Credit the New England Patriots with a 13-10 victory, but the Jets largely defeated themselves Thursday night. A solid defensive effort was not enough to overcome four turnovers and multiple dropped passes.
“We gotta hang on to the football,” a frustrated Rex Ryan said in his postgame press conference. “That's what you're paid to do, catch the football, regardless of the conditions, and obviously, we have to do a better job of that. Would it have changed the outcome? I don't know, I would have liked to have found out.”
A first quarter fumble by wide receiver Stephen Hill, which led to three points for the opposition, and a dropped touchdown pass by Clyde Gates, initially ruled a catch but later overturned, were among the lowlights for an offense that couldn’t seem to get out of its own way.
New York running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell combined for 100 yards on the ground, more than doubling their output from Week 1. The Jets had success rushing the ball in the first two quarters yet gave them the ball just 13 times in the second half.
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith, who was making his first career road start, at times made ill-advised decisions and threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter; making it all the more puzzling to abandon the running game.
“There were costly mistakes that were completely on me,” Smith said as he shouldered the blame. “I didn’t get it done. I take full responsibility for it. I will get better.”
Despite the offensive miscues, the defense was able to keep things interesting; settling in after giving up an early touchdown and allowing just 232 total yards. New England’s nine first downs were the fewest for the team under Bill Belichick since he took over as coach in 2000.
A Patriots roster depleted by injuries was forced to rely on a collection of inexperienced receivers. Quarterback Tom Brady was visibly angry with their inability to run routes and catch passes.
“I think I need to do a better job on my body language,” Brady admitted after the game.
Julian Edelman, one of the few familiar faces in the lineup, became something of a security blanket for Brady; 13 of Brady’s 19 completions were to Edelman.
Things went from bad to worse for the Jets inside the game’s final minutes. Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, arguably the team’s best player, was carted off with an ankle injury.
Offensive linemen Willie Colon and D'Brickashaw Ferguson were both ejected as a fight broke out following a Nick Mangold late hit below the waist; the result of Smith’s third and final interception of the night.
Colon made contact with an official while Ferguson was seen throwing punches. Mangold, Colon, and Ferguson likely await discipline from the league, though whether or not they’ll miss any game time remains to be seen.
The Jets must now move on and look ahead to their Week 3 matchup against the Buffalo Bills next Sunday. The long layoff will give the receivers the chance to practice holding onto the ball while Wilkerson has the luxury of resting his injured ankle for a few extra days.
Smith, and fellow rookie Dee Milliner, pulled by coach Ryan for his erratic play, will have plenty of time to review game film and learn from their mistakes.
As the season rolls along, there will be more games like this. Games that are winnable and there for the taking. Elite teams often find a way to win the close ones while those at the bottom of the standings find a way to lose them. Last night, the Jets played like the latter.