The Jets left one on the table Sunday. For the second straight year under Rex Ryan, the Jets lost their first game coming off the bye. More importantly, they lost the top spot in the AFC East. On a day in which the Jets' defense held one of the NFL's most prolific passing attacks to just 170 yards, their own offense was hampered by costly drops, untimely turnovers, questionable play calling, and genuinely struggled to find any cohesive rhythm.
All can not be blamed on punter Steve Weatherford's ill-advised but gutsy decision to unsuccessfully lumber 18 yards on a fourth and long deep in Jets territory, as the subsequent turnover on downs only cost them 3 points.
Nor can you blame Ryan for challenging a questionable Sanchez interception in the second quarter when Green Bay's Tramon Williams wrestled the ball out of Jerricho Cotchery's hands stalling the drive, even if the call was upheld and left the Jets with no challenges for a bizarrely similar takeaway by the Packers' Charles Woodson from Dustin Keller in the fourth quarter.
And it's even difficult to get upset about New York kicker Nick Folk missing what is normally a chip shot field goal for him, one that coach Ryan said he "usually makes in his sleep," as the deficit at that point would have been overcome by the Jets' punching it into the end zone just once.
What should be blamed is the offense's inability to catch the football or effectively utilize the run game. While the Meadowlands winds were swirling and Aaron Rodgers was having trouble finding completions, the Jets threw the ball 38 times -- excluding the one LaDainian Tomlinson almost threw downfield.
Mark Sanchez racked up 256 yards passing but was also tagged for two picks, and his receivers had at least four monumental drops that cost them the game. Santonio Holmes dropped a ball on a crossing route that would have most likely gone for six, if not at least to the red zone. Cotchery, whom I can't recall dropping a ball in his NFL career, lost a crucial one that hit him in the breadbox on third down in the fourth quarter. While Sanchez was inaccurate in the first half, he was much better in the second. Unfortunately, the receivers left their hands in the locker room.
But the real crime on Sunday was the play-calling getting a bit too cute. The Jets consistently passed on first down and ran it on second, leaving the offense in repetitious third-down situations. While they converted 41 percent of their third downs (7-of-17), they missed the crucial ones. And although they were over 100 yards rushing on the day, they seemed to move away from it.
The run game was the real strength of this team and the main reason it went to the AFC championship game in 2009. The 2010 Jets have a less certain identity despite Ryan's insistence that the team is at its heart a "ground-and-pound team." Even though LT has looked great to open the season, Shonn Greene simply isn't getting enough touches. Tomlinson was brought in to be a third-down back to compliment Greene's punishing run-style on first and second.
Instead these roles have been reversed, with Greene basically coming in to spell the future hall of famer. Greene had a season-low six carries yesterday, which is simply unacceptable. Not only is he going to be extremely important to game planning once the temperature drops, but now he's not getting the necessary reps needed to build confidence in a young back.
In the end it took nine points -- three field goals -- to beat the AFC's top team on its home field. Ryan will certainly be criticized for giving his players six days off during the bye, changing the schedule this past week so as not to replicate last year's loss. With the exception of the defense Sunday, the Jets looked sloppy, poorly coached and genuinely unprepared to play. It didn't seem like a lack of motivation, but these are things that the Jets need to remedy before heading out to Detroit to face the lowly but dangerous Lions. If they look anything like the team that couldn't put up a single point on Sunday, it's going to be a long second half of the season.