Several key words and phrases jumped out from Robert Saleh's postgame news conference following the 23-6 loss at Seattle that KO'd the Jets from the AFC playoff picture.
"Disappointing" is one. "It stings right now." And "it starts with me."
"It's disappointing, the five-game losing streak ... This one, it was just we could've been a lot better," Saleh said after seeing his second Jets team win solidly over Chicago to improve its record to 7-4, only to lose these last five in a row and be officially eliminated from the postseason. "Especially these last two games. I just feel we're a better football team. Obviously, it starts with me."
Those last two games, the 19-3 primetime loss to the Jaguars and Sunday's game against Seahawks, were the toughest to absorb. The Jets defense, NFL-top-five-strong most of the year, gave up plays early, then tightened things up late in both games. The offense, meanwhile, produced three field goals and no touchdowns over their last eight quarters.
Saleh empathized with Jets Nation, the wearers of the green and white, who thought for much of the season their team was going to end its droughts of 11 seasons of no playoffs and the last six with losing seasons. Both streaks will continue regardless of what the 7-9 Jets do in the season finale at Miami.
"We have a tremendous young core — I do believe that," he said. "You look at the first half of our season, we're fully healthy going into the bye week, 6-3. One thing leads to another, and you lose a couple of really tight games. ... These last few games, it hasn't been anywhere near playoff-caliber football.
"I know we're close. It stings right now. But I know we've made a lot of headway the last two years."
The head coach pointed to the first quarter as among the Sunday suspects that did in the Jets, particularly on defense, in this one. The D yielded a 60-yard run by rookie RB Kenneth Walker on the game's first offensive play, a 29-yard completion from Geno Smith to TE Noah Fant on the second series, and an impromptu shovel pass from Smith to RB DeeJay Dallas that went for 41 yards on the third drive. The 'Hawks scored 17 points on those drives.
"The explosive run to start the game, lack of gap control, poor eye discipline in the pass game," Saleh ticked off the issues. "That allowed them to generate the points that they did."
On offense, he said he felt his QB, Mike White "started good, but in the second half the ball was getting away from him a little bit. He wasn't as accurate as he normally is. He battled, but obviously it wasn't good enough."
But Saleh returned to the rapid-fire self-scout he was doing at the lectern in the visitors' media room beneath Lumen Field.
"I've got to look at everything, all the way from the top down, starting with me, obviously," he said. "Whether we had injuries ... you could list a million excuses, but we didn't get better as the year went on in that regard, so there's a lot of things to look at. The obvious thing I'll look at starts with me. But there are a lot of things to look at."
But before he gave the official eulogy, win or loss after the Dolphins game, in a week, Saleh gave a bittersweet summary of the season almost past and seasons ahead for the players, the coaches, the organization and the fans.
"I promise you, no one's hurting more than the people in that locker room, especially me," Saleh said. "At the same time, I know it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But there's still a lot of really cool things to look at from the season.
"But it stings big-time right now."
See the best images from the Week 17 matchup between the Jets and Seahawks.