, the Jets seemed to regain their equilibrium with three stops. So the Falcons put it all on the line on fourth down and Matt Ryan threw a 6-yard TD pass to Tony Gonzalez.

"At the end of the day, we knew what was going to happen," Revis said. "We knew they were probably going to him or to Roddy White. We played the zone. He's a Hall of Famer. He found a spot in the zone where Ryan could get him the ball. Big players make big plays in big games."

What was the coach's reaction when they didn't get a hand on Gonzo before his 6-yard game-winning catch?

"Oh, I was pretty shocked," Rex said.

It would've been great, the continuation of a sublime late-season story line if the Jets could have moved ahead of Miami, which lost at Tennessee, and Jacksonville, which lost to Indianapolis on Thursday night, and kept pace behind Baltimore on their chase for a playoff berth, if they could have talked about next Sunday's matchup with the undefeated Colts at Indy from a position of strength. But they can't do that now and time is running out.

"Down the stretch," said WR Jerricho Cotchery, "when you're playing for a playoff run, you have to be focused on everything in the game. Unfortunately, a lot of bad things happened today. Anytime those things happen, you're not going to win the game."

Game Notes

Revis and safety Kerry Rhodes each had three breakups of Matt Ryan passes. ... David Harris led the defense with 10 tackles. ... The defense, which came into the game having stopped opponents on 24 consecutive third-down plays, upped it to 25 before the Falcons clicked on the first of seven third-down conversions. ... James Ihedigbo got a piece of a first-quarter Michael Koenen punt. It doesn't count as a blocked kick but it still resulted in a 28-yard punt.

Brad Smith was again showing his versatility, getting first downs on a one-handed 17-yard reception and an 8-yard option keeper and giving the Jets nice field position with a second-effort 39-yard kickoff return. ... Referee Ron Winter (yes, Winter called this frigid game) announced that "No. 16," Smith, was guilty of unnecessary roughness on the Jets' last-ditch drive. It was really No. 66, guard Alan Faneca, who was flagged for "finishing the play" too vigorously in the officials' view. ... Jets NT Sione Pouha came into the game in the fourth quarter as a tight end for the first time in his career.

Chauncey Davis, who blocked Feely's fourth-quarter FG, had a 24-yard interception-return TD off of Vinny Testaverde in the Falcons' 27-14 win over the Jets in the Georgia Dome in 2005.

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