Winless entering Week 4 and having been outscored on average by 31-12, the Jets didn't have any time to feel sorry for themselves. After dropping a one-sided 36-7 contest to the Colts in Indianapolis, the Jets boarded a plane Sunday night and reviewed game tape, made corrections and then turned the page to the Broncos and Thursday's date at MetLife Stadium. Following a couple of walkthroughs at One Jets Drive, the Green & White hope they can reverse their early season fortunes as the first quarter of the Jets' 2020 season reaches its conclusion.
"I think they're pissed," said Head Coach Adam Gase of his team's mindset. "There are moments in the game where we feel we have to just get over that hump."
In each of the past three games, the Jets weren't able to excel in critical situations. After falling behind by 21-0 in Week 1 at Buffalo, the Jets scored 10 unanswered points and had the ball in excellent field position at the beginning of the fourth quarter. But TE Chris Herndon lost a fumble near midfield and the Jets would never climb closer. A week later, the Green & White trailed San Francisco, 14-3, late in the second quarter and drove to the 49ers' 20-yard line. But they couldn't get a yard on third and fourth downs, turning the ball over, and never found their footing again. Finally in Indianapolis, the Jets had success moving the ball early against the Colts and had a first-and-goal from the 7 while trailing, 17-7. Sam Darnold was intercepted in the back of the end zone by veteran CB Xavier Rhodes and a runaway ensued.
"We're right there in a one-score game and something happens where we let it avalanche on us," Gase said. "That's the point of the game we have to put a stop to and then find ways to use momentum to our advantage."
Dealing with injuries early this season, the Jets will face a Broncos team that is even more banged up. Denver has 10 players on the injured list including its best player (OLB Von Miller), its top receiving threat (Courtland Sutton) and its No. 1 cornerback (A.J. Bouye). The Broncos also added Pro Bowl DT Jurrell Casey to that list last week and they will be minus starting QB Drew Lock for a second consecutive game.
"Injuries are part of the NFL and we've got to just keep moving on," said Broncos Head Coach Vic Fangio. "The next guy up will have to go in and play well and the rest of the team will have to play good around everybody else. We'll find the guys that are going to go out there and I'm confident that they will play hard and give us every effort they have."
The Broncos (0-3) will move to their third quarterback in four weeks as Brett Rypien, the nephew of Washington's former signal-caller Mark Rypien who got mop-up snaps after replacing Jeff Driskel in a loss to Tampa last Sunday, will make his first NFL start. Opposition quarterbacks have connected on 75.5% of their passes against the Jets thus far with 5 TDs, but the Broncos rank 25th in passing (240.3 Yds/G), 29th in third-down offense (34.3%), 30th in scoring (15 Pts/G) and tied for 30th in sacks allowed (13).
"He's very smart. … He was able to change protections quite a bit this last game," said Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams of Rypien. "He only played 15 plays this last ballgame, but we've also dissected and taken a look at all 91 snaps he played last year in the preseason."
Following one of his toughest outings as a pro in which he was victimized by two pick-sixes and a safety that resulted in 16 Colts points, Darnold had reason for optimism. Both LT Mekhi Becton (shoulder) and RT George Fant (concussion) are expected to return to the starting lineup, Jeff Smith (shoulder) will move off injured reserve and Darnold's favorite receiver — Jamison Crowder — is set for action after a two-game absence.
"I think the psyche right now is just win," Crowder told ESPN New York's Rich Cimini. "We just have to find a way to get a win any way we possibly can. We just have to go out there and try to play complementary football and just try to win."
Now 11-18 as an NFL starter, Darnold has connected on 61.5% of his passes this season for 562 yards with 3 TDs and 4 INTs. He is averaging 9.5 yards a completion and 4.6 yards an attempt. The Jets haven't had many explosive plays through the air, ranking tied for 23rd in 20+ yard completions (7).
"The first few games of the season haven't gone necessarily the way that we envisioned, but we're looking forward to getting back at it and this quick turnaround," Darnold said. "We're looking forward to having a really good game against Denver, and looking to get a win."
There is an urgency to get things turned around, but Gase doesn't want his team to play tight. Will it be able to seize momentum for the first time in 2020?
"We have to clean up so much stuff and we're doing it through walk-throughs this week, but there is valuable information we've learned over the first three weeks," Gase said. "We just have to get better this week and then we have to go out on Thursday and do a good job of calling the right stuff, executing things the right way. At the same time, guys just want to make plays. Be loose, make plays, have fun. You're playing on Thursday night — enjoy the moment. I just want our guys to be present and just go after a win."