New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles stands on the sidelines in the second half against the New England Patriots in week 6 of the NFL at MetLife Stadium on October 15 in East Rutherford, N.J. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- NFL players look forward to the bye week because it allows them to take a short vacation, or spend a few days at home or visiting their alma mater.
Unfortunately for the New York Jets, they played Sunday's game in Tampa as if they already had one foot out the door heading for the break.
Bye weeks also give players a chance to rest and heal, something the Jets need to do after the Buccaneers beat them up in a game head coach Todd Bowles likened to a 12-round prize fight his team lost by unanimous decision.
"You gotta show up every week in this league or you get it handed to you," Bowles said after the game. "We didn't show up today."
The Jets (4-6) are seemingly the embodiment of an old NFL cliche that says the hardest thing for a young team to learn is how to win on the road.
New York is 1-4 away from home, with the lone win coming against winless Cleveland by only three points. In five home games, the Jets have outscored their opponents 114-96, but they've been outscored 126-87 on the road.
Still, outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said that after 10 games, "that young crap is out the window."
"We can't use that as an excuse anymore," he added.
Maybe he's right.
It's true the Jets are one of the younger teams in the league. Their 53-man roster coming out of training camp was the sixth-youngest in the league, with an average age of just over 25 1/2 years old.
And eight of the 10 youngest teams at the beginning of the season currently have losing records.
But the Rams were the second-youngest -- plus they have a 31-year-old head coach -- and they're leading the NFC West at 7-2.
Also, the Jets' loss on Sunday could be blamed more on the veterans than young players.
The offensive line -- Kelvin Beachum, James Carpenter, Wesley Johnson, Brian Winters and Brandon Shell, from left to right -- has an average of nearly five years of NFL experience per player, but was victimized by a Bucs pass rush that had a league-low eight sacks coming into the game.
Tampa Bay had six sacks on Sunday by six different players and eight more hits on quarterback Josh McCown.
"We had a bust here and there, we missed a few blocks," Bowles said about the O-line during his Monday conference call. "We didn't play well as a group."
The 38-year-old McCown was another veteran who didn't play well. He had his first interception since Week 7 in Miami and failed to complete 60 percent of his passes for the first time all season.
Seven-year vet Bilal Powell was also a goat. As the feature back with Matt Forte out with a knee injury, the 29-year-old Powell rushed for only 30 yards on 10 carries and had a key fumble with the Jets down 6-3 late in the third quarter that led to a Tampa Bay field goal.
And it wasn't only the veterans on offense who let the Jets down.
On the Bucs' only touchdown of the game, Charles Sims zoomed past six-year pro Demario Davis coming out of the backfield and Sims skated into the end zone untouched.
And Buster Skrine, who is in his seventh NFL season and just last week said penalties "don't bother" him, was flagged for another one, unnecessary roughness. The 28-year-old has now been flagged 11 times in nine games.
Bowles even had his defensive backs practice last week with tennis balls in their hands so they wouldn't get as "handsy," as he put it on Monday. But it didn't seem to work.
The team that showed up Sunday was certainly not the same one that demolished the Bills two Thursdays ago. Maybe the Jets, in addition to resting, can find their identity during the bye week. Bowles said they'll be in for work Monday and Tuesday and then be off until next Monday.
"We're 4-6, it's been inconsistent up and down," Bowles said Monday. "We've had some good games and some games we'd like to have back, yesterday being one of them."
--At 4-6, the Jets are in last place in the AFC East and 10th place in the conference, so the playoffs are a long shot, at best. That said, head coach Todd Bowles isn't willing to pull the plug on starting quarterback Josh McCown just yet.
When asked during his Monday conference call if there was a scenario, other than an injury to McCown, when he might want to play Bryce Petty, in his third season with the Jets, or second-year man Christian Hackenberg, Bowles said: "I'm not coming up with a scenario right now. We're gonna play the games and we're gonna try to win each one, and take them one at a time and Josh will be our quarterback."
The 38-year-old McCown is 13th in the league in passer rating among qualified players, better than prominent quarterbacks like Derek Carr, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton. His touchdown pass to Robby Anderson on Sunday was his 14th of the season, a career high, but he also threw his eighth interception. He's been sacked 32 times, which is second most in the league behind Jacoby Brissett of the Colts.
Petty, the 26-year-old former fourth-round pick out of Baylor, had three touchdowns and seven interceptions in six games last season, including four starts. The 22-year-old Hackenberg, a second-round pick out of Penn State in 2015, has yet to see the field in a regular-season game.
--With Jeremy Kerley suspended until the Jets' Week 15 game in New Orleans, the offense is in need of another playmaker.
Robby Anderson has been the team's most consistent weapon, with touchdown catches in four straight games, and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins continued his strong play with six catches for 67 yards on Sunday. But Jermaine Kearse has had more than 38 receiving yards only once in the last seven games, and rookies ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen have yet to be fully ingratiated in the offense.
Stewart, a third-round pick out of Alabama, tweaked his groin last week at practice and was used sparingly on Sunday, while Hansen, a fourth-round selection out of Cal, played 48 snaps and made his first three career catches for 33 yards.
"They did OK," Bowles said about his rookie receivers on Monday. "They got their feet wet with a little more playing time. They can do a little more, but they did fine. They fared well."
NOTES: CB Morris Claiborne, who didn't play two Thursdays ago against the Bills, left Sunday's game in the first quarter after aggravating his foot injury. On Monday, head coach Todd Bowles said he didn't have an update on Claiborne's condition, but said he didn't think "it was any worse than it was the other week." ... RB Matt Forte missed Sunday's game due to swelling in his surgically-repaired knee and head coach Todd Bowles said Monday he had "not yet" received an update from the training staff on if the 31-year-old can play in two weeks against the Panthers.
REPORT CARD VS. BUCCANEERS
--PASSING OFFENSE: D - The Jets would have received a failing mark in this category had Robby Anderson not caught a touchdown pass for the fourth straight game. Josh McCown was sacked six times by a team that had eight sacks all season coming into the game, and he played his worst game since Week 1 in Buffalo. He failed to complete 60 percent of his passes for the first time this season (23-of-39), he had his worst passer rating since the season-opener (77.1) and the Jets were only 4-for-17 on third- and fourth-down conversions.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: F - Aside from a 21-yard run in the first quarter, Bilal Powell had nine carries for nine yards and a crucial fumble late in the third quarter after his only pass reception. Coming into the game, Powell had fumbled only five times, losing one, in 805 offensive touches. Elijah McGuire also had a subpar game, with 22 yards on eight carries.
--PASS DEFENSE: C - The Jets get graded a bit harsher because the Bucs were without leading receiver Mike Evans. Though Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for only 187 yards, the secondary had some trouble with the speed of DeSean Jackson (six catches for 82 yards) and rookie Chris Godwin (career-high five catches and 68 yards). Reserve corner Darryl Roberts, filling in for the injured Morris Claiborne, had the Jets' 10th interception of the season and the first of his career. But they allowed their 20th touchdown pass, which is tied with the Giants for the most in the league. The Jets had six pass deflections, but failed to get off the field on third downs, as Tampa Bay had scoring drives of 17, 15, nine and seven plays.
--RUSH DEFENSE: B - The good news is that the Jets held the Bucs to 90 yards on 31 carries, including only 51 on 20 attempts for Doug Martin. But, as has been the issue with the Jets all season, one or two big runs in crucial moments spoil the whole day. This time it was a 21-yard rush on a toss to Charles Sims on third-and-15 in the fourth quarter to keep the Bucs' only touchdown drive of the day going.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: B - Chandler Catanzaro hit a 47-yard field goal and is now 16-for-20 on field-goal tries. He also hasn't missed any of his 21 extra points. Lachlan Edwards averaged more than 50 yards per punt, but the Jets let Bernard Reedy shake loose for a 44-yard punt return. JoJo Natson had a 24-yard kickoff return in an otherwise nondescript NFL debut.
--COACHING: D - Penalties continue to be a problem, as the Jets were called for eight for 77 yards on Sunday and are now second worst in the NFL with 81 accepted penalties against them. But this loss went beyond the stat sheet. Head coach Todd Bowles has had his team prepared to play in every game ... except this one. Known for their hot starts this season, the Jets sputtered from the get-go against an undermanned, and unimpressive, Bucs team, and seemed to be lethargic. Maybe they were feeling themselves a bit too much after their prime-time win over the Bills two Thursdays ago. Either way, it's going to be hard for them to string together wins in the last six weeks with a very tough schedule that includes three division leaders (Patriots, Chiefs, Saints) plus the Panthers, who were 6-3 going into Monday night's game against the Dolphins.