A blocked punt and a typical Geno Smith pick 6, the Jets playoff hopes officially and finally went up in smoke as the Panthers held off a stubborn Jets squad 30-20 in Charlotte. The Panthers did everything they could to invite the Jets back into the ball game, but the Jets still couldn't help themselves from being the Jets.
For the most part, New York looked overmatched, especially in the second quarter with Can Newton picking apart the Jets in a game that was initially tied at three. Newton led Carolina on three impressive scoring drives in the quarter to build a 16-6 halftime advantage. No play was more impressive for Newton than his 72-yard screen pass-touchdown to DeAngelo Williams.
The touchdown by Williams was a poor job of execution by the Jets defense. They got fooled by the play action, and allowed the Panthers to complete their blocks. The only person who had a shot at Williams was Dee Milliner, and he completely missed him down the sideline.
Yet, the Jets hung around. They were sporadic offensively. At times, the Jets looked brilliant, others they looked deplorable.
Case in point, early in the second quarter with New York trailing 6-3, the Jets looked poised to take their first lead of the game. Geno Smith hit David Nelson for 18 yards to convert a first down. Chris Ivory gashed the Panthers for 35 yards to the Carolina 24, and Bilal Powell ate up 15 more yards to the Carolina 9. But, Smith went back into his shell, overthrowing two receivers badly forcing the Jets to kick.
That was the turning point of the first half. It enabled Carolina to settle in -- the Jets failed to deliver what could have been a big blow in the game. The Panthers turned around and got that aforementioned Williams touchdown.
Still, Carolina tired to give the game to New York. Leading 16-6, Panthers coach Ron Rivera got a bit too greedy going for it on fourth and two at the Jets 20, and couldn't convert. The Jets took that full advantage of the opportunity, pounding the football 77 yards down the field for a touchdown by defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
That was the closest New York would get.
From there the Jets returned to being the Jets. They couldn't answer the bell after Carolina's next possession, leading to the blocked punt that set up the Panthers at the Jets 10. Mike Tolbert pushed his way through the Jets defensive line for the touchdown to make it 23-13.
Then, Geno Smith put the cherry on top with another tailor made pick 6. He tried to force the football to Santonio Holmes, but instead he found Captain Munnerlyn, who brought it back 41 yards for a touchdown -- icing the game and icing the Jets fate.
Forget the Jets got a touchdown late, the Panthers were playing prevent defense at this point. They were pretty much overmatched by the Panthers defense all day. The Jets only managed 140 yards through the air, and before their final touchdown, New York had only 87 yards passing. The New York running game was decent, but it's little consolation to this loss.
Rex and the Jets will try to spin this as a moral victory that they were able to hang with the tough Panthers, but moral victories, at this point in the year is no excuse. The Jets playoff hopes are dead, and Ryan is once again front and center.
Rumors have swirled that Woody Johnson is happy with the "progress of the team" but we will see if he changes his mind at the end of the month. The Jets host a very tough Cleveland Browns team that lost close games to New England and Chicago in the last week plus -- they can score and are no pushover. The Jets finish the year against a Dolphins team that might be looking to lock up the sixth seed.
Victories are no certainty, neither is Rex's future at this point.