Monday, December 27, 2004

A Lost Opportunity

By Casey Pearce, from the official site of the New York Jets
All the New York Jets wanted for Christmas was an invitation to the postseason. They’ll have to wait one more week to see if their Holiday wish will be granted. The Green & White dropped a 23-7 decision to the New England Patriots at the Meadowlands Sunday and missed an opportunity to clinch an AFC Wild Card berth in the process.

“We knew what was at stake, and we didn’t get it done,” said head coach Herm Edwards . “We needed to win this one to get into the playoffs, and they came out here and kicked our tails.”

The Patriots offense kept Chad Pennington and company off the field for most of the afternoon. New England won the time of possession battle by more than 11 minutes and never let the Jets establish any offensive rhythm.

“We just couldn’t convert anything,” Edwards said. “They controlled the clock and dictated the pace of the game. We didn’t get many opportunities on offense.”

After a slow first quarter, Tom Brady led the Patriots on a 15-play, 59-yard drive that ended in a 28-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri. The kick gave New England a 3-0 lead. Brady completed five of his seven passing attempts for 49 yards on the drive.

The Patriots held New York to just 101 yards of total offense in the first half and allowed little running room throughout the day. Curtis Martin had a season-low 33 yards on 13 carries.

Midway through the second quarter, Brady capped off an eight-play, 86-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Graham. The two-time Super Bowl MVP was 21-for-32 passing Sunday, racking up 264 yards and two scores.

After forcing the Jets to go three-and-out late in the second quarter, New England was again able to build on their lead. Brady hooked up with Deion Branch for a 21-yard gain that set up Vinatieri’s second field goal of the evening, a 28 yarder that made it a 13-0 contest at the break.

The margin would widen in the second half. Vinatieri’s 26-yard field goal late in the third quarter pushed New England’s lead to 16-0, and Brady’s second touchdown pass of the afternoon, a six-yard toss to Deion Branch, pushed it to 23-0.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Jets got on the scoreboard when Pennington put together his best drive of the day. New York’s signal caller completed seven of nine attempts on the Green & White’s only scoring march of the afternoon. Santana Moss’s 15-yard catch and run made it a 23-7 contest, but unfortunately that was as close as the Jets would get.

After holding Corey Dillon to just 24 yards in the opening half, New England’s feature back churned out a tough 65 yards in the closing two quarters to help control the pace.

“Once Dillon got going, we just couldn’t get on the field,” Edwards said. “We asked a lot of our defense today. They were out there a long time and held tough, but it makes it difficult when they have to be out there that long.”

Despite falling Sunday, the Jets continue to control their own playoff destiny. With a win over the Rams in St. Louis next week, New York will be invited to the postseason.

“We just didn’t play well today,” Edwards said. “Fortunately, we’ve got another week. We still have an opportunity to get in the playoffs, but now we have to go win one on the road.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

LaMont tramples on Jets' 'O'

During the Jets' 17-6 loss to the Steelers, LaMont Jordan was so upset by the lack of offense (and probably his own lack of playing time) that he fumed on the sideline, cursing to himself. Yesterday, he vented publicly, sans the expletives.

Jordan, standing in the middle of the locker room, ripped the Jets' offense, basically saying it turns to mush against top-flight competition. The backup running back, turning up the heat on the entire organization, also said it would be "very embarrassing" if the Jets don't qualify for the postseason after a 5-0 start.

"In my opinion, if we don't make the playoffs, we would be the most underachieving team in the NFL," he said. "We have too many good players. ... Offensively, for us to be playing the way we're playing, that's unacceptable."

The Jets (9-4) still have the inside track on the AFC's top wild-card berth, but they could slide if the offense doesn't perk up over the final three games. Herman Edwards and Chad Pennington echoed that sentiment, but no one said it more bluntly than Jordan.

"Offensively, we haven't gotten the job done at all," he said. "Right now, we're struggling. Against the good teams, we don't do anything. That's the bottom line.

"People around here might not like me saying that, but it's the truth," Jordan continued. "I'm a guy that speaks the truth. Against good teams, against good defenses, we haven't done a thing. If anybody has a problem with what I said, then they have a problem, but I'm speaking the truth."

He's right. Against the two best teams they've faced, the Steelers and Patriots (both 12-1), the Jets managed a total of 13 points. Another way to look at it: They've played five games against top-10 defenses (in points allowed), and they've averaged only 12.6 points per game in those contests.

Jordan claimed he wasn't blaming offensive coordinator Paul Hackett, saying it's an across-the-board problem.

"I'm not the only one who's upset with what's going on, offensively, but I'm going to step up and say something about it," said Jordan, who had only three carries against the Steelers. "That's how I feel. If we're going to go to the playoffs, the offense has to get the job done. ... If everyone on the offense doesn't feel the same way I do, there's a problem."

Edwards seemed more disappointed by this loss than the previous three. After downplaying the measuring-stick angle in the days leading up to the game, he acknowledged that losing to Pittsburgh showed the Jets aren't an elite team - yet. And if they can't beat the big boys, it could mean an early exit from the playoffs, he predicted.

"You're going to lose the first game, you're going to be out," Edwards said. "That's not a lot of fun. Why even go? I mean, that's like going to Disneyland and saying you can't ride any rides."

Edwards said the Jets have played three upper-echelon teams - Patriots, Steelers and Ravens - and they've lost all three. They're 2-4 against teams with winning records.

"It's to a point where you're a little disappointed," said Edwards, adding, "I'm tired of talking about it. The players are tired of talking about it."

The coach said they need more big plays in the passing game. In the last five games, the Jets have produced only six completions longer than 20 yards. In the two games since Pennington's return from a shoulder injury, they've managed only two pass plays in the 20-plus category.

"If we're going to be a championship-caliber team, we have to score points," said Pennington, noting that the weekly goal is 24 points - a mark they've reached only four times. "You can't expect to win a championship scoring under 20 points."