The Jets weren't doing any scoreboard-watching this afternoon at Seattle's Qwest Field.
For one thing, the two teams they would've been most interested in — Miami and New England — started their games at 1 p.m. EST and finished them around the time of the Jets' opening kickoff against the Seahawks. And the Dolphins and Patriots took care of their business with wins.
For another, the steadily falling snow for most of the game in the Great Northwest made a clear view of the Qwest board a hit-or-miss affair.
The Jets didn't need numbers to tell them what they needed to do. Unfortunately, that knowledge translated not into victory but another crushing defeat on the West Coast, their fourth this season, that may have snuffed out the Green & White's playoff hopes.
The Seahawks, led by quarterback Seneca Wallace behind a patchwork line on offense and DE Darryl Tapp (1.5 sacks) and CB Josh Wilson (two interceptions) on defense, pulled slowly but surely away for a 13-3 victory and went home in a celebratory mood despite their 4-11 record on the occasion of Mike Holmgren's final home game as their head coach
The Jets' trip home was not as joyous. They'll be spending the next hours on their team charter flying back to New Jersey, and during and after that flight they must come to grips with what they (and others) have to do to make the postseason and what they did to let their 8-3 record turn into the current 9-6 mark that could KO them from the AFC playoff grid.
"Disappointed. Really, really disappointed. For the group," head coach Eric Mangini said of his emotions after the game. "This is a good group of people, a good group of players. I know how hard everyone has worked and how hard they worked last week, and to come out on the short end of this game is disappointing, because you see the time, the effort, the passion, the caring — all those things that go in to a game like this."
"We just didn't make the plays today. We didn't make plays at all," lamented wideout Jerricho Cotchery, who led all receivers on this sloppy day with 81 yards coming on six receptions. "When it came down to situations for them to make plays, they made them, and when it came into tight situations for us to make plays we just didn't make them."
"We had everything in front of us and we just didn't take care of business," tackle Damien Woody said. "We don't have anybody to blame but ourselves."
The Jets can still claim the division title and the third playoff seed with a win over the Dolphins at home and a Patriots loss at Buffalo. With all three teams at 10-6, the Jets would advance with a better record in head-to-head among all three teams (5-1 to the Dolphins' and Pats' 3-3).
They could also advance as the final wild card team and sixth team if they defeat the 'Fins and Baltimore loses at home to Jacksonville, based on a better AFC record (8-4 to the Ravens' 7-5).
But the Green & White can just as easily be sent home for the remainder of the holidays. A Miami win over the Jets gives the Dolphins the division title. A Jets win but a Patriots win over the Bills gives New England the unlikely crown. And a Ravens win over the struggling Jaguars shuts out the wild card route. In which case this Jets end of season would have the feel of 2000, when they started 4-0, 6-1 and 9-4 before losing their last three games to miss out on the postseason festivities.
The start of this game didn't hint of any such difficulties for the visitors from the east. The Jets, seeming to show comfort and confidence in the snowy, wet and sloppy conditions after having practiced in similar weather on Friday before they left for Seattle, moved down the field on the Seahawks' defense on their opening drive.
Brett Favre spread the ball around expertly, handing off three times to Thomas Jones, three more to fullback Tony Richardson, then hitting Jerricho Cotchery for 21 yards on his first pass of the day and Laveranues Coles for 5 yards on third-and-4. Twelve offensive plays, 78 yards, four first downs.
The drive stalled on fourth-and-1 at the Seahawks 2, so the call was for Jay Feely from 20 yards out. The Jets led, 3-0.
"I anticipated the game being tight," Mangini said of going for the field goal rather than the first down, "and I thought at that point the important thing would be to get points."
"There was no sense," said Favre, "in thinking we wouldn't be back there."
Instead, from there the Jets never got closer than the Seattle 27. The first half gradually shifted the hosts' way as the Jets' offense dwindled to eight plays and punt, five and punt, three and the first of Favre's two interceptions, five and punt.
The Jets' defense appeared to have the offense's back by creating two second-quarter takeaways. Rookie corner Dwight Lowery was involved in both forces, first pulling the ball away from TE Will Heller after a completion near midfield with Darrelle Revis recovering. Then Lowery and C.J. Mosley ganged up on FB Leonard Weaver to rip the ball loose inside the Jets 10, with Eric Smith cradling the ball.
But the field position was ever so inexorably favoring Seattle. Finally, on the last drive of the first half, the Seahawks struck as Seneca Wallace, off of play action, found rookie TE John Carlson in single coverage against LB David Harris. Harris was never able to turn around as the 6'5" Carlson reached up, grabbed the 2-yard toss and fell into the end zone slush for the game's first TD.
The Jets gave up two second-half field goals. The first by Olindo Mare was from 30 yards out with 2:42 left in the third quarter.
The visitors responded with what felt for a short while like a game-tying drive. From their 23, the Jets offense moved to Seahawks' 27 to set up third-and-27 at the 'Hawks 27. The call was a Favre go-route to Coles down the right sideline. LC and CB Marcus Trufant jostled, no flag was thrown, the ball fell incomplete.
Feely came on for his second field goal try, and it was good from 45 yards out. Trouble was, the 40-second clock had expired a good two seconds before James Dearth got the snap off to holder Reggie Hodges.
Rather than kick from 50 yards out, head coach Eric Mangini chose to punt. Then he punted again.
Then with time running down toward the two-minute warning and the Green & White facing fourth-and-2 at their 20, the call was for Favre to throw. He aired the ball out down the middle of the field, releasing a pinpoint pass from his 11 to about the Seattle 45. But Coles, who had a step in the double coverage, juggled the ball at the 40 and CB Kelly Jennings swatted it away.
"I left a lot of plays out there that I should have had," Coles said. "A lot of blame should be pointed at me. Anytime I have an opportunity to make a play to let us win, I should do that."
Mare put through a 38-yarder with 1:47 to play, making it 13-3 and dousing any legitimate comeback dreams. The Jets gave up the game two plays later when Favre, after nailing Cotchery for a 30-yarder down the middle, threw his second pick, which was also Wilson's second pick.
So now destiny is no longer in the Jets' hands as it had been for several weeks. A win over Miami does no good without an unlikely loss by the Patriots or the Ravens. It's not over till the fat lady sings, but she's warming up in the wings.
"I've always said that this team is still growing and I think that's one of the great things about being a part of this ballclub," Coles said, trying to mine something positive from this tough defeat. "Everything we've done, we've done on the fly during this year, trying to learn each other and figure each other out.
"But again, there's no excuses. We came out here on the West Coast and we lost four games out here and it's very sad for us and disappointing. But we've still got a game to play and that's where our focus should be."
T-Rich Theme: Motorin'
Richardson was obviously a part of the early game plan as he had five carries — as many in this game as he had in his first 14 games as a Jet. He ran for 34 yards, including a 16-yard inside handoff on the opening drive that was his longest in seven seasons, or since he rumbled 19 yards against the Giants in 2001. For the season T-Rich has 65 yards on 10 carries for 6.5 a pop.
"Mo" Yards for 'Hawks
Maurice Morris rushed for 116 yards on 29 carries for Seattle. The Jets' run defense, after not allowing an individual 100-yard rusher in the first 11 games, made Morris the third opponent in four weeks to clear 100. Previously Peyton Hills ran for 129 yards for Denver and Marshawn Lynch had 127 last week for Buffalo.
Revis recovered the first fumble, by Heller, giving him seven individual takeaways this season. Eric Smith pounced on the second loose ball for the first fumble recovery of his career.
Dwight Lowery, in the sub package, continued to find ways to get the ball loose from opponents. He forced two fumbles on back-to-back drives in the second quarter (although C.J. Mosley may have had a lot to do with FB Leonard Weaver's fumble at the Jets 5) and the rookie CB now has a team-leading five FFs on the year.