Todd Bowles isn’t pushing the panic button after one of the more distressing Jets losses in recent memory.
Bowles defended offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates’ game plan, threw all of his support to Sam Darnold, and believes his team will bounce back from a penalty- and mistake-filled game that led to the Browns’ first victory since 2016.
“We’re a tough-minded team,” Bowles said on a conference call Friday. “I know we got good character, and I know we’ll fight and I know we have a decent team. I just got to cut down and fix some things.”
Bowles downgraded his team to decent after saying Thursday that they will be “a good football team.” Maybe he had just watched film of Thursday’s game.
Penalties and a lack of discipline continue to hurt the Jets (1-2), which doesn’t reflect well on Bowles. Those two things were front and center again when the Jets wasted a two-touchdown lead and lost, 21-17, becoming the first team to fall to the Browns in 19 games — a span of 635 days.
Former Brown Isaiah Crowell received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after scoring a touchdown. Just 53 seconds later, Trumaine Johnson was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct on a third down that extended a Browns’ drive. In the same series, Johnson was called for unnecessary roughness for a shot to Tyrod Taylor’s head that was offset by an offensive holding penalty.
“We’re a smarter team than that,” receiver Quincy Enunwa said. “We put that out there on Thursday night in front of everybody. It’s, like, man.”
The most costly penalty was a defensive holding on Morris Claiborne when the Browns were going for a game-tying two-point conversion. They failed but then succeeded on the second try.
Frustration and disgust was a common theme in the locker room. Darnold shouldered the blame for his play against a tough defense. He was just 15-for-31 for 169 yards, no touchdowns and was intercepted twice — both in the last 1:21 of the game.
Darnold said the way he played was “not acceptable.” But Bowles discounted the two picks Darnold threw because they were at the end of the game in desperate passing situations. Bowles thought Darnold, who was outplayed by fellow rookie Baker Mayfield, handled himself well against Gregg Williams’ defense.
“He’s competitive and he tries to win every game and he has a fire within that you really can’t see,” Bowles said. “But in all, I thought he competed his butt off. I thought \ was one of his better ballgames from a mental standpoint, from a toughness standpoint and a grit standpoint.
“I thought he grew a lot last night. Going in and watching the schedule, after he won the starting job, I thought this would be his toughest game from a scheme-coverage standpoint because of the things they do on that side of the ball. I thought he handled it well.”
Bowles also defended Bates’ play-calling. The Jets played conservatively against Williams, who didn’t send blitzes nearly as much as he did in the Browns’ first two games.
The Jets ran 30 run plays to 24 pass plays before the Browns took the lead with 2:07 to go. Darnold dropped back to pass on his last eight snaps. But before then, most of the pass plays were wide receiver screens to Enunwa as it appeared the Jets were trying to get ball out of Darnold’s hands quickly.
“I thought we were well-balanced on offense,” Bowles said. “I thought we had some plays dialed up off of what they did. They changed some things around in the second half that negated some of the things we had dialed up. But I thought offensively we had a good game plan.”
Notes & quotes: The Jets signed receiver ArDarius Stewart, who they cut Wednesday, to their practice squad. They cut receiver Deontay Burnett.