EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Josh McCown went toe-to-toe with Tom Brady for two quarters. Actually, it was thumb to thumb, as both quarterbacks bloodied their throwing thumbs Sunday in what may have seemed like an Old-timer’s Day matchup at MetLife Stadium.
The result was a 27-13 loss, one that left them numb.
It’s going to be a miserable December for the Jets (3-8), losers of five straight for the first time in the Todd Bowles era. They’re playing out the string under the dark cloud of impending doom for Bowles and his coaching staff. It’s the worst of times for a losing team in the NFL, but it’s hardly a new reality for the Jets, who will miss the playoff for the eighth straight season. The loss practically ensures their third consecutive losing season.
“It’s frustrating losing one game, (let alone) five,” Bowles said of the losing streak.
The Jets have lost 17 of their past 22 games under Bowles, who squeezed a decent half out of his team before reality set in. It was 10-10 at halftime, but did anybody think for a second that Bill Belichick wouldn’t figure out a way to ruin it for the Jets? Of course not.
Belichick unleashed his running game in the second half, pounding the Jets’ will with every Sony Michel run. It was body blow after body blow. The Jets’ underperforming defense allowed three scoring drives to start the second half, making Brady look like Matt Barkley. (Gallows humor, folks.) The disappearing defense allowed 498 yards, including 215 on the ground, and failed to create a turnover for the fifth straight game – a franchise record.
“A lot of times the same issues are recurring,” said Leonard Williams, insisting they’re still “a legit defense.”
Simply put, the Jets have no playmakers on defense. Jamal Adams played a terrific game, but one safety can’t change an entire defense. Their deficiencies on offense also were glaring. McCown, starting for the injured Sam Darnold, threw a touchdown to Jermaine Kearse and performed a John Elway-like helicopter on a third-down scramble. He did some Josh things, playing with pure heart, but the sad reality is he had no chance.
Where are the playmakers on offense? Where’s the plan? The Patriots’ run defense was awful against the Tennessee Titans, and yet offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates dialed up pass after pass, putting too much pressure on his 39-year-old quarterback.
“Yeah, it sucks,” McCown said of the losing. “Obviously, it’s not ideal. Individually, it tests who you are.”
Bowles, too, deserves his share of scrutiny after accepting a 10-yard penalty that backfired in a big way. The Patriots were called for offensive pass interference in the first quarter. Instead of declining the penalty, making it fourth-and-2 from the Jets’ 24, Bowles accepted the penalty to make it third-and-12 from the 34.
Brady made them pay, firing a 34-yard touchdown to Rob Gronkowski to make it 7-7. When you tug on Superman’s cape … well, you know what happens. Bowles trusted his third-down defense, which ranked No. 2 in the NFL through 11 weeks. But let’s take a closer look: In third-and-12-plus situations, they had allowed five conversions in 25 attempts (20 percent), ranked 28th, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Bowles played the percentages, assuming Belichick would’ve gone for it on fourth down.
“Third-and-12 are better odds than fourth-and-2, and we knew they were going to go for it because they typically do on fourth-and-2,” Bowles said. “We had a better chance at third-and-12.”
Even if the reasoning was sound, the execution was poor. Such is life for bad teams. Brace yourselves for a brutal December.