The Jets had just walked off the field after a dispiriting 13-6 loss to the Dolphins, and left tackle Kelvin Beachum went to his locker and sat . . . and sat . . . and sat.
For the better part of 15 minutes, he stared straight ahead, running through a game in which the Jets’ offense produced just two field goals and ruined a brilliant effort by the defense, which also surrendered only six points. The only touchdown came off a pick-6 on one of Sam Darnold’s four interceptions.
Equipment staffers busily cleaned up the grass- and sweat-stained uniforms of the other players. Reporters traipsed through the locker room.
Beachum just sat and stared straight ahead.
About 20 minutes later, after finally taking a shower and dressing in his street clothes, a somber Beachum stood by his locker and explained his mood.
“Just spaced out, man,” he said. “It’s hard to lose. It’s hard to lose games like that, particularly this game, where we had multiple opportunities to get a touchdown and came up short. You take a lot of games hard, but I think this one more than anything, because our defense played their [guts out]. They dominated. They gave us opportunities with three-and-outs. They stopped them with five minutes to go in the game and gave us the ball back. They gave us everything you can ask as a defense, and as an offense, we didn’t deliver.”
It is an all-too-familiar refrain from the Jets’ season, as the offense has struggled to match a series of mostly solid defensive performances. And while Darnold has been at the heart of the inability to score points, Beachum’s offensive line also is culpable. The Jets’ pass protection was brutal against the Dolphins, as Darnold was sacked four times and suffered a foot injury that eventually knocked him out of this week’s game against the Bills. The run blocking wasn’t much better, as the Jets ran for 80 yards on 21 carries.
“It starts with me,” Beachum said. “Starts with the offensive line. We’ve got to do a better job of protecting the quarterback, got to do a better job of not allowing turnovers. The best way to do that is to protect the quarterback.”
Darnold refused to blame his blocking, or the fact that center Spencer Long’s injured right middle finger led to a half-dozen errant snaps before he was replaced.
But Beachum knows better. He knows he needs to do a better job. He knows his line needs to do a better job. At 3-6 and with their playoff fate hanging by a thread just over halfway through the season, the Jets’ situation is perilous.
“The playoffs aren’t out of reach,” he said. “It’s slim, but they’re not out of reach. We’ve got to keep staying together more than anything. Keep fighting and let the chips fall where they fall.”
He insists there will be no division from within.
“We love each other,” he said. “Support each other. We hold ourselves accountable. We fight, we bicker, but at the end of the day, we love each other, and we’re in this together.”
But at 29 years old and in his seventh NFL season, Beachum understands that the window of opportunity won’t remain open much longer. Which is another reason he took the loss so hard.
“You don’t know how many years you’ve got left, how many games you’ve got left,” he said. “You just want to go to the playoffs. We still have the opportunity to get there, but I ain’t getting no younger, and I want to get to the playoffs. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.”
Barring a minor miracle, Beachum will have to wait at least another year to get there. He knows there are no guarantees that there even will be another year for him.
He hopes there will be no need for a long, vacant stare after Sunday’s game against the Bills. Only a win will do.