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Robert Saleh's Passions Show During Jets' Home Loss to Eagles

'It's a Battleground, a Proving Ground' Every Week, Head Coach Sternly Notes After 33-18 Defeat

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh works the sidelines during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

It was not a happy game for Jets head coach Robert Saleh. It was more of an angry game. It seemed every time fans in the stadium and watching on TV saw Saleh on the sideline during the Jets' 33-18 loss to the Eagles, he was not a happy camper, not in the mood for balloons and party hats.

Saleh didn't bring his stern sideline demeanor into the postgame interview room. When asked about the things that set him off most, he declined detailed comment.

Officiating calls by referee Clay Martin and his crew? "I'm not going to get into all that," Saleh said. "You saw the game."

Frustration watching his new placekicker, rookie Alex Kessman, miss his first two pro extra point kicks in the game's first 12 minutes? "We've got someone else in the building. We'll just keep going until something works."

Suspicion that if Philly C Jason Kelce moved the ball, causing C.J. Mosley to jump offside and turn a fourth-and-4 situation at the Jets 48 into a continuing drive to another second-half field goal: "I'm just going to keep that quiet, bud," he told the inquiring reporter.

As even-keeled as Saleh always is after the final gun proverbially sounds until the next Sunday's whistle signals the opening kickoff of the next game, he still wasn't pleased as punch at how the Jets played for stretches of Game 12. The words he used several times in his responses in perhaps a four-question span, were variations on the word "frustration."

For instance, when talking about his defense, where the Jets were creased for 185 more rushing yards, another 400-plus yards of total offense, no takeaways and scores allowed on the visitors' first seven drives of the day before their first and only punt. What concerned him most?

"Third downs ... all of it. It was a little bit of everything, third down especially," he said. "Obviously Philly's got a really talented offense. Nick [HC Nick Sirianni] and his staff do a really nice job with scheme. The frustrating part was I just wish we could've gotten a little more pass rush. [Gardner] Minshew was able to buy some time back there. But at the same time we've got to cover, find ways to get the ball on the ground, find ways to win our one-on-ones. The first half wasn't nearly as good as it needed to be, and the second half got a little better but some self-inflicted wounds allowed some drives to keep going."

The coach saw the drawback of the Eagles' stranglehold third quarter on any rhythm and momentum QB Zach Wilson had built in the first half — the Birds' time of possession for the quarter was 13:50, and if you include their last series of the first half and the conclusion of their drive bridging into the fourth quarter, they controlled the ball for 16:45 to the Jets' 1:29.

"They had the ball to finish the first half, then they go eight minutes, then it's a quick drive for us, then they have the ball again," Saleh ticked off. "You're looking at over an hour of real time where our offense was on the field for just a quick minute. So it does [affect momentum], especially when it's cold, you're trying to stay warm, you're trying to stay in rhythm. All of that matters."

And in revisiting the yellow-flag question, Saleh was asked about the four penalty first downs that the Jets gave to the Eagles, each on a separate drive leading to a separate score, 16 points in all.

"You've got to look at yourself first," he said. "There's some self-inflicted wounds in there for sure. We've definitely got to be better in those regards. We can handle the ones we've got control over, and those are the ones that are the most frustrating."

Saleh had some positive thoughts about how Wilson and the offense played, about how the defense bulled its collective neck to hold the visitors to only four second-half field goals. But in his best summary view of the Jets and their locker room going forward, he stressed how it's more about the Jets and less about the teams they're playing, and there were no smiles.

"Every week, you've got to step up and compete in this league and prove your worth," he said. "Every week, it doesn't matter the opponent. It's a battleground, it's a proving ground every time you step on the field."

See Best Images from the Game at MetLife Stadium

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