FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Jets quarterback Josh McCown said he felt sick after Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins. It took him almost half of Monday to recover from his interception in the final minute that set up the winning field goal.
It’s plays like that, and penalties, especially in the fourth quarter, that prevent the Jets from finishing games. So Wednesday afternoon, linebacker Demario Davis wanted to remind his teammates about it when he gathered them before practice.
“It’s no secret we let two leads go in the fourth quarter,” he said of his pep talk, which lasted nearly 30 seconds. The Jets must keep that from recurring if they want to salvage something from their season.
In their last two games, the Jets blew a pair of 14-point leads and lost. In Week 6, they led the Patriots by two touchdowns in the first half. Last Sunday, the Jets took a 14-point advantage into the fourth quarter. Two holding calls on cornerback Buster Skrine helped the Dolphins on their tying drive. When McCown looks back on his own failings down the stretch in that game, the inability to close it out screams at him.
“It’s the same process every week,” he said. “I held onto it half the day Monday. You watch the tape, and it’s really one of those things where once I see the play on film, analyze what happened, I learn and move on. It’s a can-do. Every part of this business is the next-play mentality.”
If the Jets want to improve, reducing penalties is a must. On Sunday they committed a season-high 12 for 124 yards, including five in the fourth quarter. They’re tied for fourth in the NFL with 57 penalties accepted and fourth overall with 67 total. Oddly, in the past two years Todd Bowles’ team was among the least penalized in the NFL. But this season the Jets have committed 10 or more penalties in three games. In Wednesday’s practice there was progress, with one penalty.
“We’ve got to keep focusing on the technique that the coaches teach us and study the details and we will eliminate a lot of those,” tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins said. “Sometimes it’s football, sometimes they don’t make the right calls, sometimes we don’t agree with it.
“So would you like to play a perfect game? Yeah, I don’t know many teams play with zero penalties all game, but that’s what you strive for. But sometimes they’re bang-bang plays, and you’re like, ‘He’s playing hard, we’re playing hard.’ You can’t get mad at them.”
Getting first downs to seal games also is pivotal. Against the Dolphins, the Jets stalled with a pair of three-and-outs to start the fourth quarter. The defense didn’t do its part, allowing two touchdowns in the middle of the quarter that tied the score. Although the Jets did force a punt with 58 seconds to play, McCown’s interception ended any chance of overtime.
“Last week we did some things we weren’t supposed to do, really,” cornerback Morris Claiborne said. “We did some things we couldn’t cope with finishing the game. The defense staying on the field too long, not getting off on third down, and vice versa, the offense giving the ball back on third down.”
If the Jets can reduce the penalties and convert more plays after building a lead, maybe they can stop their slump Sunday at home against the Falcons.
McCown believes closing games is a habit that must be learned.
“Well, it obviously has to be, because at some point even the teams that have it, didn’t have it,” he said. “So you have to acquire it. I would say yes, it is an acquired ability. It’s a reflection, a lot of times, of how long a group has been together because they know one another. So as you grow together, you get better.”