It didn't take long for the Jets to put themselves in a proverbial hole that they would never dig themselves out of. On the second play of the game, Jets quarterback Geno Smith faked a screen to the left, turned around to his right, and tried to pitch a screen pass, but instead of finding number 21, Chris Johnson, he found number 21, Ryan Munday of the Chicago Bears. Munday went 45 yards for the game's opening touchdown to put the Bears up 7-0, setting the tone for the next three hours.
Geno Smith was bad. He cost the Jets with turnovers, misreads of the Bears defense, throwing the football off the wrong foot, and throwing incomplete passes that were just past the outstretched hands of his receivers. While the Jets mistakes were team inflicted, it was Smith's errors that stood tall on Monday night.
While the final stat line says Smith threw for 256 yards and two interceptions, it could have been much, much worse. And it felt worse.
On the Jets second possession after the pick-six, Smith had the Jets on a third and three at the New York 39, but he couldn't complete a short pass to Jeremy Kerley, watching it fall incomplete forcing a Jets punt. The Bears turned that into seven more points. Assisted by a major pass interference call on Darrian Walls that moved the football to the Jets seven-yard line, Jay Cutler hit a wide open Michael Bennett to make it 14-0, Chicago.
The most frustrating part of the night for the Jets was their inability to turn drives into points. Seven times the Jets had the football in the red zone and only once they scored a touchdown. Every other drive either resulted in a field goal, or a turnover on downs.
Here are five of the six most glaring missed opportunities at glory:
1) Late in the first quarter the Jets moved the football all the way down to the Bears 15 yard line, before Smith took a major sack that turned a 2nd and 9 into 3rd and 22. The Jets kicked a field goal.
2) Now down 17-3, Smith decides to dump-off a second down pass to Jeff Cumberland who gains only four yards; then on third down he goes back to Cumberland, with a similar play, but can't complete the short pass. Result: Jets field goal.
3) Midway through the third quarter, Smith piloted the Jets all the way to the Bears 18. Down 24-13, it appeared the Jets were on their way to scoring a touchdown to get back into it, but Smith rolled left, misread the Bears secondary and heaved a pass into the end zone that was picked off by Kyle Fuller who stepped in front of David Nelson at the right moment.
4) After the Jets get great field position thanks to a Bears three-and-out that ended in a unnecessary roughness penalty that put the ball on the Chicago 28, the Jets still couldn't get the ball over the pylon. Smith dinked and dunked inside the ten yard line, and was tackled for a loss on a misguided quarterback keeper at the Bears two yard line. Result? You guessed it, Jets field goal.
5) Now down 27-19 in the wanning minutes the Jets needed one really good drive and a touchdown to have a shot at forcing overtime. Before the drive ever began Smith almost threw it away when he dumped the ball into the hands of linebacker Jon Bostic, who couldn't hold onto the interception. That would have ended the game right there.
Smith did make one good play on the drive when he hit Greg Salas on the sideline, before Salas took it down field 51-yards to put the Jets in great position at the Chicago 20-yard line. Once again the red zone was Geno's kryptonite. He threw three dreary incompletions, before throwing a pass to Kerely out of bounds in the back of the end zone, in very tight coverage ending the game in Chicago's favor.
A few thoughts: 1) Not only was Geno Smith's execution poor, but the play calling was very strange. Marty Morninhweg's strategy did not work. His play call to have Smith run a quarterback draw at the two-yard line when everyone expected it was a horrible decision. Not to mention Morninhweg has gone away from the Jets running attack of Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory. Between the two of them, Ivory and Johnson had only 20 combined carries.
2) The refs may have played a roll in the game. While there were plenty of questionable calls or even non-calls throughout the night on both sides, the biggest gaff came on the Jay Cutler fumble.
Cutler fumbled the football at the Jets 44 yard line in the final seconds of the second quarter. DeMario Davis picked it up and went all the way for the touchdown, but it was ruled down by contact. After the officials reviewed it, they overturned it as a fumble recovery, but by rule couldn't give the Jets a touchdown.
That was a mistake by the officials, but the Jets had the chance to overcome the officials gaff and never did. The Jets went three-and-out after the fumble recovery, and watched Cutler lead another touchdown drive on Chicago's opening drive of the third quarter to make it 24-13 Bears.
The Jets (1-2) are in big trouble. Smith once again showed a lot of poor decision making in this game, and the calls for Michael Vick are already beginning. The Jets drafted Smith in the second round of the 2013 draft as a guy to push Mark Sanchez. As we all know, Smith was forced into the starting role last year and the Jets have convinced themselves he's a franchise quarterback. So far Rex Ryan, Jon Idzik and company are coming up snake eyes. For Rex Ryan, it would be the second time he was wrong on a young quarterback.
Smith and the Jets have to rebound this week against the Detroit Lions, otherwise the negativity will continue to build, and with it -- the end of the Geno Smith experiment won't be far behind.