NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Jets continue to find new ways to lose, but really, it’s a different variation of the same game.
They appeared to be heading toward their first win in seven weeks Sunday when they showed why this is another lost season for this stumbling franchise.
The Jets squandered 16-0 and 19-6 leads and lost to the Titans, 26-22, at Nissan Stadium on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Mariota to Corey Davis with 36 seconds left.
It was the sixth straight loss and by far the worst defeat of the season for the Jets (3-9), who had led for nearly 54 minutes. It was the Titans’ only lead of the game.
“We’re doing the same thing we’ve been doing,” coach Todd Bowles said. “At some point, we’ve got to make a play to win a ballgame. Dumb mistakes at dumb times cost us ballgames. That’s why we’re in this position we’re in.”
Bowles said he was “fuming,” though you couldn’t tell from his usual stoic look and monotone. But he was livid, and he wasn’t alone. Many players were upset in the locker room after the collapse, looking for the right words to describe what had happened and what they were feeling.
The Jets’ offense stalled again — no touchdowns despite being in the red zone three times — and the team showed an overall lack of discipline.
The Jets committed too many costly penalties, none bigger than the two on the final drive that had the players pointing fingers at themselves and trying to take the heat off their embattled coach.
“I don’t like losing, period,” safety Jamal Adams said. “One thing I don’t like is giving up a game. We gave that game to them by us not doing our job, us making penalties in the end, just not finishing the ballgame right.”
With the Jets leading 22-19, Tennessee (6-6) got the ball at its 14 with 1:46 left. On second down, linebacker Jordan Jenkins was called for illegal use of the hands on a play that ended with a sack. Later, Trumaine Johnson was whistled for a 15-yard facemask penalty away from the play after a 25-yard run by Mariota.
Mariota fumbled on the play but recovered it. The 15 yards tacked on from the Johnson penalty gave the Titans the ball at the Jets’ 39. Four plays later, Davis scored the winning TD.
The Jets had one last chance. But after Josh McCown — starting his third straight game for Sam Darnold (strained foot) — completed a 20-yard pass to Chris Herndon, he was picked off by Malcolm Butler.
“We all came in here and it was just bad,” defensive end Leonard Williams said. “Everyone had a bad taste in their mouth, and we’ve been having that bad taste for a while.
“We had the lead for the whole game. We beat ourselves. We had them beat all game and we let them get back in because of foolish penalties.”
McCown completed 17 of 30 passes for only 128 yards and the interception. Jason Myers converted all five of his field-goal tries to account for most of the Jets’ scoring. Their lone touchdown came on Johnson’s 31-yard pick-6 in the first quarter.
It ended the Jets’ takeaway drought at an NFL record-tying five games and gave them a 10-0 lead. But the Jets showed they don’t know how to play with leads. (They haven’t had many lately.)
The Jets had numerous opportunities to put the game away, but their lack of offensive execution — they have two offensive touchdowns in the last four games — continues to bury this team. They also failed to get critical first downs.
In the fourth quarter, the Jets converted only two first downs — on a defensive penalty and the McCown throw just before the game-sealing interception.
On the drive before Davis’ touchdown, the Jets had a third-and-5, and a reverse pitch to rookie Trenton Cannon resulted in no gain with 1:54 left.
“We had plenty of chances to put the game away and put our foot on their throats,’’ Bowles said, “and we didn’t do it.”
Bowles said he was angry when he talked to the team afterward, and that he had a simple message after this brutal defeat.
“Just look yourself in the mirror,” he said. “We won’t be a good football team until we’re a smart football team.”
It’s looking increasingly doubtful that Bowles will be around if and when that happens.
Sam Darnold and Josh McCown have split the last six games, each QB behind center for three games. The offense has sputtered in all six games, scoring a total of five offensive touchdowns:
Week QB Off. TDs Result
7 Darnold 2 Vikings 37, Jets 17
8 Darnold 1 Bears 24, Jets 10
9 Darnold 0 Dolphins 13, Jets 6
10 McCown 1 Bills 41, Jets 10
12 McCown 1 Patriots 27, Jets 13
13 McCown 0 Titants 26, Jets 22