Lichtenstein: In The Jets' Universe, Prosperity Is A Curse

After Impressive Debut, Gang Green Lays An Egg

Steve Lichtenstein
September 17, 2018 - 9:50 am
Miami Dolphins running back Frank Gore runs for a first down on a third-and-19 play in the fourth quarter on Sept. 16, 2018, at MetLife Stadium.

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You were forewarned right here in this space, Jets fans.

No group can lay an egg quite like the men under the wing of the Jets' mother hen, head coach Todd Bowles.

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Gang Green laid quite a beauty Sunday, stubbing their toes in every phase during a 20-12 defeat to Miami that spoiled Met Life Stadium’s welcome party for Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold in his regular season home debut.

Prosperity? Kicked to the curb again after the Jets got their fans riled up with hope thanks to a 48-17 rout in Detroit in Week 1. The Jets, in both the macro and micro universe, just can’t handle nice things.

How many times did the momentum shift in the Jets’ favor Sunday, only to see opportunities to climb back from a 20-0 hole wasted? 

At the end of the first half, Darnold finally found some rhythm after a rough start (two sacks and an interception that led to an early Dolphins touchdown). He drove the Jets into the red zone with 16 seconds remaining. On first-and-goal from the Miami 14-yard line, Darnold threw a ball away into the right corner, which is usually the correct play when your internal clock is telling you to get rid of the ball. Unfortunately, wide receiver Quincy Enunwa was all alone in that spot, and the pass sailed just beyond his grasp out of bounds. 

“I didn’t see (Enunwa),” Darnold said. “My eyes went right and then came back left, and then the ball was designed to go that way. I came back right and threw it away. Just another learning experience.”

On the next play, Darnold hit tight end Chris Herndon over the middle, a few yards short of the goal line. Herndon was tackled at the 1-yard line and, since Bowles had used all his timeouts previously (he almost went a full 25 minutes before burning one unnecessarily!), the Jets went into the locker room still trailing 20-0.

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At least the Jets started the third quarter on the right note, going 75 yards in seven plays to get on the scoreboard. Despite kicker Jason Myers’ missed extra point, the Jets were poised to continue on the comeback trail when, on Miami’s first play of the half, quarterback Ryan Tannehill was strip-sacked by linebacker Jordan Jenkins, who recovered the loose ball on Miami’s 12-yard line.

Again, prosperity is rarely the Jets’ friend. Darnold immediately gave the ball right back, picked off by Miami cornerback Xavien Howard, who made a nice play to beat Jets wide receiver Terrelle Pryor to the spot in the back of the end zone.

Subsequent drives stalled due to, in order, an egregious drop by Herndon on a well-thrown Darnold deep ball; consecutive offensive line false starts -- the proximate cause for the Jets settling for a 55-yard Myers field goal; and a blatant noncall when Jets receiver Robby Anderson was held around the waist by Dolphins cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick in the end zone, leading to another Myers field goal. 

Defensively, if you thought the Jets played a good game, you’d be right -- if each half lasted 25 minutes instead of 30.

Tannehill shredded the Jets twice in the last five minutes before halftime. On consecutive plays following an Anderson fumble near midfield, Jets cornerback Buster Skrine was called for a face mask and then was made to look silly trying to stick with Miami wide receiver Albert Wilson across the middle. Wilson juked and blew past Skrine after the catch to put Miami up 14-0. Then in the two-minute drill, Tannehill was sacked on a third down, but a defensive holding on Jets cornerback Morris Claiborne kept the Dolphins on the field. Two plays later, Tannehill, with a day and a half to throw, found tight end A.J. Derby in the end zone with 46 seconds remaining.

Gang Green’s defense also failed to step up at the tail end of the fourth quarter, allowing Miami to run off the final 5:56 following Myers’ field goal that made it a one-score game. They even allowed the Dolphins to convert a third-and-19 when no one covered Frank Gore out of the backfield.

“Honestly, we beat ourselves,” Enunwa said. “I haven’t looked at the stats, but I’m pretty sure we out-yarded them (362-257), and we just gave the game away.”

It’s the calling card of a Todd Bowles team. Once again, they were ill-prepared to play a game they were expected to win. The blocking, in both the run game and pass protection, was dreadful. Outside of Jenkins’ sack, they had no answer for Tannehill’s keepers on zone reads. And they continued to do the same dumb things -- turnovers, penalties, clock management -- that cost them points and, ultimately, the game.

Meet the new Jets. Same as the old Jets.  

For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Devils and Jets, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.​