OK, it's been a painful year for us Jets fans. Bad football by your favorite team hurts. Yet we've been able to beat up enough even worse teams this year to keep a slim ray of hope alive for those (like me) who are eternally optimistic. That all came to a crashing halt Monday night in the 14-10 loss at Tennessee. While the defense played pretty well, the offense continued its anemic ways. Gang Green committed five turnovers, including four Mark Sanchez interceptions, to hand the game to the penalty-ridden Titans.
Despite his poor outing, Sanchez didn't cost the Jets the game. This one I pin on Rex Ryan. In particular, Ryan failed to keep Sanchez on a short leash despite his year-long woes and the success of Greg McElroy in relief during the Cardinals game. In fact, Ryan didn't even activate McElroy — the one quarterback on the team that has shown he can energize the team! Instead, he opted to activate a sixth wide receiver. How many six-WR sets did Ryan think the Jets were going to run?
If those mistakes weren't enough, with the game on the line and the Jets driving deep into Titans territory, they called a passing play down the middle, allowing Sanchez to get his fourth pick on the game. The Jets running game was doing well at that time and they had plenty of time on the clock. Why ask the inconsistent Sanchez to make such a play in that spot? This questionable call was made following the two-minute warning so Ryan and Tony Sparano had plenty of time to talk about it.
Ryan's worst call, however, was (and has been) his season-long blind loyalty to a quarterback that is inaccurate, doesn't protect the ball and lacks confidence. Mark's a really nice, classy guy but he just isn't very good. Because I don't think McElroy has the tools to be a true NFL starting QB, next April the Jets need to draft a new "quarterback of the future," which likely means, in the short term, more suffering.
The Titans committed a whopping 14 penalties for 111 yards, most of these on defense. Yet the Jets had trouble moving the ball most of the game.
Sanchez was 5-for-10 for 27 yards and 1 INT in the first half. With McElroy inactive, Rex had to stick with the "Sanchise" in the second half and it only got worst as he threw three more picks. His was largely inaccurate all game, throwing high, low and behind the receivers. The night ended for him when he fumbled a low snap on the Titans 25 with the game remarkably still within reach.
I was dumbfounded when the Jets resurrected the failed "Tebow Experiment". Given the success last week without Tebow, it was frustrating that the Jets went back to this disruptive revolving-QB strategy.
Braylon Edwards, picked up on waivers last week, started the game and looked relatively good catching three balls on five targets. In fact, he was the Jets' best WR, one scratch one's head why the Jets didn't go out and get a big target for the inaccurate Sanchez earlier. Plaxico Burress, for instance, was available for most of the season.
TE Jeff Cumberland also played pretty well, leading the team with four catches for 53 yards and a touchdown. The Jets had another good rushing game, averaging 4.9 per carry with a total of 146 yards and Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight all contributing.
Defense: Solid But a Few Costly Mistakes
The defense had another solid outing but had a few lapses. The most glaring mistake occurred in the first half when Chris Johnson broke one for a 94-yard touchdown. It appeared that David Harris and Sione Pouha plugged the same gap, leaving a hole for Johnson to exploit. Other than this one crushing play, Tennessee ran a measly 73 yards on 29 attempts (2.5 yards per carry).
The Jets had four sacks and held Jake Locker to 13-for-22 for 149 yards. Critically, however, the defense could not get even one turnover and, following the Cumberland score, allowed the Titans to drive down the field for a Locker rushing touchdown.
Antonio Cromartie shut down a very dangerous Kenny Britt (one catch for 7 yards) and clearly has shown this year that he is an elite cornerback. On the other hand, Kyle Wilson was abused on three successive plays and missed an open-field tackle on rookie Michael Preston. He hasn't panned out like the Jets had hoped when they took him in the first round three years ago. I (for one) miss Darrelle Revis.
Special Teams: Nothing Special
Muhammad Wilkerson blocked a Rob Bironas field goal attempt on the first drive of the game that helped keep it close. However, the best play for this unit was made by rookie Antonio Allen. He put tremendous pressure on punter Brett Kern, causing him to rush a critical punt with the clock winding down. With 47 seconds to play and no timeouts, this play allowed the Jets to get the ball back on the Titans 25. Sanchez fumbled the ball on the next play, however, ending our season.
Jeremy Kerley fair-catches the ball way too much. One fair catch was called with absolutely no one around him. The Jets need to find someone they trust to actually try and gain yardage on a punt return.
Two More Games Left
With the Jets now playing out the season, it will be interesting to see how Rex's Monday decision to start McElroy against San Diego unfolds. While McElroy or Tebow is not the long-term future of the Jets, at least both give Jets fans some relief from watching Sanchez's inadequacies.
Further, with Sanchez guaranteed $8.25 million next year, it looks like he'll be the highest-priced backup quarterback in the NFL, a dubious honor. The real question is: Who will the Jets find to replace him?