Just three weeks ago, the injury-plagued New York Jets were saving their season, coming off of an easy win over playoff contender Indianapolis and were poised to take over first place in the AFC East with an apparent upset of division rival New England on the road.
But, the Jets (3-6) let that game in New England slip away, and two bad losses later (by a combined score of 58-16), the same is happening to their season after a 28-7 road loss to the Seattle Seahawks (5-4), who nearly doubled New York in yardage (363-185).
In a fitting microcosm of their difficult 2012 campaign, the Jets were inside the Seahawks’ ten-yard line and looking to take a lead early in the second quarter, when quarterback Mark Sanchez (nine-for-22, 124 yards, one interception, three sacks) threw a costly interception.
New York never entered the red zone again, and its offense never found the end zone throughout the game, as Seattle scored the final 21 points to send the Jets’ season into a continued tailspin.
Able to move the ball on its opening drive, New York went 35 yards on 11 plays, but running back Shonn Greene (15 carries, 58 yards) was stopped on fourth-and-one at the Seahawks’ 41-yard line.
Just two plays later, quarterback David Wilson (12-for-19, 188 yards, two touchdowns) completed an 18-yard pass which set up the next play – a 38-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to wide receiver Golden Tate (two catches, 51 yards, one touchdown), who made a nice leaping grab in traffic along the left sideline, inside the five-yard line, before falling into the end zone to give Seattle a 7-0 lead with 8:01 left in the first quarter.
The teams then traded three punts (with the Jets kicking twice) before New York’s defense tied up the game when defensive end Mike DeVito (five tackles, three solo, one sack) sacked Wilson and caused a fumble that was scooped up for a game-tying 21-yard touchdown by defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (seven tackles, four solo, one fumble recovery) with 2:50 to go in the period.
After recovering and scoring on that fumble, Wilkerson forced another one on Seattle’s next possession, when he separated the ball from running back Marshawn Lynch (27 carries, 127 yards, one touchdown) and linebacker Calvin Pace (two tackles, one fumble recovery) recovered at the Jets’ 38-yard line.
Embarking on its best drive of the game after that, New York moved to the Seahawks’ six-yard line on the strength of a 43-yard completion from Sanchez to wide receiver Jeremy Kerley, who led the Jets with five catches and 57 receiving yards.
But, telegraphing a pass for tight end Dustin Keller (three catches, 47 yards) on third-and-goal, Sanchez was intercepted by cornerback Richard Sherman (three tackles, one sack, three pass deflections, one interception, one forced fumble).
Wilson fumbled after being sacked at the Seattle three-yard line just three plays later, but the Seahawks recovered and punted. New York couldn’t take advantage of good field position however, as it went three-and-out.
The Seahawks did as well on their next drive, but Kerley muffed a punt that was recovered by Seattle at the Jets’ 42-yard line, and three plays later, Wilson completed to Lynch for 27 yards to eventually lead to a one-yard touchdown run by Lynch that put the Seahawks up for good, 14-7, with 2:04 remaining in the half.
Each team punted twice to begin the third quarter before Wilson capped a seven-play, 84-yard drive spanning the third and fourth quarters, with a 31-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Sidney Rice (two catches, 54 yards, two touchdowns), to extend Seattle’s lead to 21-7, with 1:27 gone in the final quarter.
Sherman and Rice both hurt New York again when Sherman sacked Sanchez and forced a fumble at the Seahawks’ 46-yard line on the Jets’ next possession, which resulted in a trick play with Tate closing the scoring on a 23-yard touchdown pass to Rice with 7:59 left in the game.
And, just like that, in a span of only three weeks, New York has gone from having a great shot at being in first place, to having virtually no margin for error the rest of the way to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Needing to realistically lose no more than one game or possibly having to run the table over their final seven games, the Jets will get another crack at New England on Thanksgiving night in two weeks, but first comes a trip to St. Louis (3-5-1), which will host New York at 1pm ET next Sunday after playing San Francisco to the NFL’s first tie in four years.