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The Morning After: Making Sense of the Jets Loss

What went wrong in Pittsburgh?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    For the second year in a row, the Jets came up one game short of the Super Bowl. Bruce Beck was in the losing locker room in Pittsburgh. (Published Monday, Jan 31, 2011)

    There are times when it feels awfully good to be right. This is not one of those times.

    On Friday, we pointed out four Jets whose performances would go a long way to determining whether or not the team went to the second Super Bowl in their history. All four of them wound up doing just that and none of them particularly distinguished themselves.

    During the first half, Steve Weatherford shanked one punt and hit a couple of other shorties when the team desperately needed something to flip the field and keep the Steelers from piling on points. Sione Pouha barely registered as the Steelers rolled up rushing yards by the bucketful in that disastrous first half. Wayne Hunter wasn't egregiously bad, but he was part of an offensive line that couldn't convert a first and goal in the fourth quarter.

    Of course, that failure to convert should probably fall more squarely on the shoulders of Brian Schottenheimer. The fourth, and most important, member of the Friday discussion was terrible on that series of plays. Calling passes on second and third down and then a run with LaDainian Tomlinson, rather than Shonn Greene, right up the gut led to a Steelers stop that will hurt for the entire offseason.

    It was the capper of an awful game for the offensive coordinator. We'll never understand why the Jets were constantly going out of the shotgun on first and second down plays that took away both the run threat and Mark Sanchez's play action. The choice of a slow developing pass play on third and 17 late in the second quarter with the score 17-0 was also baffling as the Jets should have been trying to kill some clock and escape without making the damage worse. Sanchez was sacked, he fumbled and the Steelers scored a touchdown that accounted for the final margin of victory. 

    The worst of all might have been the lack of urgency on the two final offensive drives of the game, however. The drive that ended with Tomlinson stoned on the one took eight minutes and the touchdown drive after Ben Roethlisberger's safety took another 4:32 off the clock when every second was at a premium. Sanchez said after the game that the helmet radio was malfunctioning, a mitigating factor that doesn't explain the other shortcomings of his game.

    None of the four men should be held responsible for the team coming out like they thought the game started sometime on Monday morning. That's something that falls on Rex Ryan and the team at large and it is totally inexplicable.

    The attempts to criticize Ryan for setting winning the Super Bowl as the team's goal are totally absurd, but you can't claim to strive for that level of success while coming out with a meek effort. The opening minutes of every playoff game were rough, continuing a slow-starting trend all season for a team that always seemed to turn it on just enough to survive. It's dangerous to start believing that you can just flip a switch because you'll inevitably reach a point where it takes more than that to come out on top.

    That moment came on Sunday and we'll have to wait a long time to see if the Jets learned their lesson.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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