Going up against the best team they've played this season, Sunday's 49-9 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals showed just how far the Jets still have to go before they can be taken seriously.
As high as the team was riding after last week's big win against the New England Patriots, the Bengals looked much better than the Pats and the talent discrepancy was simply too much to overcome.
Most notably, Gang Green's ongoing struggles in the defensive backfield were on full display in Cincinnati.
Wide Receiver Marvin Jones set a Bengals franchise record with four touchdown receptions while quarterback Andy Dalton threw for a career high five touchdowns. Dalton had plenty of time to throw and his receivers spent much of the day wide open. Cincinnati scored with ease on the first two drives, jumping out to an early 14-0 lead, essentially ending the game before it even started.
Cornerback Dee Milliner's rookie status and various injuries are, to a degree, valid reasons for his poor play but what the Bengals did to him Sunday was inexcusable. Milliner looked lost trying to stay with his man, allowing four receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown. Mercifully, he was benched in the second quarter before things could get any worse. For now, Milliner is a defensive liability. Teams are going to continue to attack him whenever he's on the field. It's borderline unfair to Milliner and the team that he's being forced to learn on the job because he's clearly not ready for significant playing time at the moment.
Antonio Cromartie continues to disappoint. He repeatedly got beat in one-on-one coverage and was burned on two different occasions by A.J. Green for 53-yard receptions. Cromartie was also flagged for a 34-yard pass interference penalty when he couldn't keep up with receiver Mohamed Sanu. Whether he's hurt or just a victim of age catching up to him, Cromartie looks incredibly slow this year.
The defensive line had little impact on the passing game and, the Jets aren't good enough to win games when that happens. Credit must be given to Cincinnati for the job they did protecting Dalton, but one hit on the quarterback is unacceptable.
Offensively, it was a meager effort. Three of Gang Green's nine points came on a drive in which they gained just three yards following a Muhammad Wilkerson interception. The running game was so miniscule that backup quarterback Matt Simms, who entered the game during garbage time late in the fourth quarter, was the team's leading rusher with three carries for 35 yards.
Throwing two interceptions which were both returned for touchdowns, the bad version of Geno Smith arrived right on schedule. Smith, much like the team, continues to demonstrate a lack of consistency. Without fail, he alternates between looking tremendous and terrible.
Unlike in previous losses, the game was pretty much out of hand by the time Smith turned the ball over so it had little impact on the final outcome. Regardless, it was a discouraging performance all around.
Next week's opponent, the New Orleans Saints, features an even better passing attack than the Bengals. Maybe the pendulum will swing in the other direction once again and the good version of Smith and the Jets will make an appearance. Given the glaring weakness in the Jets secondary, that seems hard to imagine after such a drubbing.
Whatever the case may be, it's silly to blame this loss on a hangover from last week's victory. Simply put, the Jets got beaten soundly by the better team.