By Ernie Palladino
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Rain or shine, the Jets have proven that they’re just not good enough.
Not yet, anyway.
Maybe in the next year or two, once they get a real offense, a reliable kicker, and a defense that can hold a lead, they’ll become a legitimate winner. Until then, those long-suffering fans who braved the game-long downpour Sunday will have to be satisfied with effort alone.
Tangible results — wins — are going to continue to be hard to come by even as good teams like the Falcons try to hand them victories.
Indeed, Atlanta did everything it could to get the Jets back to even at the schedule’s midway point as they made off with a 25-20 win. Matt Ryan fumbled four snaps and lost two, both in the first half and both deep in their own territory. The Jets got exactly three points out of that thanks to a Chandler Catanzaro miss from 46 yards on the first one and a 43-yard make off a turnover at the 20 wrecked by a holding call.
They couldn’t have asked for better field position. Four possessions in the first three quarters started in positive territory, but only 10 points came of them.
Still, the Jets led throughout the third quarter, if only by a razor-thin 17-16 margin.
But then, inevitably it seems, the fourth-quarter troubles that bulldozed their two previous losses to Miami and New England showed up again and sent them down for a third straight time.
Catanzaro missed a second field goal, wide right from 48 yards, and handed the Falcons their best field position of the game at their own 38. Tevin Coleman improved that considerably with a 52-yard jaunt to the Jets’ 10. Ryan fumbled a third snap at the 5, but he fell on it at the 8. And when Mohamed Sanu grabbed his next pass in the end zone, the Falcons were suddenly up 22-17.
And then, after Catanzaro narrowed things to 22-20, the special teams did their bit. Jeremy Kerley’s muffed punt set the Falcons up at the 13, and Matt Bryant’s field goal finished off the scoring. It could have been worse, too, if the officials hadn’t caught a block in the back that nullified an 80-yard touchdown return from Andre Roberts.
Good enough early, bad enough late.
That will be the Jets’ story this year. The high points, like the wonderful opening drive Josh McCown engineered and the at-last, second-quarter sack by Muhammad Wilkerson — the first by a defensive lineman this year — get overshadowed by lost opportunities and bad late-game play.
It’s the mark of a team that long ago lost its way. Good enough to stick with the better teams; not consistent enough to beat them.
Things won’t get easier. Whether the Jets have the wherewithal to beat the surprising 5-2 Bills on Thursday or the struggling 2-5 Bucs 10 days later is debatable. Awaiting them after the bye are the Panthers, Chiefs, Broncos, and Saints, none of whom have losing records as of Monday’s Broncos-Chiefs matchup.
They’re finished with the Dolphins, who they beat Sept. 24 to start the three-game winning streak that had Jets Nation buzzing about impossible postseason dreams. They have no up-and-down Jacksonvilles or hopeless Clevelands left to beat again.
The story of the Jets’ season is not the three-game winning streak. It’s of missed opportunities, late-game mistakes, and blown leads.
If anything, it sounds like the 6-10 Giants of 2015. And we all know how that ended.
Not well at all.
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