Joe Flacco, no surprise, stood in front of the camera and talked with reporters virtually and evenly after the 30-10 home loss to Arizona. He gave an analytical report on the Jets' offensive frustrations, not to mention his emotions after having just completed his first NFL start in almost one year.
"It was definitely exciting to get back out there," said Flacco, who took the reins from the injured Sam Darnold and had the Jets at least knocking on the door after his only touchdown drive late in the third quarter sliced the Cardinals' lead to 17-10. "There definitely were parts of my game that I felt I haven't played or practiced in a long time. But there were times I felt I could move and get some first downs with my legs, get the offense in a little bit of a rhythm. That was something that was missing today."
"There was a lot of good," head coach Adam Gase said of Flacco's performance. "I'll be interested, when we go back and watch it, how many drops we had. He had some completions early that I thought could've gotten us going. I thought he did a pretty good job. I know there's going to be some throws he'll wish he had back, some decisions he'd want to change."
Flacco's numbers were decent for his first extended action in any kind of game since late last October for the Denver Broncos. He completed 18 of 33 passes for 195 yards, threw the third-quarter TD pass to WR Jamison Crowder, was sacked twice and didn't turn the ball over. As for his legs, he ran four times for 20 yards, with three of those scrambles that made first downs and two of them converting third downs.
The offense's nature, sputtery the way it had been at times this season, resulted in 21 first downs — good — but resulted in another sub-300-yard game at 285 yards.
Digging down further, the running game also was Jekyll-and-Hyde-ish. With Le'Veon Bell back after three games on IR to team up with the ageless one, Frank Gore, the Jets had 82 rushing yards at the half, their most in the first 30 minutes of a game since 2018. Yet when they needed just a little yard, say on third- and fourth-and-1 from the Cards 13 early in the second quarter, they came up empty.
"I think we had a decent amount of long drives today," Flacco said, and the offense did put together two 70-yard marches. "At some point we just beat ourselves on those drives. A team like us that's struggling right now to get things going, in a way it's good to see those long drives, but at the same time we've had trouble getting out of our own way.
"Third and fourth down, we'll have to go back and watch it, but I just know we've been doing some things along the way to shoot ourselves in the foot."
Another strong contribution Flacco made was in finding Crowder. Sam Darnold and Crowder combined for 100-yard receiving games in the opener at Buffalo and on Thursday night vs. Denver (sandwiched around two DNP games due to his hamstring injury). Flacco connected with Crowder eight times for 116 yards and the TD plus a 52-yard grab-and-go that set up the score.
Thus, Crowder became only the third different Jet in the last 52 seasons to reel off three consecutive 100-yard receiving games (the others were Brandon Marshall in 2015 and Al Toon in 1988) and the first in franchise history to go 3-in-a-row with two different starting QBs. To boot, his catch-and-reach score ended the Jets' TD-less red zone drought at 0-for-6 (an interception, four FGs and the loss on downs mentioned above).
But neither Flacco nor the Jets' depleted subunits at WR and on the offensive line (with one starting tackle, Mekhi Becton, inactive and the other, George Fant, leaving the game with injury) were able to sustain the momentum of the Crowder goal-line breaker to get closer than 17-10 as the Cards scored the final two touchdowns.
Flacco, known for not wearing his emotions on his sleeve in his previous 12 NFL seasons with the Ravens and Broncos, remained concerned yet analytical when asked if the Jets at 0-5 could be in danger of locker room fracturing.
"It doesn't seem like that kind of situation," he said. "I'm definitely worried about just guys' confidence and our belief that we can go out there and win the football game. That's something we have to constantly monitor. The situation we're in has to be addressed at some level. Guy-to-guy, we have to pick each other up. But I think we've got a good group of guys and we feel we can just get the job done."
The Jets will try to get the job done again in Game 6, against an unexpected new opponent as the NFL switched games and will send the Jets to Miami next Sunday instead of to the Los Angeles Chargers. Gase wasn't sure after the Arizona game about Darnold's availability for the Dolphins. But Flacco gave the calm, professional air of a man who, if called on again, will do his best to get the Green & White moving in the right direction.