Ryan’s Gambles, Tough Calls, & Turnovers Haunt Jets

When New York Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan decided to risk a fake punt on 4th-and-18 from his team’s own 20 yard-line during a scoreless game in the first quarter, he did so believing his defense was good enough to allow at worst, a field goal –- and that his offense would more than make up for that.

It turned out that Ryan was partially right, as the Jets’ defense kept the Green Bay Packers out of the end zone and limited them to just three points after the Jets failed to turn the fake into a first down.

But, the last thing that Ryan ever envisioned at that moment was that the field goal would be the game’s only points until past the halfway point of the fourth quarter.

It was just one of several mistakes that haunted the Jets (5-2) on a day when Gang Green’s offense was frighteningly ineffective, in a 9-0 horrow show of a loss to the Packers (5-3), who won their second straight game on a windy Halloween Sunday afternoon at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

Ryan would make some other decisions later on that would also backfire, but the Jets were also done in by an inability to protect the ball and by a couple of calls that didn’t go their way, like the way you find in online sports betting.

First, there was the faked punt.

With neither offense getting much of anything going early, each team’s punters were the stars of the game, each averaging 50 yards or better in the first quarter, giving each opposing offense poor field position to start their drives in the period.

The one time that didn’t happen however, was when Jets’ punter Steve Weatherford, concluded the Jets’ third possession of the quarter with the aforementioned fake. Weatherford stepped out of bounds at the New York 36 yard-line, with the ball at the 36-and-a-half, about a yard-and-a-half short of the first down marker.

On the next play, Green Bay wide receiver Greg Jennings (6 catches, 81 yards) took a pass over the middle from quarterback Aaron Rodgers (15-34, 170 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 2 sacks, 59.7 rating), and turned it into a 30-yard gain to the Jets’ 6 yard-line.

At the time, no one in the building would have imagined that play would have already been enough to win the game, but in essence it was. The Jets’ defense held through three Packer cracks at a touchdown, but a 20-yard field goal by kicker Mason Crosby with 4:41 left in the first quarter, to give Green Bay a 3-0 lead, would stand up for the rest of the game.

Although the Jets, running 29 times, outgained the Packers 119-81 on the ground, they weren’t able to run quite effectively enough to open up a passing game that like Green Bay’s, was severely affected by the infamous Meadowlands wind which picked Sunday’s holiday to play tricks on both quarterbacks.

The Jets also held an advantage in passing yards (241-156), but aside from the fake punt, their other possessions ended in with five punts, three turnovers, a missed field goal, and two other times that they turned the ball over on downs.

Green Bay wasn’t much better, punting eight times and missing a field goal of their own, despite adding two more fourth-quarter field goals to ice the game.

With the offense struggling to score, the Jets, appropriately for the date, resorted to further trickery, but each time, it wouldn’t work.

Having moved from their own 30 yard-line to the Packers’ 36 yard-line after Green Bay’s first field goal, New York tried to run Brad Smith out of the wildcat offense, but Smith fumbled.

Ryan challenged the call, which was a good one, and Green Bay was correctly awarded possession, which would end in yet another punt, but one that pinned the Jets back at their own 10 yard-line.

It was one of five times on the day that Green Bay punter Tim Masthay, an undrafted rookie out of Kentucky, forced the Jets to start from inside their own 20 yard-line.

New York also began four other possessions between its own 20 and 27 yard-lines.

Later in the second quarter, one play after running back LaDanian Tomlinson (16 rushes for 54 yards) joined Walter Payton as the only two players to ever reach at least 13,000 rushing yards and 4,000 receiving yards in a career, Tomlinson looked to throw off an option run, but that bit of deception didn’t work either, as the Packers covered well and Tomlinson was tackled after only a modest gain.

A few plays later, wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (4 catches, 89 yards) appeared to have a reception at the Green Bay 41 yard-line on what looked like simultaneous possession with cornerback Tramon Williams, with the tie-up going to the offense, as Cotchery went to the ground with 4:48 left in the first half.

The play however, was initially ruled and interception. Ryan challenged the call, which was upheld, thereby leaving New York without a challenge for the remainder of the game.

That played a major factor later on, as a drive that started in the third quarter ended with another questionable Packer interception with 10:34 left in the game.

After going 61 yards on 7 plays only to miss a 37-yard field goal that would have tied the game in the third quarter, the Jets, starting at their own five yard-line on their ensuing possession, moved 48 yards on 10 plays to the Packers’ 37-yard line.

A holding penalty moved the ball back to the Green Bay 47 yard-line before Mark Sanchez (16-38, 256 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT, 2 sacks, 43.3 rating) was intercepted by cornerback Charles Woodson, who ripped the ball from tight end Dustin Keller. Unlike Williams’ play on Cotchery, replays clearly showed the call was missed when Woodson was awarded with the pick and ruled down by contact. Keller should have been ruled down, with possession.

Ah, but remember those two challenges Ryan couldn’t get overturned in the first half? Well, no recourse for that play any longer and to bet on the NFL.

Green Bay turned that fortunate trick into a treat in the form of a 41-yard field goal by Crosby with 6:36 left in the game, to take a 6-0 lead, after going 34 yards on 8 plays.

The Jets then drove from their own 19 yard-line to the Packers’ 37 yard-line, but they turned the ball over on downs with 4:12 to go after Sanchez misfired on three straight passes.

Bothered by the wind, Sanchez accepted blame for his inaccuracy, saying, “Some passes got away from me… we left a lot of completions out there.”

Ryan then began using his time outs perhaps a little too soon, but the Jets couldn’t muster a meaningful drive the next time they had the ball anyway, again turning the ball over on downs at their own 22-yard line with 2:30 remaining.

That led to a 40-yard Crosby field goal with 27 seconds left, to close the scoring.

Although one turnover came on a questionable call and another happened due to a bad call, the three turnovers for the Jets sounded the continuation of an alarming recent trend for New York.

After four straight games without a turnover (to tie an NFL record), and committing just one turnover in their first five games, the Jets turned the ball over three times for the second straight game.

The time off last week might have also affected the Jets’ momentum. While Ryan said, “We were fresher and healthier then we’ve ever been,” the bye week from the week before seemed to slow down what had been one of the NFL’s hottest teams.

After losing their home opener, the Jets reeled off five straight wins before last week’s bye. Now, not only is that streak over, but the Jets have also relinquished their hold on first place in the AFC East to New England (6-1), which is now the league’s hottest team with its own five-game winning streak.

Suffering their first shutout loss since a 10-0 home defeat to Chicago on November 19, 2006, the Jets will look to get back on track against the Lions (2-5) in Detroit next Sunday, at 1pm EST.

In addition to NYSD, Jon Wagner contributes at Pro Football NYC (www.profootballnyc.com) and Giants Football Blog (www.giantsfootballblog.com)

About the Author

Jon Wagner

Jon has been a credentialed writer with New York Sports Day since 2009, primarily covering the New York Knicks and Hofstra men's basketball. He has also occasionally covered other college basketball and New York's pro teams including the Mets, Giants, Jets, Islanders, Rangers and Cosmos (including their three most recent championship seasons).Jon is former Yahoo Sports contributor who previously covered various sports for the Queens Ledger. He's a proud alum of Hofstra University and the Connecticut School of Broadcasting (which he attended on a full scholarship).He remains convinced to this day that John Starks would have won the Knicks a championship in 1994 had Hakeem Olajuwon not blocked Starks' shot in Game 6 of the 1994 NBA Finals.

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