The Jets are trying to maintain their poise, which is becoming harder to do as their season begins to slip away.
A 25-20 loss to the Falcons on Sunday at rainy, windy MetLife Stadium extended their losing streak to three games.
The Jets (3-5) again failed to finish after building a lead. Two weeks ago, it was a 14-point first-quarter advantage over the Patriots, and last week it was a 14-point fourth-quarter edge on the Dolphins. Those fades led to discussions about learning how to finish.
The lead wasn’t big this time, only 17-13 at halftime. But scoring only three second-half points, two missed field goals by Chand ler Catanzaro, chunk plays by the Falcons and a turnover on a muffed punt beat the Jets.
“The margin for error is small,” receiver Jermaine Kearse said. “But it’s huge because it’s so hard to be consistent to close that margin.”
The Jets continue to say they’re together as a unit, and after an offseason roster purge of veterans, they have a chemistry set full of unified players.
But things are starting to unravel.
Matt Forte spoke quietly in a nearly empty locker room about the lack of commitment to the running game. Forte had only four carries for 7 yards, and the Jets’ backs rushed 21 times for only 42 yards. Forte thought that when the Jets had a seven-point lead, they should have kept grinding on the Falcons.
“You’ve got a wet ball out there, and it wasn’t like a light drizzle. It was really, really raining,” Forte said. “If I was a coordinator, yeah, I would probably [run more]. I’m obviously biased because I’m a running back, but raining like that, you would think that we would run it more than we did. But like I said, every game is different, and he’s calling the plays and he has to call what he sees out there and go from there. We have to execute the plays no matter what he calls.”
Forte was referring to coordinator John Morton, whose offense built a 17-10 lead on two touchdown passes by Josh McCown and a 43-yard field goal by Catanzaro. Near the end of the half, Matt Bryant made a 45-yard field goal to cut the Falcons’ deficit to 17-13, and the Jets lost control of the game after that.
“Frustrated, not discouraged,” Todd Bowles said. “It’s what we do. It’s our job for a living. We just have to stop taking body blows and start delivering them.”
The Falcons (4-3), who ended their three-game losing streak, began their comeback after cornerback Morris Claiborne left with a foot injury in the third quarter. Claiborne had held star receiver Julio Jones in check for most of the game, but in one of the game’s biggest plays, Jones ran past three defenders in zone coverage to catch a 53-yard strike from Matt Ryan. Four plays later, Bryant’s 37-yard field goal cut the deficit to 17-16 with 5:12 to play in the third quarter.
The Jets remained in control until after Catanzaro missed a 48-yard field-goal try with 14:21 left in the fourth. After the miss, Tevin Coleman broke three tackles and picked up 52 yards on a dazzling run that demoralized the Jets. Three plays later, Ryan connected with Mohamed Sanu for an 8-yard touchdown pass with 12:22 left to give the Falcons their first lead, 22-17.
“You want to make plays down the stretch,” linebacker Demario Davis said. “You have to give credit to a good Atlanta team. They made the plays they needed to make down the stretch. We didn’t. We need to find a way to make those plays.”
The Jets still had a chance after Catanzaro’s 46-yarder with 8:42 left made it 22-20. They forced a punt, but Atlanta recovered a muff by the usually sure-handed Jeremy Kerley. The turnover led to Bryant’s 29-yard field goal with 5:22 to go, and the Jets never got close to scoring the touchdown they needed.
“Whenever you have a lead and you lose the game, yes, it’s alarming,” tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins said. “It’s also very frustrating because we know our talents and we know what we’re supposed to do. But for whatever reason, we’re not doing what we’re capable of doing right now.”