There were a number of things to like about the Jets' first regular-season game in their brand new home against the Baltimore Ravens tonight. But there were a number of things that just didn't sit well with the Jets, their fans in the stands and the folks at home.
One of them was not what owner Woody Johnson thought it would be, the numbers on the stadium's four monster videoboards.
The Jets dropped a defensive slugout with the Ravens, 10-9, that was set up by some other unpalatable numbers. Mark Sanchez and the offense produced only three Nick Folk field goals, which at least gave them a chance to come out with a win. But they didn't score a touchdown against the brawny Birds' defense, the first time that happened on Green & White opening day since 1988. The O also had 176 yards, a franchise-record-tying low of six first downs and went 1-for-11 on third-down conversions.
The Jets' night effectively ended when Sanchez ended a 10-for-21, 74-yard passing night with a 9-yard completion to Dustin Keller on fourth-and-10 with 36 seconds left.
"Obviously it's a disappointing loss — that goes without saying," said Rex Ryan after the second season opener of his Jets and NFL head-coaching career. "We tip our hats to the Ravens. We knew it was going to be this type of game."
The defense, meanwhile, playing without LB Calvin Pace and S Brodney Pool as anticipated and losing NT Kris Jenkins to an early injury for the rest of the game, played stout against Ray Rice and the Ravens' ground game.
But Joe Flacco and his receivers — Anquan Boldin (seven catches, 110 yards), T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Todd Heap — victimized veteran Antonio Cromartie and rookie Kyle Wilson for several big plays and found ways to convert 11 of their 18 third downs, including the game's only touchdown on Willis McGahee's 1-yard run with six seconds left in the first half.
"There was no focus issue at all," said Cromartie, who had a 66-yard interception return but also was hit with four penalties. "We just have to be better and more disciplined on the back end to do the things we're supposed to do."
The Jets' offense, defense and specials also combined for near-record penalty numbers: 14 flags marked off against the Green & White for 125 yards
"We never got into a rhythm offensively — I thought that was real obvious," said tackle Damien Woody. "That was the biggest stat line, that and the penalties."
"They won the important downs," Ryan said. "On third down we were 1-of-11 and they were like 58 percent on third-down conversions. So that stat alone gets you beat, let alone 14 penalties."
All things considered, there are a lot of coaching points on the table for head coach Rex Ryan and his staff in getting all groups ready to roll for Home Game No. 2 on Sunday against the New England Patriots.
But you didn't expect Ryan to throw in the towel after one flat opening night performance, and he and the Jets weren't.
"This is a long season, and this was one game," Ryan said. "I will say this: I've got confidence in every man in our locker room, no question. We weren't at our best today. That's a credit to the Ravens. But I know we can get better. That's the challenge to us. We have to get better. And I believe we will."
"We just shot ourselves in the foot," said Jason Taylor, who got the start at OLB for the injured Calvin Pace. "We'll come back Wednesday and we'll move on."
It didn't start out like a disappointing night for the Jets. After the thunderstorm passed over the Meadowlands, delaying the opening kickoff by about 15 minutes to 7:25 p.m., it didn't take long for the Jets defense to put a stamp on this game.
On the Ravens' first scrimmage play, Flacco was sandwiched by Shaun Ellis and Bryan Thomas, with Ellis getting there just a tick sooner than BT and forcing the fumble, which Sione Pouha recovered at the Birds' 11. Three plays later, Nick Folk booted a 23-yard field goal and the Jets took the first lead in a game in their new building by 3-0.
The Ravens went on a long, sputtery drive toward the Jets red zone, but the defense, which wanted to create more takeaways than it did in year 1 of the Rex Ryan/Mike Pettine scheme, came up with takeaway No. 2 of the opening quarter. Willis McGahee coughed up the ball on the hits by Bart Scott and Vernon Gholston, with Pouha recovering again at the Jets 22.
With that Pouha became the first Jet to recover two opponent fumbles in the same game in 15 years, or since LB Bobby Houston did it on Sept. 17, 1995 against Jacksonville. And "Big Bo" is the first Jets D-lineman to score the rare double recovery since Bill Pickel at the Los Angeles Raiders in 1993.
Before the second recovery, Pouha had to see Jenkins lying on the turf and then get up and slowly walk off the field. He said he talked several times with Big Jenks.
"He's my brother," Pouha explained. "I talked with him at halftime. I didn't ask him what his situation was. I was there for moral support, to let him know the brotherhood was there for him. You don't really have too much time to absorb the situation. You just step up and do your job."
The Green & White offense moved just a little on that drive to a Weatherford inside-the-20 punt, then just a little again to set up Folk for his second field goal, this one from 28, and a 6-0 lead.
Flacco and the Ravens, picking first on rookie nickel Kyle Wilson, then on veteran CB Antonio Cromartie, got a head of steam going again, but again they ended up turning the ball over. This time a 44-yard march ended when "Cro" snagged Flacco's pass for Anquan Boldin at the Jets 3, almost but didn't step on the sideline, and took the ball 66 yards the other way.
But then the hosts finished the first half in their new home with a series of mistakes that had them trailing by a point at halftime. The first error came in the form of their first giveaway, when Shonn Greene ran into LG Matt Slauson and lost the ball, S Dawan Landry recovering.
Then the Ravens offense finally executed the first touchdown drive in a Jets game at NMS, moving 76 yards on 11 plays with Willis McGahee getting across the goal line from a yard out with 6 seconds left. The ball was positioned there thanks to three more Jets penalties — on Cromartie for defensive holding, on Braylon Edwards for running into kicker Billy Cundiff on a 46-yard field goal for another first down, then on Wilson for stumbling into WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the end zone, setting the ball up at the 1.
LaDainian Tomlinson led all rushers with 62 yards on 11 carries and added 16 yards on two receptions. ... Pouha stepped in for Jenkins as he did last season from Game 7 on and helped lead the charge that held the Ravens to 49 yards on 35 carries. The visitors still managed 38:32 in possession time.
Darrelle Revis was the final defensive player introduced, to great applause from the crowd of 78,127. "I felt great," Revis said. "Did I look all right? You sure? I was just playing ball. It's second nature, it's what I do. I felt great." Revis had no stat line as Flacco and the Ravens preferred picking on Cromartie and Wilson. ... Update on Rex Ryan teams when they have a positive turnover margin. The Jets were plus-2 on the night but lost, giving Ryan his first loss with a plus differential since 2005. His teams (Ravens, Jets) are 34-1 in that span.
The kicking game was strong. Folk's 48-yarder with 10:29 left gave him a 3-for-3 game. And Weatherford averaged 45.7 yards gross and 44.8 net on six punts with four inside the 20 and two of those four inside the 5.
The last time the Jets scored no TDs in a season opener was in 1988 when they lost to the Patriots at New England, 28-3. ... The only other time the Jets had as few as six first downs in a game was in the 1976 season finale, a 42-3 home loss to Cincinnati.
Sanchez became the seventh different Jets starting QB to go up against the Ravens in the teams' seven games since '97 — and the sixth straight to lose the game. The others: Neil O'Donnell ('97), Glenn Foley ('98), Vinny Testaverde ('00), Quincy Carter ('04), Brooks Bollinger ('05). O'Donnell was the only winner, although Foley actually got the win in relief.