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Jets' defense has some major holes to fill

The Jets haven't been able to hold on to late leads in each of their last three losses.

Safety Jamal Adams and the Jets' defense couldn't

Safety Jamal Adams and the Jets' defense couldn't deal with the passing and running of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who reached the 1-yard line on this play late in the fourth quarter  on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.   Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Jets’ defense has been in the holiday spirit for quite a while now, always giving.

It has given away fourth-quarter leads in the last three losses and has given opposing offenses anything they want.

In fact, the Jets led with three minutes remaining in each of those games. The latest example came Sunday when the Jets squandered a 15-point fourth-quarter lead and lost to the Packers in overtime, 44-38. The previous week, the Jets went ahead 22-19 with five minutes left in the fourth quarter but allowed a 75-yard drive that produced the go-ahead touchdown with 2:15 remaining in a 29-22 loss to the Texans. Two weeks before that, the Titans capped an 86-yard drive by scoring the winning touchdown with 36 seconds left in a 26-22 victory over the Jets, who had led 16-0 late in the second quarter. 

“It’s been really frustrating,” defensive end Henry Anderson said during a conference call Monday. “Last couple of games, if the defense steps up at the end of the game, we win the ballgame. We want to be considered a top NFL defense. We haven’t stepped up to the challenge the last couple of weeks, especially at the end of the game.

“We’re all pretty [ticked] the way the last couple of games have ended.”

The offense was expected to have some low points with a rookie quarterback in Sam Darnold, a suspect line and no established playmakers. And it did. The Jets (4-11) endured a five-game stretch in which they scored only three offensive touchdowns. Changes are expected on that side of the ball to get Darnold more protection and more weapons, but the offense hasn’t been the issue of late.

Since returning from a foot injury that sidelined him for three games, Darnold has played great. In the last three games, he has completed 64 of 97 passes for 764 yards and six touchdowns and has been intercepted only once. But only in Week 14, when the Jets scored the winning touchdown with 1:17 left in a 27-23 victory over the Bills, have they been able to make the leads he has produced stand up.

The Jets have some major defensive holes that need to be addressed this offseason, and it’s not just an edge rusher.

The defense was supposed to be a strength with Leonard Williams clogging things up front, Trumaine Johnson patrolling the secondary and Jamal Adams doing a little of everything. But only Adams has lived up to expectations.

Williams, who has only four sacks, was ejected in the first half of Sunday’s game for throwing a punch. Johnson has had some good moments but also has been beaten quite a few times and was whistled for a critical 33-yard pass-interference penalty in overtime on the Packers’ winning drive.

Johnson also was flagged for a facemask penalty on the Titans' winning drive in Week 13.

The Jets blamed the officials Sunday after amassing 172 yards of penalties against the Packers. But the defense allowed 540 yards of offense, the highest total under embattled coach Todd Bowles. They have yielded at least 425 yards in six games this season.

“Some games we definitely underachieved,” inside linebacker Avery Williamson said. “But some games we played better. It’s definitely upsetting. I feel like regardless of what’s happening, we just continue to fight, which is the main thing.”

The Jets have battled and certainly continue to play hard for Bowles, but before becoming a head coach, he was a defensive coordinator. The defense's inability to close games — a recurring theme under his leadership — is troubling and one of the reasons he is expected to be fired after the Jets close out the season Sunday against the Patriots.

Bowles was the most outspoken about the officials after Sunday’s loss, and a day later, he wouldn’t take any of it back. He also acknowledged, however, that the Jets didn’t do enough to win.

“We could have done a lot of things better,” he said. “We could have made plays when the opportunity arose. We could rush the passer better, we could cover better. We could make plays. We didn’t make plays.”

Notes & quotes: Bowles said the chances of wide receiver Quincy Enunwa playing in Sunday’s finale are “slim.” Enunwa, who will be a free agent this offseason, has missed the last two games with an ankle injury . . . Receiver Jermaine Kearse also might not play. He suffered an Achilles injury and will undergo X-rays, Bowles said. Kearse also will be a free agent after the season.

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