Of all the third-down plays that hurt the Jets in their 27-10 loss at Pittsburgh – and there were plenty – the worst was the 37-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace on third-and-16 for a 20-10 third-quarter lead. Wallace made a tough catch at the back of the end zone against Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
In his Monday post-mortem, Jets coach Rex Ryan said his team’s play on third down on offense and defense was the “difference in the game,” and he faulted the pass defense for not always playing the coverage the way it was called. But even though he identified the bomb to Wallace as the “killer” third-down play by the Steelers, Ryan exonerated Cromartie.
“Cro had about as good a coverage as you can have on a guy,” Ryan said. “We know it’s going to be a vertical shot. He played it perfectly right to the point where he turned in man coverage and faced him. What happened to Cro is he drifted as he was looking for the ball. He got both eyes back to look for the ball, and when that happens, sometimes, your body drifts. The kid made a great catch and kept both feet in bounds.
“You can’t be in better coverage than Cro was. He was in such good position that he wanted to find the football with both eyes. There’s a thing we talk about – in control or out of control. And he was clearly in control of the situation. He just kind of misjudged the ball.”
Pittsburgh converted 8 of 15 third-down plays, and Ryan credited Roethlisberger for his part in shaking off pass rushers to complete passes on four of those conversions. At the same time, the Jets coach wasn’t satisfied with the coverage downfield.
“Ben Roethlisberger or anybody else back there has nothing to do with the leverage we’re suppose to play in coverage,” Ryan said. “If we’re playing outside leverage instead of inside leverage, that’s a problem. We have to do a better job ourselves in understanding the defense, what our leverage is, and what we’re counting on when we make certain calls. We look at it, too. What can we change up schematically to help us?”
Of course, the Jets were without cornerback Darrelle Revis. Ryan said he can’t assume Revis will be back in Miami, but he sounded optimistic that Revis will past the tests necessary to return from the concussion he suffered in Week 1. No doubt, communication in the secondary will improve if Revis can play.