O. Henry fans would have appreciated the end of Sunday's Jets game a lot more than Jets fans did.
On Thursday, Jets coach Rex Ryan begged the team's fans to make noise at the Meadowlands and said that the right amount of noise could help win the game. Late in the fourth quarter, with the Jets clinging to a 22-21 lead, Ryan got the noise he wanted and it contributed to Kerry Rhodes missing a defensive audible call from Jim Leonhard. The failure to adjust left Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis wide open for the play that made the Jets eventual 24-22 loss all but certain. A loss caused, in part, by that deeply sought crowd noise.
That's funny stuff, although there probably weren't many Jets fans enjoying the irony as the clock wound down on another Jets season. The fifth loss in six games, and third straight home loss, makes playoff talk worth about as much as stock in Lehman Brothers. The Jets are finished, and the whole crowd noise fiasco works as a quick shorthand to explain why.
All season the Jets have spent more time talking about and thinking about things that are ancillary to the game while making the kind of sloppy mistakes that indicate the team isn't sweating the small stuff. Yesterday's main entries for that file were burning two timeouts in the second half that left the team with no way to stop the clock and get a last chance to win the game.
One was on defense because there were 12 men on the field -- an inexcusable mental blunder all its own -- and the other came on offense with a first down on the one-yard-line. Ryan said there were again 12 men on the field, which turned out not to be true. The problem was that the ref wouldn't spot the ball quickly enough for the Jets to run a hurry-up snap, which makes no sense given the currency of having a timeout when you would be, at best, protecting a field goal lead.
It was less than that because of a less egregious physical error, Braylon Edwards's drop on a two-point conversion, and didn't much matter because the Jets defense played like they were still on a bye week. Ryan gave them and the rest of the Jets six days off during the bye week and if the idea was to have them rested and ready to play, it backfired. They looked sluggish for the entire first half, and didn't seem rested at all when the Jags sliced through them en route to the winning score. A win the Jags should feel quite fortunate to have given how hard they tried to give the game away.
It's a shame that they didn't use a couple of those days off to brush up on communication and football thinking, because both were in short supply from players and coaches on Sunday. Now they've got seven weeks to work on them and start building for 2010, perhaps starting with a video breakdown on Maurice Jones-Drew's clever kneeldown to run clock rather than allow the Jets to have the ball back. It's a safe bet that no Jets player would pull that off, although he'd surely be able to tell you why Jones-Drew was a lesser player for doing it.
And he'd probably tell you that he's part of a good defense, too. That's not ironic, but the only response is still laughter.