The New York Jets were trailing the Baltimore Ravens by just a point with no time outs left and time running down. Facing a 4th-down-and-10 from their own 31 yard-line, the Jets desperately needed to keep their final drive going and get into field goal range for a potential game-winning kick.
That’s when quarterback Mark Sanchez found tight end Dustin Keller wide open on a short pass in the right flat.
Keller made the catch and alertly hustled out of bounds to try to save the Jets some precious seconds on the clock.
There was just one problem.
Although Keller was all alone and could have easily turned up field for an extra yard or two before heading for the sidelines, he brain locked, and stepped out one yard short of the first down marker with 36 seconds left in the game.
It was a very fitting end to a frustratingly inept night for New York’s offense during a 10-9 loss in the Jets’ New Meadowlands Stadium opener before 78,127 in attendance and a Monday Night Football national television audience.
As unbelievable as Keller’s inattention to detail at the most crucial of moments was, consider some of what took place for the Jets’ offense over the course of the entire game:
- The Jets tied their franchise low for first downs (6) and two of those came in the final 6:13 of the game.
- The Ravens ran more plays (75) than the number of yards passed for (74) by Sanchez (who was 10 of 21 with neither a pick nor a touchdown).
- New York amassed just 60 net passing yards (their fewest since 2006) and ran just 44 plays (their fewest since 2005), while controlling the clock for only 21:28 to Baltimore’s 38:32.
- No Jet caught more than two passes, and wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery’s 13-yard catch at the end of the third quarter was the Jets’ lone pass play that went for double digit yardage.
- Although the Jets outrushed the Ravens 116-49, they gained just 176 total yards while negating much of that with 14 penalties for a total of 125 yards (their most penalty yards since 1988). Ten of those penalties, for 100 yards, came in the first half.
- While Baltimore converted 11 of 19 third downs, the Jets failed to convert on their first nine, going 1-for-11 on third downs and converting their first third down attempt with just 1:03 left in the game.
- The Jets failed to score a touchdown and couldn’t reach double digits in points despite the Ravens committing three of the game’s four turnovers and the Jets starting inside Baltimore’s 40 yard-line four different times.
Of course, Jets fans should have seen all of this coming very early, after Gang Green’s defense gave the Jets’ offense a golden opportunity on the Ravens’ first play from scrimmage.
After Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco (20-38, 248 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT) found himself crunched in a Shaun Ellis and Bryan Thomas sandwich, nose tackle Sione Pouha recovered the first of his two fumbles in the opening quarter.
So, what did the Jets do, starting their second possession from the Ravens’ 11-yard line?
They gained a whole six yards on three plays and settled for a 3-0 lead 4:06 into the game on a 23-yard field goal from kicker Nick Folk.
Holding the ball for 9:11, Baltimore then drove 48 yards on 14 plays, but came away with nothing when running back Willis McGahee was stripped and Pouha came away with his second fumble recovery.
Following that, each team traded punts until the Jets got a 32-yard punt return from Jim Leonhard to the Ravens’ 37 yard-line. Once again though, the Jets stalled after getting as far as the Baltimore 10-yard line, and a Folk field goal from 28 yards out gave the Jets a 6-0 lead with 8:16 left in the half.
The Ravens then drove to the Jets’ 20-yard line, but Flacco was intercepted near the Jets’ end zone along the left sideline by newcomer Antonio Cromartie, who recorded his first pick as a Jet and returned the ball 66 yards to the Baltimore 31 yard-line.
Two plays later though, running back Shonn Greene fumbled to spoil another great chance for the Jets.
Baltimore took advantage of that mistake, going 76 yards on 11 plays in 4:09, to take its first lead, 7-6, on a one-yard touchdown plunge by McGahee with six seconds left in the opening half.
The drive was kept alive twice by Jet mistakes. First, Braylon Edwards ran into kicker Billy Cundiff on a field goal attempt, and three plays later, rookie cornerback Kyle Wilson was flagged for pass interference in the end zone on a 3rd-and-10 play from the Jets’ 22 yard-line.
Again, the teams traded punts at the start of the third quarter before the Ravens embarked on the game’s longest drive, travelling 85 yards in 9 plays from their own 8-yard line in 4:30, extending their lead to 10-6 on a Cundiff 25-yard field goal with 7:07 remaining in the third quarter.
Two key plays on the drive were completions of 38 and 27 yards, each from Flacco to wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who had a great debut as a Raven after spending seven seasons in Arizona.
Though the Jets’ defense performed well overall (limiting the Ravens to 282 total yards), it was torched by Boldin, who had game highs of seven receptions and 110 yards.
The way the Jets’ offense and the Ravens’ defense were playing, the slim margin the Ravens held with still over 22 minutes left in the game, proved to be insurmountable for New York.
After Leonard again set the Jets up nicely with a 22-yard punt return to the Ravens’ 35-yard line, the New York could only muster five yards on three plays, settling for a 48-yard field goal by Folk that hooked inside the right upright with 11:59 left in the game, to trim the Ravens’ lead to what eventually became the final score of 10-9.
It’s of course just one game, and as we saw last season, a team can see a lot of peaks and valleys between its season opener and Week 17. Remember, last year’s Jets began 3-0 and then went 4-7, before winning four straight to position themselves two quarters from the Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
However, when you do as much talking and boasting as Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan does, you don’t want to be humbled during your first ever game in your new stadium with an undisciplined, mistake-filled performance that was far from making Jets’ fans believe in Ryan’s earlier words that the Jets “expect to win every week.”
In that regard, the Jets will get a quick chance to redeem themselves in front of their home crowd and possibly win their first game at the New Meadowlands, when they host New England (1-0), on Sunday, at 4:15pm EST.
However, for openers, the Jets were supposed to back up all of their talk from HBO’s “Hard Knocks series. Instead, Jet Nation saw a version of different HBO show, as in the Ravens’ curbing the Jets’ enthusiasm.