EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – In his post-game press conference, Rex Ryan started off by thanking the crowd at the Meadowlands for giving it all they had. Unfortunately he could not say the same for his team, whose record dropped to 4-5 with the 24-22 loss to Jacksonville after coming out of the gate with three straight wins. .
“I thought the crowd was tremendous today,” the rookie head coach said. “They were fantastic and behind us all the way.” They certainly had nearly a full 60 minutes to make noise and feel confident that they would hit the traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike a happy group. But a Josh Scobee 21-yard field goal as time expired changed all of that.
The nail in the coffin was the culmination of an 80-yard drive directed by Jaguars quarterback David Garrard (16-for-26, 221 yards, 1 touchdown plus 1 rushing touchdown). Jacksonville head coach Jack Del Rio decided to use as much time as possible, even choosing to have running back Maurice Jones-Drew (123 yards on 24 carries and 1 touchdown) go down at the 1-yard line instead of scoring a touchdown and leaving the Jets any time on the clock to put the ball back in the hands of Mark Sanchez.
“Once we got the first down in that situation, we had the ball on the 14-yard line, the game was over,” Del Rio said. “You’ve got to make [the equivalent of] an extra point and don’t even give them a chance to return a kick or get a fluke play or anything like that. I declared right away when we got down there and had that situation that that’s how I wanted to approach it. The guys handled it real well.”
An auspicious start to the game set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. On the Jets first play from scrimmage, Sanchez tried to hit Jericho Cotchery deep down the field and Jags corner Rashean Mathis easily picked off the badly under thrown ball. Jones-Drew dominated on the drive and went in to the end zone on a 3rd and 2 33 yards out.
Jacksonville then nearly caught the Jets special teams unit off guard by attempting an onside kick, which was knocked out of bounds by Jamaal Westerman at the Jaguars 44-yard line. The Jets could only muster a 32-yard Jay Feeley field goal, his first of three on the day.
The Jets defense had trouble with both the run and pass and Jacksonville went into the locker room at halftime leading by a score of 21-13. They tightened up the entire second half until that fatal last drive.
The Jets went ahead 22-21 with just over five minutes remaining on a 1-yard over-the-top by Thomas Jones (21 carries, 77 yards, 1 touchdown). On the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, Braylon Edwards appeared to drop the Sanchez delivery.
“It was a simple throw,” the wideout said. “It was a little bit behind me. I had a hand on it but the safety came out of nowhere and put a helmet in my ribs. It was a good play.”
Now one game under .500, the Jets may have seen their playoff hopes go up in flames. “We just spent all our room for error,” Ryan said.
Certainly a feeling echoed by all the disappointed fans perhaps still sitting in traffic.