For the second time in a year, the Jets embarrassed themselves in Nashville. They were routed 38-13 by the Tennessee Titans today and fell to 2-2 on the season after being eliminated from playoff contention in an ugly game there last December.
On the surface, a score like that looks like the Jets defense collapsed, but it was Geno Smith and the offense that were culpable for 28 of those points. It was just one of those games.
The first half was hideous. Geno Smith threw two interceptions and fumbled the football, which led directly to 21 points. The Jets defense was trapped in their own half of the field.
Smith’s first interception was a pass intended for Stephen Hill that was underthrown. Hill was hit with the crown of a defender’s helmet in the head on the play. He left the game and didn’t return. The second was a badly forced pass to Santonio Holmes. That led to a touchdown in the last seconds of the half. The fumble happened when Smith took off with the ball but didn’t protect it. It was tomahawk chopped out of his hand as he ran for the sideline. It took a typically anti-Jets bounce – backwards towards the Jets endzone and not out of bounds.
Titans quarterback Jake Locker left the game early in the second half when he somehow injured his hip. It’s unclear exactly what happened to Locker’s lower body after he was hit in chest by Mo Wilkerson. Nothing obvious showed on the replay.
Things didn’t get better for the Jets in the second half either, although the defense did play better when they weren’t constantly confined to a short field. Smith fumbled the ball off his own butt on his own 1 yard line – possibly trying to secure the football or do a little behind the back razzle-dazzle – which meant Tennessee recovered the fumble in the endzone for a touchdown. It also might have caused Dan Dierdorf, who was calling the game, to have a series of small strokes.
The Titans scored another touchdown on a long pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick when, after Nate Washington caught the pass, he and cornerback Antonio Cromartie collided with the ref, who tripped up Cromartie. He couldn’t get off the ground, and Washington ran in for touchdown untouched.
Smith finished the game 23 for 34 for 289 yards with one touchdown, two very costly interceptions, two very costly fumbles, and a quarterback rating of 79.2. He was also sacked five times for 50 yards. The Jets one touchdown came on a 34 yard pass to tight end Jeff Cumberland in the fourth quarter. Nick Folk netted two field goals. A lone spot on the offense was running back Bilal Powell, who had 14 carries for 66 yards.
Anyone coming into this season knew there were going to be some rough games with Geno Smith at the helm. He was raw and was coming in earlier than the Jets probably would have preferred. He is a rookie, but the turnovers, particularly the ones like the last two, have to stop. There’s no reason to force throws into coverage as tight as the coverage on Holmes. There’s no reason to try to flip the ball to your other hand behind your back. In Smith’s defense, he was clearly rattled by that time, and it’s hard to blame him, because the offensive line didn’t do its job, but ball security needs to be priority number one in practice this week.
While the Jets did not have as bad a game as last week in terms of penalties – that would have been difficult – they still had discipline issues, racking up 10 penalties for 66 yards. Last week they had 20 penalties for 168 yards.
Aside from some obvious concerns about Smith and the offense, an emerging concern is the kick return game. It’s hard to return kickoffs in the NFL these days, because the kickoff spot has been moved so far up, but the Jets don’t seem to return punts at all. Jeremy Kerley returned punts for a grand total of 7 yards today. That’s 3.5 yards per punt return. The Jets rarely start outside their own 20, and Kerley has no idea what to do with punts inside the 10. In a league where field position is critical and in a year where the Jets offense needs all the help it can get, the Jets should start looking into finding a way to upgrade on special teams.
The Jets travel to Atlanta next week to play the Falcons for a Monday night game. Kickoff is at 8:40.