Rex Ryan said last week that the league sent a memo telling the Jets that they were allowed to win two games in a row. Apparently, he didn’t pass the message along to his team.
The Jets were flying high after their win over the Atlanta Falcons last week, but the Pittsburgh Steelers brought the Jets back down to earth with a bang on Sunday. Pittsburgh confused rookie quarterback Geno Smith, and limited the Jets to just two field goals en route to a 19-6 victory — the Steelers first of the season.
“This was a very disappointing game, not just for ourselves, but for our fans,” Rex Ryan said. “This was the first time we have been beaten at home this season. Give credit to Pittsburgh. They came out and played exactly how we thought they would. We knew they’d be fresh and flying around, and they were. Mike Tomlin does a great job with that team. They outplayed us. We have to play with more consistency.”
The Jets had several early chances to set the tempo for the game, but couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities presented to them. Muhammed Wilkerson had a chance to bring down Ben Roethlisberger in the endzone for a would be safety early in the game, but the Jets defensive end couldn’t bring down the Steelers hulking quarterback, and with a vintage Roethlisberger move, the QB escaped.
“That’s what Ben [Roethlisberger] does. He’s a big, strong guy back there, and I’ve seen him make those plays before,” Ryan said. “If we get that safety there, we’re up 2-0, and those plays usually result in a nine-point turnaround. That wasn’t the case, so it’s hard to say it set the tone for the game.”
The offense also missed out on an early opportunity to set the tone for the game when they couldn’t get into the endzone from inside the Steelers one yard line. In what was always going to be a tight game, Rex Ryan called on the teams sure fire kicker Nick Folk — now 13-13 on the season — to give the Jets a 3-0 lead, instead of going for it on fourth down.
The Steelers broke the game open early in the third quarter by attacking the Jets best defensive back, Antonio Cromartie. Roethlisberger launched a deep pass down the middle of the field to a wide open Emmanuel Sanders, who beat Cromartie one-one-one for a touchdown and a 16-6 lead.
“We were in cover zero. I’m not even worrying about a play-fake,” Cromartie said of the play. “I’m thinking more of a quick gain because of the cover zero that we were in. Thinking about coming in a little quicker but, then they had enough time to get a ball down the field.
Geno Smith had his best game in the NFL last week, as he threw for three touchdowns in a victory over the Falcons. However, against the Steelers, the young quarterback looked hesitant to throw the ball downfield — a skill he has used often during his early career. Smith also threw a pair of costly interceptions in the red-zone, which doomed the Jets offense. Smith finished 19-of-32, 201-yards, and 2 interceptions.
“I think they did a great job just keeping guys in front of them,” Smith said. “They read and recognize plays better than most safeties do so they were able to keep guys in front of them and we had to dink and dunk it slowly matriculate and move the ball down the field, which we did for the most part, and then sometimes once we got down there we had the two turnovers which were bad on my part.”
It wasn’t until the third quarter, with the Jets losing 16-6, that Smith finally injected some life into the offense. He connected with TE Jeff Cumberland for a 29-yard gain, and had the Jets in position for a field goal at the very least. But moments later Smith forced a pass into triple coverage and Steelers safety Ryan Clark intercepted the ball on the one-yard line — the interception was the Steelers first turnover of the season, it wouldn’t be their last.
“I wish I could take back the throw,” Smith said. “It was an attempted throw-away and the guy who I least expected to even get over there and make the play got over there. That’s not to make an excuse. It can’t happen.”
Smith was intercepted in the red-zone for a second time late in the game. Smith targeted Jeff Cumberland, who was open in the middle of the endzone, but the rookie was hit as he threw the ball, which resulted in an easy interception for Steelers LB Lawrence Timmons. The turnover sealed the Jets fate: a 19-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I’ll watch the tape and I’ll learn from it,” Smith said. “Once we get into the next week of practice, I completely put those things behind me because other than those learning experiences that I’ve had plenty of, they really don’t help me going into the next game.”
If the Jets had won the game, they could have been preparing for their upcoming game with the Patriots with a chance to take a share of first place in the AFC East. However, after another stereotypical Jets loss, they are fighting to merely stay relevant.
The Jets will face the Patriots this Sunday (1pm ET KO) at MetLife Stadium.