Jets’ offense takes bye a week early in loss to Buccaneers
TAMPA, Fla. — In one part of the Jets locker room, safety Marcus Maye sat at his stall with an irritated right eye. Center Wesley Johnson wore a glum look on his face as one of the offensive coaches tried to encourage him.
The locker room scene of the Jets on Sunday afternoon was quiet as the players tried to explain one of their worst losses of the season, a 15-10 defeat to the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium.
This loss had nothing to do with former Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick making some FitzMagic. Instead, it was the Jets offense’s inability to produce on a day when the defense allowed just one touchdown.
The Jets, with a chance to enter the bye week at .500, came out flat and showed little fight.
“It’s a lack of urgency that’s pretty much on all three phases of football, offense, defense and special teams,” defensive end Leonard Williams said. “A lack of urgency, a lack of drive . . . we tried to step up when it matters. But by then it was too late. They were throwing punches and sometimes we weren’t throwing them back and at the end of the day it was a close fight and they pulled it out in the end and we didn’t.”
Todd Bowles said the Jets lost a unanimous decision in a game that meant so much. The Jets (4-6) were trying to go into the bye week at 5-5 and continue conversations about playoffs instead of the same old “Same Old Jets” narrative.
But the Jets offense never got going.
They didn’t score a touchdown until 28 seconds remained in the game, a 38-yard pass from Josh McCown to Robby Anderson. The offense had five three-and-outs. The offensive line struggled with its pass protection, as right guard Brian Winters said communication was a problem. McCown was sacked six times and knocked down a season-high 14 times.
“They didn’t play well,” Bowles said of the offensive line. “I mean that’s one of the areas that didn’t play well but all areas didn’t play well. They played in our backfield all day long. We missed blocks or got penalties. It was just a cluster . . . and we didn’t do well.”
McCown, who went 1-10 as a starter for Tampa Bay in 2014, finished 23-for-39 for 262 yards with the TD and an interception in his return.
The running attack, minus Matt Forte (swollen right knee), averaged just 2.9 yards a carry. It was such a stunning setback for the Jets offense that scored 34 points and rushed for 194 yards in a victory over the Bills 10 days earlier.
“It is very frustrating,” McCown said. “Defense is playing their tail off and working hard and getting stops and as an offense you want to go put drives together. We just weren’t executing and sputtering out. Even when we get to a third-and-short, we don’t convert that. We have to find a way to be better.”
You can add third-down problems to the ledger regarding the Jets’ offense. As a unit, they converted a season-low 20 percent of their third-down plays; after totaling 11 third-down conversions the previous two weeks, they went 3-for-15 on Sunday.
“It’s just tough,” wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said. “As bad as I thought we played, we still had a chance, as crazy as that sounds. We got to find ways to just do better, starting with myself and go from there.”
In the fourth quarter, the Jets had a chance, trailing 9-3, thanks to a defense that only gave up three Patrick Murray field goals.
The Jets defense, faced with a third-and-15 from the Bucs’ 39, gave up a 21-yard run to running back Charles Sims with about 10 minutes left. Seven plays later, Fitzpatrick scrambled to his right and found Sims for a 6-yard touchdown pass with 6:10 left for a 15-3 lead.
The offense couldn’t do much else but pile on meaningless stats after the score and now the Jets get to reflect on why they came out flat and performed poorly on offense.
Cornerback Morris Claiborne, who missed much of the game after re-injuring his right foot, couldn’t understand what happened.
“Definitely, the whole time on the sidelines I kept saying the same thing, ‘We’re flat, we’re not playing like ourselves,’ ” he said. “Normally, in certain situations, that happens during the game, [but] our defense I know we’re dancing, everybody is loose and everybody is feeling good, and today you didn’t see that.”