The Jets should have been the team with a tiger in their tank, off their mini-bye weekend after their Thursday night game. Houston, meanwhile, was on the short week from its Monday night game at Cincinnati.
The Texans, on the other hand, were coming in hot off of a major upset of the Bengals. And they had the better start and the better day deep in the heart in a 24-17 victory to raise their record to 5-5.
Meanwhile, the Jets, despite an energetic finish trying to tie things up, are now fit to be tied. They've seen their promising 4-1 start deflate to a 5-5 crossroads while their injuries continue to mount — C Nick Mangold (hand lacerations) and CB Darrelle Revis (concussion protocol) both left midgame.
"I'm extremely upset," Todd Bowles said afterwards in his most emotional postgame remarks as the Jets' first-year head coach. "I'm not going to take it out here. We'll discuss all that in-house when we get back. ... There's a lot of things that made me upset. We didn't make a couple of plays, a couple of times we busted plays that we damned well have to get better at."
Here are eight observations on how the Jets-Texans game unfolded:
1. Pryor Back in the (Red) Zone
Calvin Pryor, out the past three games with a sprained ankle, was tested at the end of the first quarter on a Yates fade to "wideout" J.J. Watt, who had five TD catches last year. Not this time, as Pryor broke it up in the end zone to end the period. The defense held up on third down at the other end of the field, forcing the Texans to settle for a Nick Novak field goal at the end of their 8:00 drive against the NFL's No. 2 red zone defense.
2. Texan Revenge
Two former Texans got the Jets even at 3-3 with 8:21 left in the first half. Marcus Williams, cut by Houston last year, did it all on third-and-9, blitzing from Yates' blind side, stripping the QB, and pouncing on the fumble at the Texans 47. It was the first full sack of his career. The Jets' drive stalled at the 22 so on came Randy Bullock, Nick Folk's replacement and a Texans waiver victim in September, to tie it from 40 yards out.
3. Cornering the Market
With Kareem Jackson out and Johnathan Joseph leaving the game with injuries (Joseph returned later), you'd think the Jets would be first to pick on the corners. Instead, Yates loaded up and hit DeAndre Hopkins past Darrelle Revis of all corners for a 61-yard score and a 10-3 lead with 3:04 to play in the half. "He gave up a touchdown," Bowles said of Revis. "That's about the size of it."
4. Ending the Texans' Streak
The Jets cobbled together an odd yet satisfying drive to the first touchdown scored on the Texans in 13 quarters. It began with Ivory's 23-yard bounceout, the Jets' longest play of the game. An Ivory fumble on the next play was reversed into down by contact. Then Eric Decker drew a 44-yard pass interference penalty on Quintin Demps, the longest penalty against a Jets opponent in five years. Finally, Fitzpatrick lofted a pass to Brandon Marshall over rookie CB Kevin Johnson for a 21-yard strike and the Jets had slayed the beast that the Texans' 12-quarter no-TD streak had become. But even at 10-10, would they have enough to pass Houston?
5. We'll See Your One and Raise You Two
But the Texans struck right back for a pair of touchdown passes. One was on a backpass from Yates to WR Cecil Shorts, who let it fly for RB Alfred Blue for a 21-yard score and a 17-10 lead. Then on the next drive, Darrelle Revis left the field with an injury, Marcus Williams came in for him and immediately gave up the second Yates-to-Hopkins TD strike of the game and a 24-10 edge with 3:24 left in the third frame. The Jets were losing their grip on this game.
6. The Bounding Beard Returns
Fitzpatrick was fired up himself as the gameclock wound down, but would it be enough? If he had anything to say about it, it might. Fitz kept for 4 yards on 3rd-and-5 to the Texans 21, then kept again on fourth down to move the chains. And on 1st-and-goal from the 6, it was Fitzpatrick again with the gallop up the middle and the score — even as he took a shot and his helmet came off at the goal line — that cut the deficit to 24-17.
7. The Magic Disappears
The Jets were in position to drive for the tying touchdown starting from their 41. But three downs gained 5 yards, then Fitzpatrick tried to fit a ball over coverage to Devin Smith. He didn't make it, with S Eddie Pleasant making the fourth-down pick. The Green & White were on life support now. They needed a defensive stop and then still that TD to tie it up...
8. The Magic Really Disappears
The visitors got the stop with the defense's fourth consecutive 3-and-out in the fourth quarter. Then a punt touchback gave them the ball at their 20 with 2:19 to play. Certainly doable ... but Fitzpatrick couldn't do it, throwing a slant for Marshall that S Andre Hal jumped — dived for, more accurately — for the second Fitz pick in three plays. And it was kneeldown time.
"I feel like we just need to be more consistent and start faster," rookie DE Leonard Williams said. "We try to fight in the end and it's not enough."
Bowles said he's still committed to Fitzpatrick (19-for-39, 216 yards, one TD, two INTs, three sacks, two by Watt) as his signalcalller but said, "I don't think he played very well, just like a lot of other people on both sides of the ball. We'll discuss everything on Monday like we always do." He added that one of the topics at those day-after meetings "involves who starts at every position."
It's time for the Jets to seriously regroup if they want to lift themselves out of the 5-5 pile and fight for a postseason berth over the last six weeks. Next up: the Miami Dolphins on Ring of Honor induction day next Sunday.