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Three turnovers doom Jets in loss to Bears

Geno Smith #7 and D'Brickashaw Ferguson #60 of

Geno Smith #7 and D'Brickashaw Ferguson #60 of the Jets look on after an incomplete pass against the Chicago Bears at MetLife Stadium on Monday, Sept. 22, 2014. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Their words were clipped and wrought with frustration, knowing that they had given away another game.

The Jets set out to make a statement on "Monday Night Football," vowing that they had something to prove in front of a national audience. But the only thing Rex Ryan & Co. showed is that they're not yet ready for prime time.

Geno Smith threw two interceptions -- and several more passes that could have been picked off -- in a 27-19 loss to the Chicago Bears at MetLife Stadium.

Smith (26-for-43, 316 yards) bounced back in the second quarter, and receiver Greg Salas gave the crowd life with 1:41 left with a 51-yard catch-and-run. But back-to-back incompletions -- one to David Nelson on third-and-5 from the 9-yard line, followed by a throw that Jeremy Kerley caught out of the end zone -- ended hope of a late comeback.

The Jets (1-2) made six trips to the red zone but scored just one touchdown. And a big reason was the absence of Eric Decker. The Jets' top receiver was cleared to play after testing his hamstring during warm-ups, but he spent more time on the sideline than on the field and had one catch for 19 yards.

Said Smith: "We've got to find a way to score."

Two Jets turnovers -- including Smith's pick-6 on the second play of the game -- and two penalties helped the Bears (2-1) to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. The second turnover was Jalen Saunders' muffed punt that the Bears recovered at the Jets' 40.

"The three turnovers were the difference in the game," said Ryan, who called the 14-0 deficit "a hole we couldn't dig out of."

In the wake of the defeat, the criticisms of Smith -- and calls for backup Michael Vick to start -- intensified among fans and NFL pundits.

"I'm disappointed because I had seen some development," former Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff said of Smith on SNY. "I think he regressed tonight . . . I'm not saying play Vick right now, but he's in the back of my mind -- and moving up."

Former Jets linebacker Bart Scott, who is a TV analyst, took to Twitter to campaign for Vick. "Unfortunately, I've seen this movie before," Scott tweeted. "I have nothing against Geno, but you are facing above average to elite QBs. You have one on the bench."

"If you give that defense Vick, no matter how long you have him, you will make it through this firestorm you are in."

Ryan defended Smith, saying, "Guys, this ain't the same quarterback as last year."

Asked if he considered getting Vick (one run, 3 yards) more playing time in the game, Ryan deflected the question, saying: "I feel good about this football team and about Geno Smith."

Smith's pick-6 -- returned 45 yards by Bears safety Ryan Mundy -- set the tone early. According to the ESPN telecast, it was the first pick-6 in the first minute of a game in "Monday Night Football" history, 697 games in 45 seasons.

And things got worse before they got better for the Jets. After Saunders' muffed punt, cornerback Darrin Walls, who started in place of injured Dee Milliner, was flagged for a 33-yard pass-interference penalty that gave the Bears a first down at the 7. Jay Cutler (23-for-38, 225 yards) connected with former Giant Martellus Bennett for the score.

Smith threw a 19-yard TD pass to Kerley with 3:45 left in the half to get to 17-13. But Smith's erratic play resurfaced in the third quarter, when he lofted an ill-advised pass to a double-teamed Nelson in the back of the end zone and it was picked off by Kyle Fuller.

Nelson (three catches, 15 yards) also defended Smith. When asked about the team's propensity for making mistakes, Nelson said: "It definitely has to get fixed."

The Jets made several key stops but couldn't contain Alshon Jeffery (eight catches, 105 yards) or Bennett (two touchdowns). Still, they had a chance to come back late in the fourth.

The most egregious call by the officials came late in the second quarter, when linebacker David Harris sacked Cutler for a loss of 10 with the Jets trailing 17-13. The ball squirted out of Cutler's hands before his arm hit the ground and linebacker Demario Davis scooped up the ball and raced toward the end zone. Referee Jerome Boger whistled the play dead, however, ruling Cutler down by contact and negating the would-be TD. After viewing a replay, the officials reversed the call and the Jets had the ball at the Bears' 46. They couldn't capitalize.

Said Harris: "It feels like you're playing against two teams out there sometimes."

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