|Ed Reed and Dee Milliner can't stop DeAngelo Williams. (AP photo)|
The Jets forced the Panthers to punt on the next series, but the offense couldn't move the ball on the subsequent drive and had to punt it back to Carolina. The Jets decided to go with an extra gunner on the punt team, adding a player with speed to make sure Panthers kick returner Ted Ginn didn't break a big return. By doing that, the Panthers were allowed to have a defensive player line up over the long-snapper.
That decision turned out to be the Jets' undoing not only in the game but perhaps their season as well. Carolina's Jason Williams came through the middle of the line untouched and easily blocked the punt by Ryan Quigley, giving the Panthers the ball at the Jets' 14. Four plays later all the momentum the Jets had built up was gone, as Mike Tolbert scored to push the Panthers' lead to 10.
It took just another six plays for the Jets to completely lose whatever hope they had at winning the game, as Geno Smith threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, putting the score out of reach. It was exactly how this entire season has gone for the Jets. They've come agonizingly close to becoming a playoff contender, only to have everything blow up in their face a short while later.
The Jets made a huge impression on the league after beating the Saints earlier in the year, but answered that with three straight losses. The Jets still haven't won two straight games this year. It's been that kind of season.
The Jets are still mathematically alive in hunt for the final wild cards spot, but can be eliminated if the Ravens beat the Lions Monday night. If Detroit wins, the Jets would go into the final two weeks of the season with a shot, even though it's minuscule at best.
"This one would be Ripley's if we pull this off," Ryan said after the team's playoff chances.
For those fans that want to keep hope despite the depressing loss to the Panthers, here's how the Jets can sneak into the playoffs with an 8-8 record.
First, the Jets need to win both of their remaining games, against Cleveland and Miami. Then, they need the Ravens to lose all three of their games, against Detroit, New England and Cincinnati. They also need Miami to lose to Buffalo next week and have San Diego (which plays Oakland and Kansas City) and Pittsburgh (which plays Green Bay and Cleveland) lose one of their final two games. If all that happens, the Jets will sneak into the postseason.
It's highly unlikely, but at least the season extends one more week if the Lions can beat Baltimore Monday night. A chance is a chance and the Jets and their fans should gladly accept whatever opportunity they have at making the postseason.
But the Jets won't even take care of their own part of that scenario, winning their final two games, if they can't find some kind of offense. Right now, the team has little to no chance at moving the ball with Smith at quarterback and a group of receivers that simply can't play the game at a high level. There isn't a bigger fraud as a No. 1 wide receiver than Santonio Holmes, who's mouth got him into trouble Sunday against Carolina.
It should be no surprise Holmes leads our list of Game Falls as we go in-depth to break down the Jets loss to the Panthers Sunday.
Game FallsSantonio Holmes: He's brought nothing but negative attention to the Jets since signing his undeserved mega contract, thanks to former general manager Mike Tannenbaum. It's one of the reasons why Tannenbaum was fired after last season. Holmes brought out the negative attention leading into this game in Carolina, putting an unnecessary target on the Jets' wide receivers by saying the Panthers defensive backs were the weak link of the defense. It's not hard to see what Holmes meant, as the Panthers front seven is a definite strength, but it doesn't mean it was something that should be said to the media. The Panthers defensive backs used that as extra motivation, and anyone who watched the game could see they all had a chip on their shoulder. "They made a point to let us know on the first drive that they weren't appreciative of the comments and that they were going to make us pay throughout the game," Jets receiver David Nelson said. "On the first series, they were gunning for us." The worst part was Holmes had zero impact on the game. He had two catches for 14 yards. He was targeted eight times. When Holmes made his comments, he had to realize he needed to back up his words. But on the first pass thrown his way early on he dropped it. It was downhill from there. Holmes has done nothing to prove he's the No. 1 receiver he's getting paid to be. The Jets will say goodbye to him in the offseason, something they should have done long ago.
Marty Mornhinweg: The Jets offensive coordinator devised some creative running plays that got the Jets big chunks of yards against the best run defense in the NFL. But the problem was he didn't call enough of them. The Jets ran the ball 28 times for 157 yards, a whopping total against what is supposed to be the best front seven in the league. But Chris Ivory had just 11 carries. Bilal Powell had just eight carries. Those two backs combined for 103 yards with limited touches. In the passing game, the Jets threw the ball 28 times, but none of them were down field. The Jets don't have any playmakers at wide receiver, but there's no reason not to send one on a fly route and let Smith air it out a few times a game. The Jets have nothing to lose, so why not open the playbook and let Smith make some plays? Mornhinweg needs better players for his system, a proven winner, to work. Hopefully he and Rex Ryan are back next year with some better talent.
Brian Winters: He's the weak link on an offensive line that has been poor this season. Winters, at least right now, simply can't play at this level. He was beaten on at least one sack, where Greg Hardy basically pushed him aside like a child and took down Smith. Winters was a high draft pick of new general manager John Idzik, so he's getting the chance to play, even though Vlad Ducasse, for as bad as he is, has to be better. Maybe Winters gets better with experience, but there's little hope he can become a full time starter.
Ed Reed and Dee Milliner: The two defensive backs are on this list together because of one specific play, a 72-yard touchdown from Cam Newton to DeAngelo Williams on a screen pass. Newton faked to his left, and Reed bit on it, leaving him completely out of position at safety when Williams was waiting for the ball on the opposite of the field. To make matters worse, Reed took a horrible angle on the play and completely whiffed on getting a hand on Williams as he ran down the sideline. Milliner was on that side of the field and in position to at least force Williams out of bounds, but the rookie cornerback couldn't shed his block and was pushed all the way down field, being taken completely out of the play, even though Williams ran right past him on his way to the long touchdown. It was a killer for the Jets, who had allowed just two field goals up to that point, with under four minutes to go in the half.
Tanner Purdum and Ryan Quigley: Whether it was because of a coaching decision, or not getting the right blocks at the line of scrimmage, the punt team, with long-snapper Purdum and punter Quigley the main cogs, completely failed at a key moment of the game. When Carolina's Jason Williams came clean through the middle of the line and blocked the punt, the game was over. The Panthers put an end to all the momentum the Jets had created by cutting the deficit to three. It likely ended the Jets' season as well.
Sheldon Richardson: There was no stopping Richardson when the Jets decided to let him run the ball into the end zone at a key point in the game. Richardson, the Jets defensive tackle, rushed twice from the fullback position and scored on the second, getting the Jets within 16-13 after powering his way into the end zone from one yard out. Richardson added four tackles on defense. He might have locked up the defensive rookie of the year award with this performance.
Chris Ivory: He had 66 yards on 11 carries, including a 35-yard run that should have set the tone for a ground and pound attack. But the Jets got away from Ivory, barely giving him an opportunity to make a true impact on the game. Ivory is the best offensive player the Jets have, but he's not being used effectively.
Quinton Coples: His pressure and hit on Cam Newton was the reason momentum changed for the first time in the Jets' favor, coming on a fourth and two play. The Jets scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive. On the game, Coples had five tackles, a sack, two tackles for a loss, a pass defensed and a quarterback hit.