The bitter taste left in the New York Jets’ mouths following their 17-6 loss at Pittsburgh Sunday led to a series of pointed comments Monday concerning their lack of productivity against top-notch opponents.
“As an offense, we’re not getting it done in big games,” running back LaMont Jordan said. “That’s the bottom line. People may not like me saying that, but it’s the truth. Our defense has done all that we can ask them. They’ve kept things close and we haven’t kept up our end of things.”
Despite committing 12 penalties and two turnovers in the opening half Sunday, the New York Jets trailed just 3-0 at the break and had opportunities to take control of the game. The Green & White found themselves in a similar situation in previous weeks. In their Week 6 loss to New England they trailed 13-7 at halftime, and three weeks later they led Baltimore 14-7 at the break.
“It’s a fact,” head coach Herm Edwards said. “It’s the way it is. We’ve had three opportunities to play some teams that are very, very good. Two of them are the elite teams in the league. We’ve played them very, very well all the way up till the fourth quarter, and we haven’t made the plays necessary to win the game - whether it be on offense, defense, or special teams.”
Jordan didn’t name any names during his lament, but instead put the weight on the shoulders of the entire offense. His irritation derived from the fact that his team has lost four games by a total of 25 points, and the New York Jets has had chances to win each of those ball games in the final minutes.
“I’m not calling any coach or player in particular out when I say that,” Jordan said. “We as players are not getting it done against these elite opponents. We beat ourselves yesterday, and it’s frustrating. We have to make plays during the critical parts of these games, and we’re not doing that.”
Quarterback Chad Pennington was particularly hard on himself after throwing three interceptions in the loss. He echoed Jordan’s sentiments Monday.
“We know that we’re not scoring enough points,” Pennington said. “Our goal every week is to get 24 up on the board and see what happens after that. We know the defense is playing well enough for us to win every game we’re playing in. As an offense, we have to step up to the plate and make things happen.”
In particular, the New York Jets are concerned with their number of big plays on offense. The Green & White had just two plays – a 21-yard pass to Santana Moss and a 43 yarder to Justin McCareins – that went for more than 20 yards Sunday. Their low point total reflected that statistic.
“I think for our offense, we just have to make some more explosion plays,” Edwards said. “In this league, you want to run the ball, but to score points you have to throw the ball. You run the ball to win; you throw the ball to score points. That’s what this league is set up to do. Now, we don’t have enough of those plays. And it doesn’t mean you have to throw bombs every play. You’ve got to get it in people’s hands, and they’ve got to make people miss.”
Since their 41-14 Monday Night win over the Dolphins in Week 9, the New York Jets have scored 20 points in just one contest. Eight times this season they’ve been held to 17 points or less, and Pennington is ready to change that trend.
“Our guys have a lot of pride, and we take it upon ourselves,” Pennington said. “Our job is to score points, and we know that we’re not doing that consistently enough. We’ll have a game where we put up 30 or 40 and then we’ll have a game where we don’t get past 15. The consistency part is frustrating. We have to find it and we have to find it quickly because it’s getting crunch time. We will. We’ll find it and do some good things.”
Despite Sunday’s loss, the New York Jets still maintain a one-game lead in the AFC Wild Card race. Regardless, Edwards is concerned with the way that his team is performing leading up to the NFL’s postseason party.
“We’ve got to beat a team like this if we’re going to be one of those elite teams,” Edwards said. “If not, what happens to you is if you do get in the playoffs, you’re going to lose the first game. That’s not a lot of fun. Why even go? You want to try to win it. You just don’t want to get in there to be going. I mean, that’s like going to Disneyland and saying you can’t ride any rides. What are you going for? You’re going to try to get in the playoffs to win the World Championship. You don’t just show up, say, ‘Well, we got there.’ You don’t do that.”
The New York Jets play host to another probably playoff team this week when the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks visit the Meadowlands Sunday. When asked about the importance of this week’s contest, Pennington gave a quick response.
“Our playoffs start now,” the Knoxville, Tenn. native said. “We play playoff teams down the stretch, and we have to find a way to win some of these ballgames. The good thing about us is that we’re sitting at 9-4 and we’re one game ahead of our opponents as far as the Wild Card race is concerned. We control our own destiny.”
While the Seahawks lead their division, they have shown some vulnerability to the big play recently. In their last three games, Mike Holmgren’s team has given up an average of 34 points per game. The New York Jets have lost consecutive games just once this season, and Pennington is anxious for the opportunity his team has to respond after a difficult defeat at Pittsburgh.
“We have a team of character,” Pennington said. “We have mentally tough football players on our team. This is another challenge. We’ve been pretty good this season about being able to bounce back from losses and getting another win streak started. That’s what I expect us to do. We’ve got the type of guys in this locker room to do that.”