Is it too late to Suck for Sam?
For the first time in their feel-good season, the New York Jets on Sunday resembled a team in tank mode. They were non-competitive from the outset, lost quarterback Josh McCown to a potential season-ending broken left hand and generally stunk up the joint in a 23-0 loss to the hapless Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field.
This was troubling on several levels.
With a chance to hang around in the wild-card chase, albeit as a long shot, the Jets delivered one of the worst offensive performances in team history. It was their first shutout loss since October of 2014 at San Diego, as they failed to reach the red zone, ran only six plays in Denver territory and managed only 100 total yards.
You read it correctly: only 100 yards, the second-lowest total in franchise history. In Joe Namath's final game, Dec. 12, 1976, the Jets managed only 72 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals. The McCown-Bryce Petty offense managed only one passing first down, the fewest by any team since 2010.
Playoff aspirations? Tell me another joke. The Jets looked more like a team in contention for the No. 1 overall draft pick (likely Sam Darnold?) than an actual contender. To call it a "clunker" would be an insult to clunkers.
"They outcoached us, they outplayed us and they out-hit us," coach Todd Bowles said. "They beat us in every phase."
McCown contributed to the mess with two early turnovers. For the first time in his renaissance season, the 38-year-old quarterback looked ... well, old. Now he may not play in the final three games, depending on the outcome of additional tests. He's the heart and soul of the team, and the Jets would greatly miss his on-field leadership.
Bowles is prepared to start Bryce Petty (you could almost hear Jets fans cheering), which can't be the most comforting thought for a coach fighting for his job. In his season debut, Petty (2-for-9, 14 yards) provided no spark whatsoever, missing open receivers on easy throws.
"Some of it was rust and some of it was missed timing," Bowles said. "When you don't play all year and you go in there, sometimes you're not razor sharp. It happens."
This was a bad job by Bowles, who had done a terrific job of keeping the Jets (5-8) competitive for 12 games. In fact, they had five losses by eight points or fewer. You have to go back to Week 2 at Oakland to find a game where they were out of it by the fourth quarter.
This time, they were flat from the beginning. The offense had no plan, their wide receivers Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse were afterthoughts, the defense committed dumb penalties and Bowles contributed with some curious clock management at the end of the first half.
That they lost to the Broncos (4-9), who had lost eight straight, is inexcusable. This was the second time the Jets followed an emotional win with a dud on the road. They did it last month in Tampa, later claiming they learned their lesson. They vowed to not let it happen again, but they did the same thing against the Broncos.
They're 1-5 on the road.
"Overall, we don't come out with the same energy that we do at home games," defensive end Leonard Williams said.
Next up are the New Orleans Saints on the road. With an uncertain quarterback situation, and with a team not mature enough to win in tough environments, the Jets could be staring at another ugly loss.
This season could be getting away from them.