It’s difficult to turn off the television when the Jets play on Monday night. No matter how bleak a game looks, fans hope to see a repeat of history—to see an opportunity for lightning to strike twice, while asking what the chances are for another Monday Night Miracle?
Eventually, it becomes a lesson in futility as the Jets explore multiple methods to lose a football game.
The game against the Miami Dolphins, on Oct. 23, 2000, boasts one of the largest comebacks in NFL history. Losing by 23 points going into the fourth quarter, Vinny Testaverde and the New York Jets put it all on the field to win the game 40-37 in overtime.
It’s that memory Jets’ fans cling to, despite the insurmountable odds. And without a question, the Jets faced insurmountable odds against a riled up San Diego Chargers team.
What almost looked like a real football game on prime-time television ultimately spiraled out of control, as the Chargers annihilated the New York Jets, 48-29.
How it started
It was a surprise to no one. The San Diego Chargers would come out fired up after two disappointing losses in the final seconds. The Jets expected it and responded with some intensity of their own.
David Barrett’s opening drive interception for a touchdown was the kind of attack the Jets needed to deflate the Chargers early.
Unfortunately, the Jets allowed San Diego’s offense to return to the field with a drive that lasted nearly six minutes, and was topped off with a field goal.
That drive set the tone for the remainder of the evening as the Chargers executed their plays at will.
Where it all went wrong
The Jets allowed the Chargers to rediscover their defensive identity early in the game. In 2007, San Diego led the league in takeaways, and the Jets being the kind souls they are, looked to help the Chargers rekindle that flame.
Thomas Jones was stripped of the ball early in the game as he tried to stumble forward for yardage. He was mugged by the defense, and they returned the ball to their offense in prime position for points. That drive resulted in a lead-changing touchdown drive for San Diego.
On the next drive, Brett Favre’s short pass to Laveranues Coles was robbed by Antonio Cromartie, and returned 52-yards for a touchdown.
A great kickoff return by Leon Washington placed the Jets on San Diego’s five-yard line, and two plays later, it looked to be a game again when Favre hit Coles in the back of the end zone.
Another interception by Brett Favre on a clear miscommunication with his receivers resulted in more points for San Diego.
Kris Jenkins, the man responsible for the Jets’ strong run defense, left the game early with a back injury. Sione Pouha, Jenkins’ backup, was placed into full-time duty against the Chargers, and they took advantage.
Finally, being forced to listen to Tony Kornheiser for over three hours was the nail in the coffin.
Made an example of
The Chargers made a promise to themselves to not let another game be decided in the final seconds, and they kept it. Pushing the score up to 48 points when it was all said and done, the Chargers made a declaration against the Jets.
The approach was more than intense. San Diego had a game-plan and forced the New York Jets to play right into it. The Chargers looked to attack with the run, and with the deep ball.
Knowing what Philip Rivers can do against a defense, the Jets’ plan to stop him definitely needed more work. The defensive approach didn’t respect the dynamics of the Chargers’ offense, and they paid dearly. Selling out to stop the run and contain the long pass opened up quick slant routes that New York can’t seem to stop.
Where’s the flag?
It’s understandable—the referees have a soft spot for the Chargers after last week’s blown call by Ed Hochuli. But did Monday night have to be the official’s personal apology?
Antonio Cromartie’s touchdown interception could have easily been flagged for pass interference. He was over Coles’ back before the ball arrived.
There were a handful of holding calls that were clearly visible on replays the officials failed to call as well. One specifically was a hold on Calvin Pace during Darren Sproles’ run to set up the LaDainian Tomlinson touchdown in the third quarter .
Coles’ fourth-quarter 41-yard sprint to get the Jets’ into the red zone should have had more yards tacked on, had a flag for a horse-collar tackle by Antonio Cromartie been thrown.
The Jets only saw flags fly in their favor in the final four minutes, during an inconsequential two-point conversion attempt. Three consecutive flags placed the Jets inches away from the goal line, only to walk away with nothing.
The personal fouls called on San Diego for late hits were too little too late.
Something to smile about
The special-teams is back! Ben Graham being waived on Tuesday and resigned Sunday in lieu of the injury to newly-acquired Reggie Hodges may have lit the appropriate fires. He booted punts high and far, and didn’t allow for anything to be returned.
The production on kick returns was also excellent. Leon Washington sliced through the Chargers’ coverage, and Jerricho Cotchery joined in on the fun, too. With such great field position, the Jets should’ve been able to make the game a lot closer than it was.
Dustin Keller has arrived! He took advantage of the soft spots in the defense, and created the kind of mismatch fans expected when he was drafted. It was a late-game score, but seeing Keller find his way to the end zone was satisfying.
The fourth quarter may have provided a glance of what will work for the Jets’ offense in the future. Their never-say-die approach to the game provided the kind of consistency, aggressiveness, and execution that had been lacking. It’s a strong point to build on going forward.
Finally, although Dwight Lowery allowed Vincent Jackson to burn him deep, he had no help up top from a safety. Before that play, however, he played admirably. Lowery’s first-half was exceptional, running step-to-step on deep balls, and swatting down short-passes that would’ve moved the chains. He does need more time to develop, but the man knows how to play.
Looking to the future
When the New York Jets made their offseason acquisitions, it was with the idea of being competitive, and imposing their will with their own brand of football. The new offensive line was an effort to control the tempo of a game, provide adequate protection, and power the ball through for slow, grind-out football. The new defensive unit was crafted in an effort to stop the run and rush the pass.
Instead, the Jets have become chameleons as they take what the other team gives them. The Jets play as if they have no plans of their own, and look to adapt to what’s given on the field. A question now has to rest with the coaching staff.
In previous seasons, the talent, or lack thereof, was the scapegoat. With expensive personnel upgrades at multiple positions, one has to take a moment and really ponder the answer to this question: Do the coaches know what they’re doing?
Week Four has the Arizona Cardinals visiting New Jersey prior to the Jets’ bye week. After a disappointing loss to the Washington Redskins, Kurt Warner and the Cards’ explosive wide receivers will be looking to take advantage of the Jets’ vulnerability on the long ball.
The Jets have not won the game before their bye since 2004. Maybe their minds are set on the free week ahead. The Jets will need to snap that losing streak before the bye, or they will be 1-3, preparing to face another talented, and desperate team in the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 12.
Fortunately, the Jets have returned as a completely different team after their bye weeks since Eric Mangini’s coaching era began. The defense plays with more consistency, and the offense executes more admirably.
Bumps & Bruises
DB David Barrett was sidelined for a moment with a shoulder injury.
NT Kris Jenkins never returned to the game after a back injury in the first quarter.
QB Brett Favre limped noticeably during the fourth quarter, favoring his leg/ankle.