It was, as head coach Rex Ryan said during the week, a crazy notion, that the Jets needed this game badly to get them back on track and all they had to do was beat the steadily improving Seahawks in their own loud, gray and rainy den more than 3,000 miles from home.
The Jets' defense played valiantly most of the game, harassing wunderkind QB Russell Wilson like they said they would. But the Green & White also committed two costly second-quarter turnovers — one on offense, Mark Sanchez's fourth red zone interception of the season, and one on special teams, Jeremy Kerley's muffed punt that set up Marshawn Lynch's 1-yard touchdown run.
The crushing blow came with 13:33 left in the game when Wilson dropped a 31-yard touchdown pass into the breadbasket of WR Sidney Rice past the coverage of Ellis Lankster. That put Seattle ahead, 21-7, then Richard Sherman's strip sack of Sanchez with 11:32 to go drove several more nails in the green coffin as the Jets came up winless in Seattle by the count of 28-7.
"That's a brutal loss right there," said Ryan, who gave a passionate postgame speech to his players and who was, as some said "as emotional as he's ever been." "We know we had some opportunities, especially early in the game. (We) made some critical errors, which we still thought we'd be able to overcome it in the second half. But obviously that wasn't the case."
The win lifted the 'Hawks to 6-4, and 5-0 at CenturyLink Field. And the loss dropped the Jets to 3-6, on a day when a win would have helped them immensely following the 1 p.m. ET losses by the Bills and Dolphins. The talk of Jets playoff hopes now needs to morph into talk only of one game at a time. No NFL team since the playoff format was revamped in 2002 has reached the postseason after a 3-6 start.
"I don't know how many more losses you want to spot somebody before you think that you can make the playoffs," Ryan said. "What's it about a 2 percent chance of making the playoffs or something like that when you have the record that we have? But again, we're going to take that shot. I know one thing, there's not one quit in any of these guys. There's no chance of that. We're going to get after it and find a way to get better. We've been working at it, been working our tails off. It just hasn't gone our way yet."
The shame is that the defense kept the Jets' hopes alive into the fourth quarter. Led by Muhammad Wilkerson, Mike DeVito, David Harris, Bart Scott and Antonio Cromartie, they took two fumbles away from the Seahawks, who had been nearly flawless in protecting the ball at home, and sacked Wilson four times.
But first came Wilson-to-Rice, then the strip sack recovered by DE Jason Jones at the Jets 49. Then Lynch, who'd been bottled up to less than 3 yards a carry most of the game, started finding larger lanes en route to a 100-yard rushing game.
And with 7:59 left the 'Hawks hammered home the final spike in the Jets' hopes for the day, and perhaps for the season, when Golden Tate threw a 23-yard wideout-option TD strike to Rice for his second TD in a 5:34 span.
"We've got to stop self-inflicting ourselves," said safety Yeremiah Bell.
The Jets offense scuffled to a weak game with no points put on the board, 185 yards and 11 first downs.
A Closely Played First Half
The Jets won the opening coin toss and did something unusual — they chose to receive. They won four other tosses this season and deferred on all.
And that opening drive showed promise as the offense held on for 11 plays and a drive across midfield. But the last two plays were also uncharacteristic of the Green & White this season as Lex Hlliard was stopped on third-and-1 and Shonn Greene on fourth-and-1. It was the first time the Jets hadn't picked up a third-and-short or a fourth-and-short with a rush this season after moving the chains their first 13 times.
The Seahawks jumped on the Jets' failure to convert by converting on a Wilson 38-yard touchdown strike to Tate over CB Kyle Wilson on their third play of the game to make it 7-0 just 6:59 into the game.
The teams traded 3-and-out series, with the Jets D coming up big on a third-down nickel blitz from Ellis Lankster that almost got to Wilson and ended up in an incompletion.
When the Seahawks got the ball back, the Jets brought some of that pressure on the rookie QB that Wilkerson promised during the week. In fact, Mo had a leading role in the second consecutive sack of Wilson. DeVito hit him with a strip sack and Wilkerson scooped it up and rolled untouched for a 21-yard fumble-return TD that tied things at 7-7 with 2:50 to go in the opening stanza.
"That was huge. That's the kind of momentum that's awesome," DeVito said. "When you get something like that, it really plays into your favor. But again, the fourth quarter's where we lost it."
It was the first defensive fumble-return score by the Jets since DT Marques Douglas scored at Indianapolis in '09, and the longest return by a D-lineman since James Reed went 33 yards vs. Jacksonville in '05.
On the 'Hawks' next drive, they committed another giveaway — their second in this game, matching their combined total from their previous four home games. Wilkerson again starred, prying the ball from Lynch's grasp on a third-down run, with Calvin Pace recovering at the Jets 38.
The Jets appeared to be moving for an offensive score, especially after Sanchez hit wide-open Kerley for 43 yards to the Seattle 7. But the Jets QB then suffered his fourth red zone turnover this season as he tried to find Dustin Keller in the end zone but instead threw it to CB Richard Sherman, who stepped out at the SEA-2.
"We have opportunities to make plays. It's my job to do everything right and put us in the right position and not hurt our team," siaid Sanchez. "I know we have the talent. I know we have the coaching. It's a matter of executing and making good decisions and playing a clean football game. We've got to just have one of those games where we don't have any turnovers, very few to zero penalties and just be a little more efficient."
The defense stopped Lynch twice and then Wilson was strip-sacked a second time, this time when Lankster blitzed and got there. The Seahawks recovered this time, though, and punted, with Kerley returning to midfield. The Jets punted back after their third 3-and-out of the half, with Robert Malone's nifty drop punt forcing ex-Jet Leon Washington to fair-catch at his 10.
The Jets' third defensive 3-and-out — with DeVito roaring past his blocker to tackle Lynch for a 3-yard loss ont third down — turned bad, though, when Kerley this time muffed the punt and Kam Chancellor recovered at the Jets 42.
"It wasn't four quarters," said DeVito of the team's defensive effort. "It was three quarters."
Cromartie, who leads the Jets in interceptions and pass defenses, got a big PD in the end zone when he bothered Rice, who couldn't hold the would-be fleaflicker touchdown pass from Wilson. Still, Wilson came back with a 27-yard screen to Lynch, his 9-yard keeper to first-and-goal at the 3, and finally Lynch's 1-yard (actually 1-foot) touchdown run to make it 14-7 with 2:04 left in the half.
The sides exchanged punts one more time before the Jets went into their CenturyLink locker room down, 14-7. On the one hand, they were in this road game that many thought they'd be out of early on. On the other, the offense again had trouble moving the ball and the Seahawks had their largest halftime lead at home over the Jets in six games, or since 1979 in the Kingdome.
Wilkerson's TD was the first defensive fumble-return score by the Jets since DT Marques Douglas scored at Indianapolis in '09, and the longest return by a D-lineman since James Reed went 33 yards vs. Jacksonville in '05. ... Bart Scott's first-quarter sack was his first sack since Game 14 at Philadlephia last season. DeVito's sack on the next play was his first sack since the '11 opener vs. Dallas.
Leon Washington's first career touch against the team that drafted him in 2006 was a 20-yard punt return in the first quarter. ... Seahawks lead 14-7 at halftime and also lead in yards (134-112), 1st downs (8-5), possession (15:25-14:35). Teams tied in turnovers 2-2.
CB Isaiah Trufant injured his knee in the first half. RB Bilal Powell went out with a concussion in the second half and didn't return.