There were about five minutes left in the third quarter of the Jets’ 24-9 loss to the Ravens when fans at MetLife Stadium stirred out of their stupor, displaying nearly as much vigor as they had at kickoff, before the rosy glow of a shiny new football season dulled with alarming quickness.
On third-and-2 at the Jets’ 39, Joe Flacco took the shotgun snap and attempted a short pass to Corey Davis. It fell incomplete, leaving the Jets still searching for their first third-down completion of the afternoon.
Almost as if it were planned, the crowd roared up and the chants began: “Mike White! Mike White!” Not long afterward, that same crowd started streaming for the exits.
It’s not every day that fans clamor for their third-string quarterback, but that was the Jets’ predicament Sunday as the 37-year-old Flacco lined up under center in place of Zach Wilson, who will be out until at least Week 4 while he recovers from knee surgery.
Flacco, playing against the team with which he won a Super Bowl (and the team that dumped him in 2018 for Lamar Jackson), went 37-for-59 for 307 yards with a garbage-time touchdown and an interception. He was sacked three times as he navigated both his own limitations and, probably more pivotally, the limitations of an offensive line that looked neither cohesive nor capable after a preseason spent playing musical chairs.
Flacco’s 59 passes were the most by a Jets quarterback since Mark Sanchez’s Christmas Eve loss to the Giants in 2011. Flacco fell to 0-6 as the Jets’ quarterback.
Afterward, he pointed the finger at himself but indicated that the entire unit needed to have more of a jolt in its system. He implied that the entire unit needs to have more belief in its abilities.
Easier said than done, considering the preseason projections for this team, the Wilson situation and their recent history of unbridled misery.
“We had some chunks — I feel like we had some chunks in the first half and it was literally just one play before dissolving,” Flacco said. “Obviously frustrated. It wasn’t a good showing for us on offense — just never really got in a rhythm, got any energy going behind us . . . We would get right around midfield on a couple drives and we should have had some energy going behind us and we kind of just, ‘Oh, yeah, let’s go up to the ball,’ and we just never turned the corner and got going.”
The Jets had 24 first downs but were just 2-for-14 on third-down conversions and had a number of key drops — all situations further exacerbated by the Ravens pressuring Flacco in the pocket and Flacco’s own modest mobility scrambling out of jams.
“We all agree that it’s never good enough, especially when you’re not scoring points,” Robert Saleh said when asked about Flacco’s performance. “We were moving the ball and it always comes down to one or two plays, getting the momentum, getting going and just all around, we just weren’t helping. There were plays, obviously, where he wasn’t helping himself, either. In critical moments of the game, we weren’t helping — nobody was helping him on the offense.”
And if Flacco is going to continue to serve as a Band-Aid, that’s clearly not going to be enough. White certainly is an option and one Saleh will have to consider, though Flacco said there needs to be a shift in mentality, too.
“Every time we take the field, we have to truly believe that we’re capable, because we are,” he said. “I think that’s kind of why we’re missing some of that little juice here and there to get us over the hump . . . We just have to keep our heads down and not listen to the outside in the ways that can kind of creep in and create this feeling of this great cloud over us.”
For him, that’ll mean pretending not to hear when people are chanting for White.
For the rest of the Jets, it’ll mean learning how to piece things together even when, after just one week, things seem so bleak.