Ryan Fitzpatrick (221650)
Credit: Bill Moore photo

The Steelers fake a field goal on the 35-yard line with about six minutes to go before the end of the first half. It’s a run play. Punter Jordan Berry, holding the ball for the kicker, runs off with it to the right side. The Jets stop them on the 30, short of a first down. There’s also a Steelers’ illegal formation penalty. The Jets have the ball, resulting in a 7-play, 69-yard Jets’ touchdown. A Fitzpatrick to Marshall pass, caught in the end zone, is very aggressively challenged by defender Ross Cockrell. The Jets go on top of the Steelers,13-7, their last score of the game.

At various times during these past two seasons—let’s call it, the Ryan Fitzpatrick era—New York Jets’ losses have been prefaced with “They had a chance to win this game,” or “They could have won this game,” or several other variations of the theme, but Sunday’s 31-13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers is disqualified from the use of the preface.

The 1-4 Jets didn’t compete in the third and fourth quarters. Whether their weaknesses were exposed, or they were just beaten by a far superior 4-1 team, the problems have to be corrected now to make preseason projections of a postseason. 

“We had some critical plays in the second half that we could’ve made, third down stops we could’ve made, third downs we could’ve stopped,” acknowledged Jets’ head coach Todd Bowles. “We have to finish the fourth quarter.”

The Jets must also finish third quarters. Bowles believes that his Jets are playing hard, playing tough and playing smart most of the game. That’s possibly somewhat debatable, but there’s no debate when he says, “We just have to find a way to turn the corner.”

The Jets needed to turn that same corner two games ago in a loss against the Seattle Seahawks at home in Metlife Stadium, and Sunday in Pittsburgh. They have a better opportunity this Sunday playing the 2-3 Arizona Cardinals, a road game, though the Cardinals are a team whose record is somewhat deceptive because of two of this season’s losses: the first one to the New England Patriots and the second to the Los Angeles Rams. Both losses have been by four points or less. The Cardinals are also coming off of a win, a 33-21 road game against the San Francisco 49ers that they played Thursday, giving them 10 days between games.

The Jets’ other star receiver, Eric Decker, is out for the rest of the season, needing rotary cuff surgery. Cornerback Darrelle Revis is day to day, and offensive guard Brian Winters is at the final phase of a concussion. 

MRIs confirm that linebacker David Harris has a sore hamstring and that center Nick Mangold has a sore knee. 

On the field, the Jets’ running game is stagnant. They’re blocking to open up cumulative yardage; runs are problematic. 

Their secondary is limited. Receivers are abusing their defenders. Their defensive front line has slacked up since their seven sack performance against the Cincinnati Bengals in game one, but in their defense, quarterbacks such as Ben Roethlisberger get rid of the ball quicker than others. Sometimes the pressure goes unnoticed. 

And although Fitzpatrick hasn’t thrown an interception since the nine combined earlier this month, one more Jets’ loss will officially start a quarterback controversy. Backup Geno Smith and players in waiting, Bryce Petty and rookie Christian Hackenberg, are vying for the QB position.

With the concerns currently facing this Jets team, Bowles believes in them and in the team’s overall plan.

“I think we have a good plan in place,” he said. “We have a good staff in place, and I think our players, for the most part, are playing tough, hard football right now. It’s just a matter of making some critical changes in the second half [of games], as far as us making plays.”