It was another tough day on the road for the New York Jets. Sunday's 30-21 loss at the hands of the New England Patriots was their third consecutive, dropping them to 2-3 on the season and two full games out of first place in the AFC East.
While the offensive numbers were not overwhelming, there is reason to believe it's on the right track. A clear commitment to the run resulted in 97 yards on the ground.
"We wanted to establish the run today," said QB Mark Sanchez. "I thought we did that in spurts. I thought our run game was pretty effective. I really did like the game plan."
That game plan called for a more balanced attack of run to pass, something the Jets did not do in the first quarter of the season. Coming into Week 5, they had thrown the ball on 63 percent of their offensive snaps.
On Sunday, there were 53 plays called: 25 rushes, 28 passes.
Although the Jets succeeded in balancing their offensive play calls, they most certainly did not expect to have a third-down conversion rate of only 27 percent (3-for-11) and seven three-and-out possessions.
"We have to do a better job on third down," said head coach Rex Ryan. "I thought we were productive on first and second, but when you're 27 percent on third, you've got to do a better job."
Conversely, the Patriots converted half of their 14 third-down opportunities, a key in their victory.
"Against New England, you've got to get off the field," said Ryan. "They did a great job sustaining drives. You've got to give them credit. You make mistakes against them, they burn you. They absolutely kill you."
Apart from any mistakes the Jets may have made, they never turned the ball over to the Patriots, who came into Week 5 as the AFC's second-leading team in takeaways. Sanchez finished with a clean stat sheet, completing 16 of 26 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite the Patriots' propensity for takeaways, they were ranked dead last in the league in pass defense, surrendering an average of 368.8 yards per game. Sanchez and the Jets never threatened to reach that number, but that wasn't the plan.
"I thought we passed it effectively," said Sanchez. "We ran the ball well, too. It's easy to say these guys are last in the league, but we're not built like that. This team can run the ball. I know we can. We can get even better than today."
The return of C Nick Mangold was certainly a welcome sight for the offense. RB Shonn Greene had his best output of the season, averaging 4.0 yards per carry on 21 attempts, including a 3-yard TD run.
"We did some things that were positive, and there are some things that we still need to get cleaned up," said Mangold, who said his ankle came out of the game "fine." "It's a tough spot, but there's still a lot of football to be played. The sun will come up tomorrow."
Sunday's loss is a difficult one to swallow. However, if the Jets continue to protect the football and move it with a balanced attack, they should soon return to the win column.
"We need to start fast," said TE Dustin Keller, who was held to one catch by the Patriots. "In the middle of the game, we need to keep going fast, and end the game fast. We're going to get it right. We're going to get it fixed."