The New York Jets did their most 'Jets-ian' thing to date this season as they failed to take advantage of prosperity and win a game they should’ve dominated.
Losing on the road to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers isn’t much to be ashamed about on the surface, but considering all the factors that were in Gang Green’s favor heading into this matchup it makes the 15-10 defeat all the more disappointing.
The Bucs were without star wideout Mike Evans (suspension) and starting quarterback Jameis Winston (shoulder) and were forced to start former Jet Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. And while Jets fans were hoping the Bearded One could provide them with gifted soul-crushing turnovers, much like he did when he donned the green and white, Fitzpatrick was actually serviceable. He also received help from a Bucs running game that did just enough to move the chains, as Tampa compiled enough long scoring drives to salt away the game.
Overall, the game was an offensive mess - not a surprise considering the starting quarterbacks were renowned journeymen Josh McCown and Fitzpatrick. But the production was especially putrid as it was a field goal fest for the first three quarters. Tampa held a 9-3 advantage entering the final quarter until Fitzpatrick hit running back Charles Sims III on a six-yard wheel route to give the Bucs its first touchdown of the game. It capped a 15-play, 81-yard drive and essentially put the game away.
A late McCown touchdown pass to Robby Anderson was the saving grace in what was otherwise a dominating performance by the Buccaneers. But the real story was that the Jets (4-6) failed to capitalize on what should’ve been a springboard win for a team that nobody expected to even still be in the AFC Wild Card playoff race this late in the season. Following today’s disappointing performance, however, those slim hopes have now likely been dashed.
McCown went 23-of-39 for 262 yards, one touchdown, and an interception, but most of those completions and yards – and that score -- came when the Bucs (3-6) were allowing soft underneath throws while sitting on a two-score lead.
Running back Matt Forte sat out the game with swelling in his knee and the running game never got on track because of it, as stand-ins Bilal Powell (30 yards) and rookie Elijah McGuire (22 yards) were more spectators than impact players. The Jets’ offense has been inconsistent – and criticized – all season, as it’s been known for being too vanilla and lacking explosive plays. Inopportune penalties also reared themselves, as Gang Green tallied eight of them for 77 yards. Costly mistakes, conservative play calls, and lack of execution have hindered the Jets in each of their six losses, and Sunday was no different.
The leading Jets receiver was Anderson with 85 yards, but 38 of that came on his touchdown reception with 31 seconds remaining. Simply put, despite the close final margin Gang Green failed to provide any firepower to back up an outstanding defensive performance – especially against a Bucs defense that entered the game ranked 28th on defense. Until Anderson’s score, the Jets had more punts (seven) than points – a shocking statistic that proved to be a microcosm of Sunday’s effort.
Now, the Jets head into their bye week with their already tenuous postseason hopes on life support. They’ll return from their break to face a murderous stretch of schedule, beginning with consecutive home dates against the Carolina Panthers and Kansas City Chiefs.
Sunday’s lost opportunity in Tampa will haunt the Jets going forward the rest of this season as they had a chance to finally start to shed their underachieving label and begin to look like an actual factor in the loaded conference.