Jets fans got up early Sunday morning to watch their team play in London, but it was the Jets who looked half-asleep in the first half.
They fell behind by 17 points after the Falcons’ first three possessions and couldn’t fully recover. Despite making the game interesting in the second half, they headed home from England and into their bye week with a disheartening 27-20 loss at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
This was a definite step backward for Zach Wilson and the Jets (1-4) after last week’s overtime victory over Tennessee. The defense had its difficulties against Matt Ryan and rookie tight end Kyle Pitts. After recording seven sacks last week, the Jets didn’t have any on Sunday.
"We know we’re a better team than 1-4," receiver Corey Davis said. "That’s what the energy is like in the locker room. Dudes are disappointed, angry, there’s all types of emotions. We know we’re better than what we’re displaying."
Wilson struggled from the beginning, missing easy short passes and never really getting the offense going. He was 19-for-32 for 192 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
The Jets’ first three series resulted in eight plays, one of them Wilson’s eighth interception. The Jets are the only NFL team to not score in the first quarter this season.
"We can’t keep trying to come from behind," Wilson said. "The NFL is too hard to always come from behind. We just got to come out slinging it right from the beginning. I got to come out and throw that thing.
"I made the right read and I just missed some throws. I can’t come out and just miss throws. They’re not throws that are hard."
With the score 17-0, the Jets’ defense made a stand. C.J. Mosley forced a fumble by tight end Hayden Hurst that was recovered by Michael Carter II at the Jets’ 13.
The Jets finally put a drive together and got to Atlanta’s 16, but they stalled there, with Wilson making some poor throws.
Wilson underthrew Jamison Crowder on a screen on first down. Crowder had room to run, but Wilson threw it into the ground. On second down, Wilson was under pressure, and his dump-off to Tevin Coleman, who also had plenty of grass in front of him, hit lineman Morgan Moses in the back.
The lack of execution on offense was especially discouraging because the Jets weren’t playing an elite defense. The Falcons (2-3) came in as the worst scoring defense in the league, allowing an average of 32 points. Yet the Jets needed plenty of help from other areas to score their two second-half touchdowns.
The first was set up by Coleman’s 65-yard kickoff return to open the half. The second followed a 41-yard pass interference call. Ty Johnson scored on a 1-yard run and rookie running back Michael Carter had a 2-yard touchdown run.
Defensively, the Jets looked gassed right from the outset against an offense without its top two wide receivers, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage. The Falcons scored on their first four possessions — two touchdowns and two field goals.
Ryan completed 33 of 45 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns. Pitts had nine catches for 119 yards and a score.
"It started off with a lot of mental mistakes on our part," Mosley said. "We didn’t start out as we usually do on third down and in general."
The defense also failed to come up with a key stop after the Jets turned a 20-3 halftime deficit into a three-point game in the fourth quarter.
On the second touchdown drive, forgotten receiver Denzel Mims caught a 27-yard pass and A.J. Terrell was flagged for a 41-yard pass interference that gave the Jets first-and-goal at the 2. After Carter’s touchdown run, Wilson hit Crowder for the two-point conversion to make it 20-17 with 6:55 left.
On the ensuing possession, the Jets let Pitts run down the middle of the field uncovered for a 39-yard gain on first down. On third-and-13 from the Jets’ 39, they had a chance to force the Falcons to attempt a field goal, but Ryan connected with Olamide Zaccheaus for 15 yards. On third-and-2, Ryan hit Cordarelle Patterson for a 7-yard gain.
The drive ended with Mike Davis scoring on a 3-yard run to make it 27-17 with 2:19 to go.
"Third-and-13 is disappointing," Robert Saleh said. "Those are the ones where you got to win.
"When it’s fourth quarter, game is on the line: Close the game. Somebody close the game, whether it’s a coach making the perfect call, player making a play. Somebody has got to make a play."
The Jets moved the ball but couldn’t get it in the end zone. Wilson was sacked twice and they had to settle for Matt Ammendola’s 49-yard field goal.
Wilson, who held on to the ball too long on one of the sacks, looked like a rookie far too often.
"That’s just lack of execution all the way around," he said. "I got to make those plays and we got to get this offense going."