The Jets' 3-game winning streak came to an end on Sunday when the Gang Green once again failed to execute in a big game and fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 17-6. If this was the game that was supposed to show us whether this Jets team was a real contender, it clearly showed that the 2004 New York Jets were not there just yet. When the game was over and done with, we once again saw the same old Jets - the team that failed to capitalize on the opportunities it had, failed to make big plays, and made numerous mental errors.
The first costly mistake was made by QB Chad Pennington when he badly missed his intended receiver and threw the ball directly to a Pittsburgh defensive back, basically putting the struggling Steelers' offense in field goal range. The Steelers took a 3-0 lead, and seeing how badly both offenses looked in the first quarter, it was quite obvious at this point that in such defensive struggle every scoring play could decide the outcome. Both teams punted on their next possessions, and then when it seemed like the Jets' offense finally got on track, it was the officials who stopped New York's advance with a few questionable calls. First, RB LaMont Jordan's 29-yard run that would have put the Jets in field goal range was nullified on a very questionable holding call. Then, about two minutes later, a Jets' fumble recovery was called back on yet another absurd call when CB Donnie Abraham was penalized for illegal contact. Later in the second quarter, when the Jets finally found themselves in field goal range, they were driven back by yet another questionable call. This time it was offensive pass interference on WR Santana Moss.
The Jets finally made a big play on their first possession in the second half when Pennington connected with WR Justin McCareins on a 43-yard bomb. Two minutes later PK Doug Brien kicked a 43-yard field goal, tying the score at three apiece. On the next Pittsburgh's drive S Reggie Tongue intercepted rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger and returned the ball close to midfield. The Jets found themselves in excellent field position with the momentum on their side. The Gang Green, however, once again failed to capitalize on this excellent opportunity. Two run plays were followed by an incomplete pass and the momentum went straight back to the Steelers. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, just wasn't going to let their chances slip away. On the next possession the Steelers sustained an 8-play, 80-yard drive that was concluded with a gutsy, unexpected touchdown pass by RB Jerome Bettis. The Jets tried to make a comeback but were limited to another field goal, making the score 10-6. There was still plenty of time left in the 4th quarter and all the Jets needed was a defensive stop to get the ball back and make another attempt to crack the Steelers' defense. This was the time, however, when the Jets made yet another costly mistake. On a third and four the Jets' defense, that had looked very solid throughout the entire game, gave up a 46-yard bomb that instantly put the Steelers in field goal range and basically eliminated any chance for a possible comeback. If the 47-yard bomb wasn't enough, the humiliation continued three plays later when RB Jerome Bettis easily scored on a 12-yard TD run, making the score 17-6.
QB Chad Pennington once again looked quite unimpressive in an important game - 17 of 31, 189 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT and an abysmal quarterback rating of 33.6. RB Curtis Martin was limited to just 3.0 yards per carry. He gained 72 yards on 24 carries. WR Justin McCareins led the receivers with 4 catches for 78 yards.
Rookie MLB Jonathan Vilma made the team-high 8 tackles (2 solo). DE Bryan Thomas, who started in place of injured John Abraham, also recorded 8 tackles (5 solo). DE Shaun Ellis recorded 1.5 sacks and 5 tackles (4 solo). S Reggie Tongue and CB Donnie Abraham had one interception apiece.
Next Sunday the Jets will face another formidable opponent - the Seattle Seahawks (7-6). Can the Jets rebound and still make the Wild Card? Yes, but only if they start capitalizing on opportunities and stop making mental errors. The kickoff is at 1:00PM EST.