For all the good which came with the Jets surprising early-season success, their late-season swoon is threatening to wipe it away.
In their 35-27 defeat to the Carolina Panthers, the Jets coughed up – literally – a 20-18 fourth quarter lead when Luke Kuechly recovered a Josh McCown fumble and ran it back 34 yards for a touchdown.
The loss all but closed the door on any playoff hopes this season for the Jets. It also impedes on all the talk of growth and progress with this team.
Going into their game against Carolina, the Jets playoff hopes were slim, but that’s mostly due to their inability to close out games.
They’ve now lost five of their last six games and have a moody Kansas City Chiefs team next on the schedule.
In three of those games the Jets blew leads in the fourth quarter. It’s a statistic which is sure to haunt them while sitting at home watching the playoffs.
The Chiefs will come into MetLife Stadium losers of their last three games and also losing their grip on the AFC west division. They’re not going to be in a good mood and the Jets will need to proceed with caution.
The message from head coach Todd Bowles after the loss to Carolina, besides obvious disgust, was three quarters of football isn’t four.
“Self-inflicted wounds,” Bowles started out his postgame press conference with.” You can’t play three quarters of good football and then give away two touchdowns. We had a sack fumble and somebody missed a block, and special teams gave up a touchdown up the middle. We jumped off-sides two times on defense in crucial situations. All of this was in the fourth quarter. You’re not going to beat a good football team like that.”
Bowles clearly placed an emphasis on the fourth quarter, and rightfully so. It’s been the Achilles heel for the Jets all season.
“It’s growing pains – life, games, everything,” said wide receiver Robby Anderson. “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish and that’s where we lacking at. We have to improve in that aspect. We can’t let up those key situations, in those key moments, and give up those plays and make the game easier for them. We can’t do that.”
Anderson seems to get it and Bowles may have to throw a chair across the room in order to make sure the rest of the team gets it. But if the Jets don’t start figuring out how to consistently close out their opponents, and stop beating themselves, the growth we’ve seen this season won’t get the attention it deserves.
The improved play of Anderson is part of that growth, he added two more touchdown catches to his season total, bringing it to seven. He’s caught a touchdown pass in five straight games.
There’s also a future on defense, especially in the secondary with Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams.
Give credit to Bowles and the Jets for getting this far in a season where so little was expected of them. But now that we’ve been teased with the potential of this team, the expectations will grow.
The Jets find themselves now at 4-7 and on the outside of the looking in. They’re not mathematically eliminated yet, but they can put their running shoes up for this playoff race.
“When you win games, you’re a playoff contender,” added Bowles. “When you lose games, you’re not. Right now we’re not a playoff contender. We have to go back to the drawing board.”