Jets, Geno Smith fall back to earth in blowout loss
The Jets came down to earth in Week 4, getting blown out by the Titans 38-13. It was a game that got away early from the Jets and continued to spiral out of control.
The Titans capitalized early on the Jets ineptness on offense. On the opening possession of the game, Geno Smith was intercepted by Alterraun Verner and returned 34 yards to the 18-yard line. Five plays later, the Titans were up 7-0 via a Jack Locker 1-yard touchdown pass to Damian Williams. The next drive ended in a three-and-out and set-up a Rob Bironas 26-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
A Nick Folk field goal on the first play of the second quarter made it a 10-3 game but all the momentum quickly went away. On the Jets next possession, Smith failed to secure the ball adequately and was stripped. The Titans again capitalized on good field position from a turnover and made it 17-3 on a Locker 4-yard touchdown pass to Nate Williams.
From there, it got worse with Smith throwing another interception, again picked off by Verner and another Locker touchdown pass giving the Titans a 24-6 lead at halftime. After a Smith fumble in the end zone early in the fourth quarter gave the Titans a 31-6 lead, the rookie rebounded well with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland to make it a 31-13 game and regain a little respect for the Jets.
The Jets came into Nashville looking for their best start under head coach Rex Ryan since they went 3-1 in 2010.
Sunday’s game ends the Jets more manageable part of the season with their three of their next four games against playoff teams from a year ago.
1. Ground and Powell
With Chris Ivory, one of the featured running backs, out with a hamstring injury, the Jets running game continued to show promise even if it lacked depth (and a real opportunity) against the Titans. A week ago, Bilal Powell had a career afternoon rushing the ball and while Sunday’s 14 carries for 66 yards — along with three receptions for 42 yards — wasn’t as gaudy it was the lone bright spot of an offense that sputtered. The Jets get Mike Goodson back from suspension this week which should help the ground game to compensate for their rookie quarterback. Powell ran the ball well and if the Jets didn’t have to abandon the run after getting down early in the first half, he could have had a much bigger day.
2. Smith goes Jekyll & Hyde
After a performance last week against the Bills that showed his promise, Smith reminded everyone he is still very much a rookie. He looked rattled, much like Week 2 when he threw three interceptions at the Patriots. Smith underthrew Stephen Hill on the Jets’ first possession and was intercepted to set up the Titans with their first touchdown. Midway through the second quarter he was easily stripped of the ball to gift the Titans tremendous field position and an eventual 17-3 lead. His second interception, inside the two-minute warning before halftime, was because he threw to the wrong side of Santonio Holmes. Smith completed 23-of-34 passes for 289 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions as well as two fumbles.
3. Secondary struggles
The weak point of the revamped defense was always going to be the secondary, with the Jets trading away the game’s top cornerback in Darrelle Revis and losing their top three safeties from a season ago. They had done well up to this game, but Locker and the Titans wide receivers made them pay. With first round pick Dee Milliner out with hamstring injury, Darrin Walls was inserted into the spot opposite Antonio Cromartie and he struggled mightily. Locker picked apart the Jets secondary, including three first half touchdown passes, a career high for the third year quarterback. Locker was knocked out of the game early in the third quarter but finished an efficient 18-of-24 for 149 yards with three touchdowns. Then a secondary miscue where Cromartie misjudged an underthrown pass (an then ran into the back judge) from backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick with 7:06 left in the fourth quarter
The Big Stat: Last week, the Jets had a franchise-high 20 penalties for 168 yards, a number that caused the coaching staff to focus on reducing penalties this past week during practice. The Jets still had major struggles against Tennessee with 10 penalties for 66 yards.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.