By Jeff Capellini
Sure, it’s just one loss.
But to try to take positives from Sunday’s disaster at Lambeau Field would really expose a disturbing case of denial.
The Jets beat themselves. They snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. And they did it reminiscent of their classic style.
I thought, perhaps foolishly, that they had risen above such things.
The crushing 31-24 defeat to the Packers reflects incredibly poorly on the Jets’ hierarchy. General manager John Idzik and head coach Rex Ryan deserve the beatings they’re going to receive this week. Because in a matter of 90 minutes, the Jets managed to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that all the things the fans were worried about heading into the regular season are in fact still major problems.
And they may be here to stay.
So, where do we begin? Near the top is as good as anywhere, I guess.
Idzik’s grand master plan to outsmart the world by avoiding what he perceived to be B-level free agents during the offseason spending period looked awfully sketchy against the Packers. It was widely assumed that if the Jets failed to get pressure on Aaron Rodgers, he would feast on their secondary.
It took a while, but that’s exactly what he ended up doing.
The first quarter was a thing of beauty because the Jets were all over Rodgers, not just sacking him but hurrying him on seemingly every other snap. What’s more, for a short period of time, on those rare plays when Rodgers did have time to survey the field, the Jets’ coverage was solid, forcing the Packers’ quarterback to either throw the ball away or scramble.
That kind of execution contributed to the Jets building a 21-9 lead midway through the second quarter.
But that all changed during what turned out to be the Jets’ last real good drive of the game.
Geno Smith, who engineered touchdowns on the Jets’ first three possessions, took the ball with 3:12 left in the half and moved the Jets from their own 48 to the Packers’ 27 in three plays. The Jets appeared poised to slap upside the head the belief that they couldn’t win at Lambeau.
But then all hell broke loose.
On first down, Smith looked down the right sideline for tight end Zach Sudfeld, but was hit as he threw. The ball fluttered short to the Packers’ Tramon Williams. Sudfeld should have turned into a corner himself, but his lack of aggression allowed Williams to make the pick.
Rodgers and Co. then had 1:52 and 97 yards between them and the game being up for grabs.
It didn’t take them that long to effectively pull the rug out from underneath the Jets.
Considering what Gang Green had done defensively to that point, a touchdown seemed like a long shot, but there was Rodgers marching the Packers the distance in 10 plays. I mean, who gets off 10 plays in 1:44? The Jets’ defense is supposedly better than that, but there was their front seven not getting anywhere near Rodgers and the secondary getting diced up without much resistance.
Rodgers was 7-for-10 on the drive, spreading the ball all over the place.
It was just a bad omen.
It’s hard to imagine there being a defeatist sentiment with a five-point lead at halftime, but the Jets fan — and the older the smarter — knows better. Even at 21-3 I was cautiously pessimistic. At 21-9 I was concerned. At 21-16, well, you know.
Idzik’s defiant refusal to supply Ryan with enough significant roster depth, specifically at the red flag positions of corner and wide receiver, was really exploited in the second half because, in addition to Darrin Walls and Dee Milliner struggling mightily, the Jets lost Eric Decker to a hamstring injury. With the running game sputtering and just one reliable target — Jeremy Kerley — to throw to, the Jets managed just three second-half points.
After Rodgers torched Milliner and rookie safety Calvin Pryor on an 80-yard bomb to Jordy Nelson, who, by the way, ended the day with nine catches for a career-high 209 yards, the Jets found themselves down seven with still more than a quarter left to play.
But they didn’t do all that much. They had three more possessions, ran 20 plays and gained a total of 44 yards.
Why? Because Decker was out? It sure seemed that way. And that’s pretty sad — especially when you are $21 million or so under the salary cap.
As for Ryan, he looks bad for a number of reasons and almost all of them revolve around team discipline.
Fresh off their various mental breakdowns in the win over the Oakland Raiders to start the season, the Jets committed seven more penalties against the Packers, the worst of which coming from the guy you’d least expect to do something stupid.
But there was the Jets’ best defensive player, end Muhammad Wilkerson, doing his best Jon “Bones” Jones impersonation following a Packers touchdown and successful two-point conversion pass to Randall Cobb that at the time put the Jets in their first hole of the game.
The Jets were down just three points with forever still to play and they lost their minds over what really amounted to nothing.
Unless, of course, Wilkerson knew the Jets had already blown the game and frustration boiling over was just the natural progression of things given the way the game’s momentum had shifted dramatically.
I think Wilkerson snapped because he knew it was over. How else to explain the Jets’ proud leader losing it in such absurd fashion? It was totally out of character, but a damaging penalty nonetheless, and part of an early disturbing trend the Jets are showing under Ryan.
While Wilkerson’s ejection was shocking, what happened on the Jets’ final drive was just insanity and speaks to Ryan’s control of the sideline.
The Jets took over at their own 33 down seven with 9:23 left in the fourth. Smith moved them to the Packers’ 28 in 10 plays, but then stupidity reared its ugly head once again. Following a second down incompletion, Smith hooked up with Kerley in the left corner of the end zone, but the play was called off because the Jets had called timeout.
Wait, let me clarify that — defensive end Sheldon Richardson called timeout via offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, much to the dismay of Ryan who had no idea what was happening. To make matters worse, nobody but a head coach is allowed to call timeout.
Like I said, total insanity, and extremely Jet-like, just in case you still don’t differentiate between the present and the past.
The little things matter and the loosey-goosey managerial style Ryan employs with his players, while a very big reason why they love playing for him, has very little margin for error. If the Jets choose to fly by the seat of their pants with discipline and sideline management, they better damn well win games like they lost on Sunday.
It’s the same as predicting victories. The more you are wrong, sooner or later you start sounding like the little boy who cried wolf.
Right now, Idzik and Ryan do not look like the smartest guys in the room. They look like the fearless leaders of the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.
But, by all means, keep looking at it like it’s just one loss. These are the Jets. Nothing comes easy, ever. You’d think you’d know that by now.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet
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