Monday, September 12, 2016

Miscues sink Jets in season opener vs. Cincy


The Jets 2016 season is off to an inauspicious start after a heartbreaking 23-22 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. The Jets had the lead for most the game, and had the converted on a number of mistakes in the red zone they could have easily beaten the Bengals convincingly. 

The turning point of this game came late in the first quarter with the Jets trying to add to a 7-0 lead. New York had just completed a 10-play 78 yard drive that resulted in a Quincy Enunwa score, and recorded an interception of Andy Dalton at the Bengals 31 yard line. If the Jets converted the pick into a 14-0 lead, they would have been well on their way to a tremendous afternoon. 

But, typical Jets, the afternoon was full of coulda, shoulda. 

Ryan Fitzpatrick guided the offense down all the way to the Bengals four yard line, before wasting away the opportunity. He missed Brandon Marshall over the top in the corner of end zone on first and goal. He then had Marshall right down the middle on a play that required a soft touch pass, but the throw was too hard. Finally, Fitzpatrick tried to dump it off, something New York should have considered on 1st and goal, and the Bengals read it like a book and stuffed the sideline. 

The final indignation came when Nick Folk had his attempt at a chip shot field goal tipped at the line before it went wide left. The Bengals survived, marched down the field and got three points of their own. 

Even the Jets defense had it's moments of good and bad on Sunday. They sacked Dalton seven times, five of those sacks came in the first half, but they had no answer for A.J. Green. Green torched the Jets for 181 yards on 10 catches, none bigger than the one he caught in stride for a 54-yard score to make it 10-7, Cincy. 

The Jets would respond in short order. A 65-yard kick return by Jalian Marshall set up shop at the Bengal 39, and it wouldn't take long for Fitzpatrick to find Eric Decker from 15-yards out for the go-ahead score. But, again, leave it to the Jets to screw it up. Folk missed the extra point wide, and instead of the Jets leading 14-10, they were up 13-10. 

All things considered, at most the Jets should have had a 21-10 lead by this point, even a 17-10 lead. Instead they were up only three, and the missed opportunities would bite them big later on. 

Cincinnati dominated the second half. Dalton was precise and accurate, picking apart the Jets patchwork secondary with short high percentage throws. The Benglas methodically drove downfield in the third quarter for the go-ahead score, a 92-yard drive that culminated in a Jeremy Hill touchdown to make it 20-16 Bengals. 

Then, when the Jets had some momentum going for them, and actually drove the ball all the way into the Bengals red zone, their offense went into a collective shell. The Jets had the ball first and goal at the Bengals three yard line, and New York decided it was a good idea to start off in the shotgun. Result: nobody was open and Fitzpatrick had to scramble around for a couple yards. The worst play call came on second down. 

With the Bengals stacking the line expecting run, the Jets decided to run the football up the gut with Matt Forte, who got leveled at the four-yard-line. 

This was a situation where Fitzpatrick should have called an audible -- instead he stuck to Chan Gailey's guns and paid for it dearly.  

Finally, on third and goal the Bengals read the Jets like a book when they tried desperately to throw the ball into the end zone only to have it deflected. Terrible situational football by New York at this crucial juncture. Yes, they got the field goal to take a 22-20 lead. And yes, the Jets defense needed a stop to win the game, but the Jets could have made it easier on themselves with a touchdown in this spot. 

Instead, Dalton drove the Bengals down field, with A.J. Green's catch on third and 13 at the Jet 40 proving to be the final dagger. The Bengals kicked the field goal to take the lead with 50 seconds to play. 

Fittingly the Jets had to end a frustrating day with a missed opportunity, when Brandon Marshall dropped a Fitzpatrick pass at the 50 yard line. Had he caught it, the Jets would need one more play to get into field goal range. Two plays later, Fitz was picked to seal the deal for Cincinnati. 

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