EAST RUTHERFORD — The New York Jets got a key player back on Sunday. They had a backup quarterback on the field that they specifically signed because he would give them a chance to win if he ever needed to play. And they faced an Arizona Cardinals team that continued to struggle.
But none of it mattered. The Jets weren’t good enough to stay in the game, even in their own building.
The Cardinals cruised past the Jets 30-10 at MetLife Stadium, as New York fell to 0-5, further turning up the pressure on embattled coach Adam Gase.
It’s the first time the Jets have gone winless in their first five games since 1996, when Rich Kotite was the coach. The Jets finished that season 1-15 and more than two decades later, the mere mention of Kotite continues to evoke anger from Jets fans.
This year’s team seems destined for a similar record and Gase for a similar place in Jets history: the Jets are 7-14 under Gase, with six losses by 20 points ore more. They’ve lost all of their games this season by at least two possessions.
“We’ve got to go back to work, we’ve got to learn from this film,” Gase said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to play a full 60 minutes. We need all three phases playing well together. It’s just like, one side’s playing well, the other side’s not.Then we finally started getting something going and then we fall apart on the other side. And we’re just not giving ourselves a chance to be there in the end.”
Starting quarterback Sam Darnold missed the game with a shoulder, but veteran quarterback Joe Flacco couldn’t do anything to spark the Jets offense, completing 18-of-35 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown.
Running back Le’Veon Bell returned, playing for the first time since injuring his hamstring in the season-opener. But he didn’t make much of a difference, gaining 60 yards on 13 carries.
Quarterback, Joe FlaccoÊof the Jets before the game between the Arizona Cardinals and the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on October 11, 2020. (Photo: Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com-USA Today Network)
And the Jets defense continued to struggle, keeping Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in check early, only to allow them to explode once they climbed back into the game in the second half.
Despite all their troubles, the Jets pulled the score to 17-10 midway through the third quarter. And when the Cardinals decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 39, it was a risky decision, bordering on arrogant, that could have allowed the Jets back in the game. But the Cardinals obviously weren’t worried about the Jets’ ability to score on them, or stop them. They proved to be right.
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Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray found tight end Darrell Daniels for a 31-yard gain on fourth-and-1. The Cardinals scored a touchdown a few plays later and led by double digits for the rest of the game.
Arizona out-gained the Jets 496-295, as Murray went 27-of-37 for 380 yards, a touchdown, an interception and 31 rushing yards, and Hopkins finished with six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.
After squandering yet another opportunity against a vulnerable opponent at home, any hope of turning this Jets’ season around seems foolish. The only drama remaining is how high they will pick in this draft, and when Gase will lose his job.
The Jets have a lot of issues, but questionable coaching continues to be a theme. We’ll get into the play-calling below. But there were a few basic things that happened Sunday that well-coached football teams simply don’t do.
Early in the second quarter, Avery Williamson intercepted Murray and the Jets took over with first-and-goal from the Arizona 10. But they committed a delay of game penalty.
“I lost track of the time,” said Flacco, who was starting his first game in nearly a year. “It didn’t seem like we were at the point yet where I would be thinking about the play clock. We got on the field, I got the play, called it, got out there and the next thing you know they were blowing the whistle on me. That’s one of the things that I’m talking about. That’s day one stuff, so it can’t happen.”
At the end of the third quarter, the Jets had an untimed down on first down and committed a false start penalty. And then they gained just two yards on a running play when they actually ran the untimed play.
And then early in the fourth quarter, the Jets challenged the ruling on the field when Jamison Crowder was ruled just short of the first down, leaving them facing third-and-1. Replays showed that Crowder was clearly short of the first down, and the refs quickly upheld the ruling the field. The Jets lost a timeout after the inexplicable challenge, hurting their already-miniscule chances of a comeback.
The Jets obviously have much bigger problems, as evidenced by their repeated slow starts and inability to stay in games. There are other questions, like the inability to get Bell involved in the passing game, their frequent blown coverages on defense, and the poor blocking across the offensive line.
But these smaller issues are just more evidence that something is not right.
Joe FlaccoÊof the Jets as his team tries to score near the goal line in the first half of the game between the Arizona Cardinals and the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on October 11, 2020. (Photo: Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com-USA Today Network)
The Jets continued to be a disaster in the red zone, especially in the first half. And it cost them dearly.
“We had opportunities in the red zone,” Gase said. “We have a third- and fourth-and-1, we get an interception and don’t get anything out of that. It was too much for us to overcome.”
The Jets marched 79 yards on 12 plays, arriving at the Cardinals’ 13 where they faced third-and-1 early in the second quarter. But they couldn’t get that one yard on third down, when they handed the ball to tight end Trevon Wesco and he was stuffed a the line scrimmage. And on fourth down, they gave the ball to running back Le’Veon Bell, who was stuffed for no gain.
Moments later, when Williamson intercepted the ball. But once again, the Jets didn’t seriously threaten the red zone. After that costly penalty, the Jets picked up seven yards on a Bell run. And then Flacco couldn’t connect with receiver Jeff Smith on two passing attempts from the eight-yard line. The Jets had to settle for a field goal, narrowing the gap to 7-3 midway through the second quarter. But if the Jets were even moderately competent, they would’ve had the lead.
Those two missed chances came back to haunt them immediately. The Cardinals marched 75 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown on the next drive to take a 14-3 lead 2:41 left in the first half. Had the Jets capitalized on their chances, they could have had the lead. Instead, they were stuck trying to dig themselves out of a hole. And they couldn’t do it.
It’s not just that the Jets continue to be miserable in the red zone — They finally punched a touchdown in the third quarter, to improve to 3-for-12 on red zone opportunities this year — when it mattered, they never even came close to scoring a touchdown. And that is one of the biggest reasons they are 0-5, with no real signs of hope that this is going to get better.
Andy Vasquez is the Jets beat writer for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to all Jets analysis, news, trades and more, please subscribe today and download our app.
Email: [email protected] Twitter: @andy_vasquez