For the first time in his career, the spotlight belonged only to Bryce Petty. But the excitement of his first NFL start soon gave way to disappointment and the realization that the Jets’ season is essentially over.
In a low-scoring, barely watchable affair, it was Petty’s fourth-quarter interception that sealed his team’s fate and the Rams’ 9-6 win at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
Now 3-7, the Jets have little else to play for besides pride and the chance to assume the spoiler role.
“Just mess up as much of the [AFC East] division as we can,” defensive end Sheldon Richardson said.
With the Jets’ playoff hopes all but dashed for a sixth consecutive season, coach Todd Bowles now must decide if developing Petty is paramount. He chose to start Petty over Ryan Fitzpatrick, who sprained the MCL in his left knee last week in Miami. But with the bye week coming up and a prime-time game with the New England Patriots on the horizon, Bowles remained noncommittal about his quarterback situation.
“I’m trying to play the best player right now and win ballgames,” he said. “If it’s Bryce, it’s Bryce. If it’s Fitz, it’s Fitz.”
Petty said he was told on Saturday that he’d get the start. “This is hopefully the beginning of a long career for me, at least what I anticipate and what I want,” said the 25-year-old, who finished 19-for-32 for 163 yards and a quarterback rating of 70.2. “ I felt it from the first snap, and honestly, I’ll take you back to the preseason — that’s where I felt like, ‘Man, I can do this.’ ”
Fitzpatrick suited up for the game (rookie Christian Hackenberg was inactive) and was the backup quarterback in the event that Petty got hurt or was completely ineffective. The 12-year veteran said he wanted to start, but “the decision was made for me to not go out there.”
Petty showed off his strong arm and proved he’s capable of making big-time throws. His second series began on the 1-yard line, included a 52-yard pass to Robby Anderson and ended with some Chan Gailey trickery: a hook-and-ladder play from the Rams’ 4 that capped a 99-yard scoring drive. Petty threw a pass to Brandon Marshall at the Rams’ 6 and Marshall lateraled to Bilal Powell, who scampered 10 yards into the end zone. The play was officially scored a 4-yard touchdown pass for Petty. But Nick Folk missed the extra point, making the score 6-3.
But Petty and the offense fizzled in the second half. With the Jets trailing by three points and facing a second-and-7 at their 42 with two minutes to go, Petty’s pass intended for Quincy Enunwa was picked off by Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree. “I was able to rip it out from him and make a play,” Ogletree said. “You have to fight and scrap all the way to the end.”
And that’s the one thing the Jets haven’t done consistently this season.
“It’s the same feeling. Every loss hurts,” said Marshall, who caught four passes for 15 yards.
Petty also overthrew a wide-open Anderson on what should have been a big-time gain.
“Those are the plays in this kind of game that you have to make, and I missed that,” Petty said.
“It’s definitely been a tough year,” added cornerback Darrelle Revis, who was picked apart by Kenny Britt (seven catches, 109 yards) in the first half. “If you rewind back to training camp, we definitely didn’t expect us to be in this position. But we put ourselves in this position. So we’ve got to find a way to get out of it. We dug the hole and we’ve got to find a way to climb out of the hole these next couple of weeks.”
BAPTISMS OF FIRE
Comparing Bryce Petty’s NFL starting debut to the first starts of other notable homegrown Jets QBs:
QB Year NFL Exp. Opp. C/A Yds. TDs INTs QB Rate W/L
Bryce Petty 2016 2 LA 19/32 1 1 70.2 L
Geno Smith 2013 R TB 24/38 256 1 1 80.6 W
Mark Sanchez 2009 R Hou. 18/31 272 1 1 84.3 W
Chad Pennington 2002 3 KC 22/29 237 2 1 108.0 L
Ken O’Brien 1984 R Hou. 19/36 226 0 1 60.6 L
Richard Todd 1976 R Buff. 6/20 87 1 2 22.3 W
Joe Namath 1965 R Buff. 19/40 287 2 2 67.4 W