Rex Ryan knows there's no sugarcoating Sunday's 38-13 road loss to the Titans.
"After you've been beaten the way we were beaten, as soundly as we were beaten, and then you go back and look at the tape, well, there's a saying in the coaching business: It's never as good as you think and never as bad as you think," Ryan told reporters on a noon conference call today. "But we've got to fix a lot of different things."
One area Ryan identified: "We've got to play better on the back end. We've got to create some turnovers."
That is an understatement, because right now we're in the middle of a franchise-sized drought. For the first time in team history, the Jets have gone three consecutive games without a single takeaway. And partly as a result, their minus-10 turnover margin is their largest ever after four games.
The 0-for-3 streak sounds as if it might have been duplicated once or twice since 1960. In fact, Pittsburgh is currently in a four-game dryspell, and last year there were two five-game droughts in the NFL — by Philadelphia and St. Louis — and two four-gamers — by Miami and Indianapolis.
But the Jets have avoided that kind of drought for 53 years, or until this season. Previously we'd gone two straight games without a takeaway only 12 times, most recently in last year's Games 14-15, against Tennessee, of all opponents (five gives, no takes) and San Diego.
How to work on the back end and come up with those elusive turnovers known as interceptions?
"The big thing is just playing the ball in the air," Rex said. "We were in position to make some plays, and two times we give up touchdowns. That obviously can't happen. Those are areas, whether it's individual drills or whatever, there are several things we can do. It starts with position and then it's going up and making plays. We have to work on that."
The other component of the minus-10 margin is the giveaways. The Jets had four in Nashville, 12 this season, and 11 of those have come off of interceptions, sacks or runs by rookie QB Geno Smith.
"It's not just on one person. It has to be on the team. And the team picks each other up," Ryan said. "I understand you can't buy experience, but with that being said, we still have to do a much better job, with Geno in particular, we have to protect the football at all costs.
"And you can't be nonchalant about it. You have to protect the ball. You can talk about it until you're blue in the face, but when it happens, now you see it over and over that that's the way we can improve."
Three questions later, Rex revised "nonchalant" for Smith to "I think you have to be more aware of it, that 'I've got to put two hands on the ball.' " But the point is well taken.
As Smith stated Sunday night in the Jets' LP Field locker room of his errors: "They are correctable. They will be corrected."
Ryan was asked today if he believes Smith can in fact stop the turnovers.
"Absolutely, I do believe it," the coach said. But at another point he stressed why belief must translate to action quickly: "Obviously it's going to be a tremendous challenge playing against a Falcon team that has a ton of weapons."
Asked if it's a thought to sit Smith down and observe from the sidelines for a while, Ryan said, "It's not a thought at this point right now. Not a thought." ... The coach said WR Stephen Hill apparently got a concussion on the Jets' second offensive play and is now going through the NFL's concussion protocol. ... WR Santonio Holmes has a hamstring injury that prevented him from finishing the game.
For what it's worth, even though Smith lost 50 yards on five sacks and suffered a minus-12-yard run when the ball was punched from his single-hand grip by LB Zach Brown, the Jets still finished with 330 yards, and the defense, despite yielding Ryan Fitzpatrick's late 77-yard TD pass to Nate Washington, still allowed 322. Thus the Jets outgained their opponents for the fourth straight game, the first time they did that to start a season since 1993. ... CB Alterraun Verner is only the third Jets opponent with a three-takeaway game since 1983. The other two are Patriots: CB Leigh Bodden in '09, S Steve Gregory last year.
Players on "Inside the Jets" tonight: CB Antonio Cromartie and FB Tommy Bohanon. The radio show as usual airs from 7-8 p.m. ET on ESPN New York 98.7 FM from Grasshopper Off the Green in Morristown, NJ.