As the rain came down on Sunday afternoon in New Meadowlands Stadium, many would have presumed this game was taking place in Miami during hurricane season. As a result the Dolphins defense seemed to feel at home in the conditions, and Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was on the wrong side of that defense throughout the afternoon in the Green & White's 10-6 loss.
"We squandered an opportunity and there were plenty of chances to win," Sanchez said. "We just couldn't capitalize on offense and its unfortunate, especially when your defense plays as well as they did. It starts with the quarterback on offense and these last two weeks I haven't played like I played earlier this season and I need to fix it and it starts with me. I need to be the guy to turn it around."
The second-year quarterback was 17-of-44 passing for 216 yards and an interception, bringing his season tally to 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions after starting the year with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. While the conditions certainly made completions hard to come by, part of the problem for the Jets offense may have been that Sanchez had to throw 44 times, because the rushing attack only mustered 87 yards on 31 carries.
With the Jets recording eight more first downs and 149 more total yards than their opponents, most would have presumed a Jets victory from looking at the stat sheet. Unfortunately for head coach Rex Ryan's crew, two Nick Folk field goals were all they could put on the scoreboard.
They did come close, however, to reaching paydirt when typically clutch wide receiver Santonio Holmes found himself wide open in the back of the end zone but couldn't hang on to a perfectly placed pass from Sanchez.
"We all took our turn making mistakes," Sanchez said. "For every drop, there were probably three or four poorly thrown balls. It falls on the quarterback and I have a lot of work to do. So I'll be the one to fix it."
At one point the offense's struggles nearly prompted Ryan to replace Sanchez with veteran quarterback Mark Brunell, but he decided against it. The fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft had a 45.3 passer rating and added four fumbles to his interception (although his teammates recovered three of them).
Sanchez was just as candid as his coach about the potential benching.
"Rex and I have a good relationship," Sanchez said. "I'm not worried about getting pulled or anything but he has to make those decisions. I'm glad he left me in. I think he feels like I give us the best chance to win and that's why I'm playing. When I play like I do today, though, I'm sure it's frustrating to watch, as frustrating as it is to play like that."
Holmes is a newcomer who has made a huge statistical impact while only playing nine games this season, but the former Super Bowl MVP might be singled out for that unfortunate drop. In the postgame locker room, however, he seemed to have part of the answer to the Jets' offensive problems.
"Converting third downs and getting off the field on third downs," Holmes said. "If we move the ball on third down, we can put ourselves in better situations to score points. And if you turn the ball over, you can't win the ballgame by doing that."
The Jets were 6-for-21 on third-down conversions and 0-for-3 on fourth down during the game, and despite having 81 offensive plays to the Dolphins' 56 and more than eight minutes more of possession time than Miami, they couldn't find the end zone. Holmes did finish the game with two catches for 57 yards while fellow veteran receiver Jerricho Cotchery led all receivers with five catches for 69 yards. He seemed resolute after the game about the team's next step.
"We have to get it fixed fast. This is the home stretch in December," Cotchery said. "We're talking about making a run and these are the games that you have to win, so whatever it is, we have to get it fixed fast. We'll go back to work and look at it and go from there."
While they didn't get any help Sunday from the Raiders, Titans and Chiefs — all of whom could have helped the Green & White solidify a playoff berth — the Jets didn't even uphold their end of the bargain. Now 4-3 at home and 5-1 on the road, Ryan's 9-4 bunch has to travel to play the 10-3 Steelers and 9-4 Bears before finishing the season at home against the now 3-10 Bills.
"It doesn't get any easier," Sanchez said. "The good news is that all of this is fixable. The bad news is we have some good teams to play. It's a good challenge."