New York Jets - TeamReport
NFL Team Report - New York Jets - INSIDE SLANT
Things worked out pretty well for head coach Rex Ryan the first time he prematurely eliminated the New York Jets from playoff contention. But even he knows history is not going to repeat itself this time around.
Panthers. "So maybe that's a good thing."
It was a good thing in Week 15 of the 2009 season, when the Jets fell to 7-7 with a 10-7 loss to the Falcons. Afterward, first-year head coach Ryan said the Jets were knocked out of playoff contention, but they still had long-shot hopes -- long-shot hopes that they cashed in on by upsetting the unbeaten Colts in Week 16 while five AFC teams with six or seven losses all lost.
That meant the Jets just had to beat the Bengals -- who had already clinched the AFC North and were resting their regulars -- in Week 17 in order to reach the playoffs, which they did via a 37-0 rout.
This time, alas, the long-shot hopes are considerably longer, and less hopeful. The Jets, who haven't won consecutive games all season, need to beat the Browns and Dolphins in Weeks 16 and 17 while the Ravens and Dolphins lose out and the Steelers and Chargers all lose at least once apiece.
If any of those things fails to happen, the Jets will officially be eliminated from playoff contention for the third straight year. The end could come as soon as Monday night if the Ravens beat the Lions in Detroit.
Whenever the end arrives, the questions about Ryan's future -- he's unsigned beyond next year and working under a first-year general manager in John Idzik -- will only increase in volume and intensity.
"The only thing I know I can do is do the best job I possibly can and keep my focus on the job at hand and not worry about other things," Ryan said Monday.
There will be plenty of time for that -- almost certainly sooner rather than later.
NFL Team Report - New York Jets - NOTES, QUOTES
--The Santonio Holmes Era -- or Error -- is ending in predictable fashion for both the Jets and the mercurial wide receiver.
Holmes provided the Panthers plenty of bulletin board material last Thursday, when he said Carolina's secondary was the weak link of a stout defense. While that may have been technically true -- the Panthers allowed a league-low 79.4 rushing yards per game in their first 13 games -- they weren't exactly getting beat through the air. Entering Sunday, the Panthers were surrendering an average of 217 passing yards per game, the fifth-lowest figure in the NFL.
"Just from a numbers perspective and guys in their position, nothing from my perspective puts those guys in (the elite) category," Holmes said. "It's the way they're ranked throughout the NFL. It's not my perspective."
Suffice to say the Panthers enjoyed the opportunity to alter Holmes' perspective Sunday, when quarterback Geno Smith threw for just 167 yards in the Jets' 30-20 loss. David Nelson said afterward that a Panthers defensive back told him during the Jets' first series -- a possession in which Holmes committed a terrible drop -- that Carolina would be looking to prove Holmes wrong all day.
"They made a point to let us know on the first drive that they weren't appreciative of the comments and that they were going to make us pay throughout the game," Nelson told reporters. "On the first series, they were gunning for us."
Holmes was a complete non-factor Sunday, when he had just two catches for 14 yards and failed to corral a Smith pass that was returned for a touchdown by Captain Munnerlyn in the fourth quarter, but he remained as defiant as ever when asked if he'd made a mistake inspiring the Panthers.
"I'm an eight-year vet," Holmes said. "I wouldn't regret anything."
The Jets surely regret giving Holmes a five-year contract extension worth $45.25 million -- including $24 million guaranteed -- shortly after the 2011 lockout ended. Holmes pouted his way off the field in the season finale that season, when he almost came to blows with tackle Wayne Hunter in the huddle, and has missed 17 games since the start of the 2012 season due to foot and hamstring injuries.
Given his unreliability on and off the field, the Jets' final two games of the season will surely be the final two games in the green and white for Holmes, who is due $14.75 million over the final two years of his contract -- money he'll never see with general manager John Idzik looking to continue his housecleaning efforts next spring.
NFL Team Report - New York Jets - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--WR Saalim Hakim was promoted to the active roster on Friday and made his NFL debut Sunday in the Jets' 30-20 loss to the Panthers. Hakim was on the field for five of the Jets' 62 offensive snaps and had one carry for eight yards. Hakim, who took the roster spot of Stephen Hill, spent time last season on the Rams and Saints practice squads and opened this season on the Saints' practice squad before he was waived on Oct. 4. The Jets signed him six days later.
--TE Jeff Cumberland set a career-high Sunday when he recorded his fourth receiving touchdown of the season in the fourth quarter of the Jets' 30-20 loss to the Panthers. Cumberland, who had three catches for a team-high 50 yards, had three touchdown receptions in his first full NFL season last year. He has 23 catches for 338 yards, which leaves him seven catches and 22 yards shy of breaking last year's figures in each category.
--WR Stephen Hill (knee) was placed on injured reserve last Friday. Hill battled knee issues for weeks before he was declared inactive against the Raiders on Dec. 8. This marks the second straight December in which Hill has been placed on injured reserve. His rookie season came to an end last Dec. 9, when he suffered an LCL sprain against the Jaguars. Hill had 24 catches for 342 yards and a touchdown in 12 games this year but just 11 catches for 109 yards in his last nine games and one catch for two yards in his last four games.
--CB Ellis Lankster (jaw) left in the fourth quarter of the Jets' 30-20 loss to the Panthers. He had one tackle before departing and has four tackles on the season.
--DT Sheldon Richardson (shoulder) was evaluated Sunday night following the Jets' 30-20 loss to the Panthers. Richardson declined to comment on the injury, which he has battled most of the season. Richardson played in 51 of the Jets' 64 snaps on defense. He made a bit of Jets history Sunday, when he rushed for a one-yard touchdown in a 30-20 loss to the Panthers. Richardson is the first Jets defensive tackle to score a touchdown via a carry or a reception. He actually carried the ball on consecutive plays in the third quarter, when he gained one yard on a carry from the 2-yard line before his scoring plunge.
REPORT CARD VS. PANTHERS
PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- On paper, it looked like another wretched outing for Geno Smith, who was 15-of-28 for 167 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Captain Munnerlyn returned the fourth-quarter pick for a touchdown -- the fifth time this year a Smith interception has been returned for a touchdown -- to give the Panthers a 30-13 lead and basically end the Jets' season. But for the second straight week, Smith displayed tangible progress. He did his part to keep the Jets close in the first half, when he played efficient, mistake-free ball in directing the Jets to a pair of field goals that had them tied 6-6 before the defense fell apart and gave up 10 points in the final four minutes. Multi-score deficits on the road have been poison for Smith, but he pulled the Jets within 16-13 in the third quarter by directing a nine-play, 86-yard touchdown drive in which he was 2-for-3 for 48 yards. Smith -- who struggled in garbage time of recent lopsided road losses to the Bengals, Bills and Ravens -- responded to the Munnerlyn interception by displaying some resiliency during a 12-play, 72-yard scoring drive he capped with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Jets rushers did their part to ensure the Jets' run defense would remain the top-ranked unit in the NFL by rushing for 157 yards -- the most surrendered this year by the Panthers -- on just 28 carries. Chris Ivory (11 carries for 66 yards) once again sprinkled in a big run -- a 35-yarder that was his sixth run of at least 25 yards in the last six games -- with a series of short gainers (five carries for two yards or less). Given the success the Jets had against the Panthers, Ivory probably should have gotten a few more carries. Bilal Powell (37 yards on eight carries) exceeded 35 yards for just the second time in the last eight games. Geno Smith (44 yards on six carries) used his legs to create plays for the second straight week. Sheldon Richardson, of all people, scored the Jets' lone rushing touchdown when he pulled a Refrigerator Perry and plunged in from the 1-yard line in the third quarter.
PASS DEFENSE: D -- For once, the Jets avoided getting burned by the deep ball: Panthers wideouts had just one catch of more than 14 yards (Brandon LaFell's 36-yarder in the first quarter, which set up a field goal). But the Jets were absolutely destroyed in the short passing game, most notably on DeAngelo Williams' 72-yard touchdown catch off a screen pass in which he outraced David Harris to the sideline. Ed Reed, once again showing his declining skills, bit on a fake screen pass to the left and could only get a hand on Williams as the much-maligned Dee Milliner was shoved out of the way by LaFell. All in all, it was eerily reminiscent of Shane Vereen's 83-yard touchdown catch off a screen pass on Thanksgiving Night in 2012. Greg Olsen (five catches for 88 yards) became the latest tight end to torch the Jets. Antonio Allen, the Jets' safety best-equipped to handle opposing tight ends, inexplicably saw his playing time slashed again (10 snaps). The secondary did come through early in the third quarter, when it set up the Jets' first touchdown by forcing the Panthers to turn the ball over on downs following three straight Cam Newton incompletions from the Jets' 14-yard-line.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- The Jets' late-season fade continued as the Panthers (131 yards) became the third straight opponent to rush for at least 125 yards. Over the first 11 games, the Jets only allowed one team -- the Bills in Week 3 -- to rush for as many as 120 yards. The Jets didn't give up a run of longer than 14 yards until DeAngelo Williams iced the game with an 18-yard run with two minutes left, but the Panthers pecked away consistently and methodically by gaining at least four yards on 16 of their 36 carries. Williams (81 yards) had at least four yards on 11 of his 15 carries. The Panthers also took advantage of the winded Jets by gaining 20 yards on a pair of end-arounds by Brandon LaFell (six yards) and Ted Ginn (14 yards). The Jets are still limiting opponents to a league-low 3.2 yards per carry (1,205 yards on 378 carries) but that average has risen by nearly half a yard over the last three games as the Jets' hopes of matching the 2006 Vikings and 2007 Ravens as the only teams to limit teams to less than three yards per carry since 2001.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D-minus -- Other than Nick Folk -- who continued his Pro Bowl march by nailing both field goal attempts, including a season-long 54-yarder -- it was a disastrous day for the special teams unit. With the Jets only down 16-13 early in the fourth quarter, Panthers linebacker Jason Williams busted through the line untouched and blocked Ryan Quigley's punt. The Panthers scored the game-clinching touchdown four plays later. The blocked punt capped a tough day for Quigley, who punted three times but exceeded 41 yards just once. Graham Gano's first six kickoffs all reached the end zone, where Kyle Wilson -- and not the inactive Darius Reynaud or Saalim Hakim, who was promoted off the practice squad on Thursday -- took a touchback every time. It was telling that Antonio Cromartie, a week removed from suffering a concussion, returned the final kickoff. Wilson was stopped for no gain on the Jets' lone punt return. Two of Folk's four kickoffs sailed into the end zone, but one was returned 32 yards by Ginn to set up DeAngelo Williams' long touchdown catch.
COACHING: C -- This was yet another loss in which Rex Ryan can't be blamed for the Jets' lack of talent on both sides of the ball. Ryan had the Jets ready to play against a far superior opponent, but their razor-thin margin for error meant the Jets had to be perfect and avoid the mistakes that led to the big plays by DeAngelo Williams and Jason Williams. Marty Mornhinweg drew up another cautious yet flexible game plan for Geno Smith that gave him a chance to utilize his running skills and the opportunity to make some downfield throws.