NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Things appear pretty bleak for the Jets just two games into the season.
The dismal 0-2 start is certainly no surprise, especially to the many fans and media who struggled to find a possible win while handicapping the schedule in the preseason.
In a rebuilding year with a revamped roster, the odds are stacked against Todd Bowles’ bunch. But the coach is trying to focus on the positives after road losses to Buffalo and Oakland by a combined 66-32.
“Well, we’re still learning about the identity part, but I know we have a lot of fight in us,” Bowles said during a conference call Monday. “We just have to not make the mistakes we’ve been making.”
The Jets held their own in Oakland for most of the first half Sunday before a muffed punt by Kalif Raymond swung the momentum to the Raiders with 1:50 left. Three plays later, Marshawn Lynch went up the middle for a touchdown that turned a 14-10 deficit into a 21-10 hole — and things snowballed from there for New York before falling 45-20.
Next up is the Jets’ home opener Sunday against the AFC East-rival Miami Dolphins (1-0), followed by another game the next weekend at MetLife Stadium against the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1).
“We understand what kind of game this is, a division game,” nose tackle Steve McLendon said. “It’s a must-win for us.”
Yes, in Week 3, they’re already talking in make-or-break terms.
“I think we’re at the point where I don’t look at it as a test, in terms of becoming divided or anything like that,” center Wesley Johnson said. “We just want to win.”
While many fans are daydreaming about getting the possible No. 1 overall draft pick and spending their Saturdays channel surfing while scouting potential franchise quarterbacks, the Jets are thinking only about salvaging their season.
“We’re still in the thick of things, so if we can go out and get a win this week, I feel like it’ll help get it in the right direction with the right feeling coming into this locker room,” McLendon said. “We’d rather be looking at, after these next two games, sitting at 2-2 than 0-4.”
New York’s 0-2 start is its first since 2007, when Eric Mangini’s team finished 4-12. Coincidentally, the Jets also played the Dolphins in Week 3 at home — and won.
“I think we’re learning a lot,” Bowles said. “We learned a lot as the two weeks went by. But we’ll learn a lot more these next two weeks whether we can correct these mistakes, which I’m pretty sure we can.”
From an outsider’s perspective, it’s easy to see the root of the early-season troubles. The Jets have allowed a whopping 370 yards rushing, the most in the NFL. The 66 points allowed is also tops in the league.
“We’re trying to correct it and we’re trying to correct it now,” McLendon said. “We’re not trying to let this linger on with this running back we have this week.”
That would be Miami’s Jay Ajayi, who burst onto the scene last season with three 200-yard rushing performances, including two in consecutive games.
He’s a difficult runner to take down, much like Lynch is, so the Jets are going to have to turn things around with their tackling — which Bowles said was the main culprit at Oakland — and fast.
“We’ll fix it with practicing,” Bowles said. “We can do it with bags and everything else. We have to wrap up. We have to wrap up and keep our head up. That’s normal.”
Meanwhile, the offense got the running game going a bit against Oakland, gaining 126 yards on the ground after getting just 38 at Buffalo in the opener . Josh McCown was also mostly efficient, going 17 of 25 for 166 yards and two touchdowns to Jermaine Kearse.
“We’re 0-2, but Josh has done a good job so far, matching the offense and getting everybody lined up and making plays,” Bowles said. “He’s been steady.”
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins will also be back from a two-game suspension, and that could help the Jets open some things in the passing game.
“You feel like you have your full complement of people,” McCown said. “So, it will be a big positive. Obviously, Austin’s a good player, so we look forward to having him back with us. It will be good.”
The Jets refuse to give in to what those outside their facility say, insisting that the negative outlooks and predictions won’t infect their team. For now, the message from Bowles remains only positive and he believes the Jets can get things going in the right direction sooner rather than later.
“I know my team and I know the locker room,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot. I’ve been around these guys quite a bit and I have every confidence in the world in them.”
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)