There is no way to sugarcoat it -- six plays on offense in the first quarter put the Jets in a hole they struggled to, but were never able to climb out of in Sunday's 27-20 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London.
It was a long way to go for a game, and it will be a long ride back to the U.S. as the Green & White now gets next week off before traveling to face AFC East rival New England on Oct. 24.
"It has to be better," head coach Robert Saleh said after the game. "I'm going to work my tail off over this bye week and see if there's something that we can come up with. Study the tape. Look at all the decisions and execution and figure out what the answer is over this next week and come up with something because it's got to be better."
After winning the coin toss, the Jets deferred, and Atlanta and quarterback Matt Ryan took the ball and marched his team 62 yards on 14 plays, settling for a field goal by Younghoe Koo.The Jets (1-4) had an opportunity to stop the drive before it really got started, but a roughing-the-passer penalty on LB Quincy Williams on a third-and-9 play from the Falcons' 36 kept the drive alive.
"Obviously it's not easy coming off a 100-play game, not easy when you're — when a drive should have been over on the first third down," Saleh said. "And I disagree with the personal foul but we'll see the tape."
Jets LB C.J. Mosley, who had eight total tackles in the game, said: "A call is a call. We can't do much about it."
Saleh added: "We weren't able to get going in the first half. A couple three and outs. Couldn't get into a rhythm. When we did get into a rhythm in the second half, obviously, again he [QB Zach Wilson] shows that he's pretty good when he gets into a rhythm, but again we have to start faster and I'm putting that on me to try to figure this out over the next week."
The defense, which was confronted by 100 plays in last week's overtime win against Tennessee, couldn't get off the field early on Sunday -- Atlanta (2-3) ran 23 plays to the Jets' 6, holding the ball for 11:30 in the first 15 minutes of the game as the Falcons built a 10-0 lead. The Jets have yet to score a point in the first quarter of the team's first five games of the 2021 NFL season and have been outscored by 75-13 in the first half -- scoring 7 or fewer points in the first half of each game this season. By contrast, Atlanta scored on its first three possessions, building a 17-point lead.
"I'm seeing the same things, a lot of those things we're doing to ourselves," WR Corey Davis said. "We just have to relax. We know we're a better team than 1-4. The dudes are angry and there are all type of emotions in that locker room. It is deflating, but it's my job as leader to stay in it when we have threes-and-out and not let it deflate us like it did today."
On his way onto the field for the start of the second half, Saleh told NFL Network that he was clear on the solution: "Execute the mundane."
That was one of the issues in the first half as Wilson was unsuccessful in connecting on a short third-down pass to Jamison Crowder in the flat and then a short screen pass to Tevin Coleman that bounced in front of the running back.
As the Jets struggled on offense, the defense was forced to contend with Atlanta's long possessions and the success Ryan had throwing over the middle, particularly to rookie TE Kyle Pitts (9 receptions for 119 yards), the No. 4 selection in this year's NFL draft out of the University of Florida.
"Obviously it's like we talk about when it's the fourth quarter and game is on the line and we need somebody to close the game whether it's a coach making the perfect call, player making a play, somebody on the team has to make a play and that's something that a young team will grow into," Saleh said.
See Best Images from the Week 5 Matchup Inside Tottenham Hotspur Stadium North of London
Unlike last week against the Titans when the Jets' defense registered seven sacks of Ryan Tannehill, they could only nip around Ryan's ankles as he played quick and released the ball even quicker. Despite getting hit eight times, Ryan helped the Falcons convert 64.3% on third down (9-of-14).
"That's something he does," said CB Bryce Hall, who had two pass defenses. "He's a seasoned quarterback. Look, we just didn't execute or do the things we were asked to do."
And so, a loss is a loss, regardless of where the game is being played, though Saleh -- ever positive -- said the trip had value.
"The fans were phenomenal for both sides," he said. "The experience is fantastic to come here and play in front of an international crowd. It's always great to be the only game on TV [with kickoff at 9:30 a.m. New York time] so your peers can watch you. It's an unfortunate result, but the experience is always good."