I know that only baseball matters, but I just watched the NY Jets lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a game in which they had not one, but two attempts at a game-winning field goal inside the two-minute warning. In both instances, the Jets made, at best, a half-hearted effort whatsoever at improving their field position once they made a first down inside the 30-yard line of the Steelers. In both instances, they asked their field goal kicker to make a long field goal, on the road, on real grass, with a frozen ball, in perhaps the most pressure filled circumstances he will ever face in his life.
The first attempt came after the Jets had a first down at the Pittsburgh 37-yard line. After a 4 yard pickup by Curtis Martin, the Jets gained a yard, and then, facing a third and 5, threw incomplete, on a pass that had no chance at all. In fact, the Jets finished the game just 3 for 11 on third down, as they apparently had no idea how to draw up a play that could fool the Steelers even once. Kicker Doug Brien missed the 47-yarder that would have given them the lead inside the two -minute warning.
Ben Rothlisberger then threw his second interception, giving the ball right back to the Jets at the Pitsburgh 36-yard line. The Jets made a first down at the 26-yard line, and then proceeded to run out the clock by running right into the stacked line two times in a row. Then, with 6 seconds left, Pennington inexplicably took a snap and moved the ball back a yard, and left Brien with a 40-yard attempt.
Just last week, in San Diego, Jets head coach Herm Edwards watched as the Chargers faced almost the exact same situation against them. In overtime, with a first down deep into Jets territory, and the Jets defense completely overmatched and exhausted, Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer played not to lose, instead of trying to win. Making no effort to improve his field position, or God forbid, actually score a touchdown, he left his kicker with a precarious 40-yard field goal under the most pressure-filled of circumstances.
Anyway, I just wanted to point out that, contrary to what you will read and hear over the next couple of days about how the Jets lost a tough game because their kicker missed the big one, or how the Steelers were more resilient, or because the Jets were tired from playing three consecutive overtime road games; that’s not what happened. The Jet lost this game because their offensive coordinator and their head coach had no faith in their quarterback, and no creativity or ability to figure out how to gain five yards with the season on the line.
Oh, and by the way, after reading all week long about how important it was to get “game-breaking” running back Lamont Jordan into the flow of the game, Jordan finished with 5 carries and 1 catch for a total of 36 yards.
To me, it’s been clear for weeks that the Jets are a predictable, and quite frankly, poor offensive team. Offensive Coordinator Paul Hackett has been under fire for most of the last two seasons, and I don’t see how he survives this debacle. 277 yards of offense, 3 for 11 on third down, no touchdowns scored in the two games played in Pittsburgh. I’ll throw something else out there. In two games against the best team in the AFC, the Jets didn’t even try to throw the ball in the end zone from inside the 30-yard line. Not one time in, almost 9 quarters of football, did they even try to score a touchdown!
Did the better team win today? Absolutely. The Steelers are way better than the Jets. Should the Jets have won the game anyway? Absolutely. They lost, even though they were the beneficiaries of a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown, an 86-yard interception return for a touchdown, and three turnovers. They lost because Herm Edwards lost his nerve with the game on the line. They lost because they failed to put together a coherent game-plan to utilize their most explosive players, Jordan and Santana Moss, who combined for just 10 offensive touches and just 68 yards. They lost because their offensive line found itself over-matched and overwhelmed all day long by the Steelers front seven. They lost because they were unable to figure out how to score.
They lost a game they should have won, one week after winning a game they should have lost.