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Defeat in Dallas
We’re back to our regular scheduled programming this week here on TJW. Last week’s holiday was fun, but going away with two kids is significantly more tiring than going away with one kid, lesson learned.
Last night was a really tough game to watch. It’s important not to overreact to one game, but I think it showed how far the Jets still have to go if they hope to be real challengers. They won’t face Dallas every week, but if they want to make some noise when it matters, they’re going to have to compete with rosters like the one they saw last night.
Let’s get straight into it.
Let’s break this down into two halves
The Jets got off to perhaps the worst possible start on defence as they allowed Dallas to stroll 75 yards on 12 plays to open the scoring on the first drive of the game. I’ve yet to watch the game back but Jermaine Johnson appeared to be held on a key 3rd down conversion for Dak, but this is the NFL and this is Jerry Jones, you don’t get a lot of friendly calls on the road against the Cowboys.
On offence, it wasn’t much better to start the game. Breece Hall got blown up in the backfield thanks to a C.J. Uzomah, and after a positive Wilson completion, the Jets line failed to communicate and Micah Parson’s came through basically untouched to sack the QB. On a stunt, you have to communicate, but McGovern had his man, Laken had gone across the formation which left a wide pen gap to exploit. Zach also had his head ripped off.
Brutal series to start any game of football.
At the end of the first quarter, Dallas led 7-0. It represented the 9th game in a row where the Jets had not scored a first-quarter touchdown.
It took until Dak Prescott’s 14th pass for the Jets to force an incompletion, and that was based on a Tony Adams safety blitz.
Fundamentally the Jets were all over the shop, out-coached, out-played and out-called by Mike McCarthy and the Dallas Cowboys offense who kept the defense unbalanced. Throw in a number of missed tackles and some questionable soft coverages with miscommunication issues, and it could have been a lot worse early. But the defence slowly started to find their feet. The pressure started to get home.
On offence, they seemed to lack any game plan or structure. Duane Brown was consistently left on an island against Micah Parsons, never a good idea. No TE help, no RB chips, nothing to slow down one of the premier pass-rushers in the NFL. The best tackles in football struggle against Parsons, so why not gameplan some help for a 38-year-old who missed the entire pre-season?
"The protection is the protection. Whatever is called, you gotta do your job. It just wasn’t an ideal game to be in, having to drop back so much, and he made some great plays." - Duane Brow on why they didn’t double Parsons.
Then after Garrett Wilson reminded Zach on the sideline that sometimes you just need to give him a shot, the two connected on a 68-yard score. An outstanding play-call and Wilson wins those man-on-man matchups 99% of the time. The jets were in 12 personnel, looked as though they were running and boom.
Then you talk about margins. Following a momentum-shifting play like the one above, you need to follow that up with a defensive stop. It’s complementary football, well the Jets won’t be winning any politeness prizes today. Here’s everything that happened on that Dallas drive.
Sauce Gardner dropped INT that would have been a pick-6.
JFM roughing the passer (BS call) which extended the drive.
Brandin Echols pass interference (correct call) which extended the drive.
Micheal Clemons roughing the passer (BS call) which had no impact but to annoy me about the lack of quality in the officiating crews around football.
"I gotta make those plays because I’m not getting too many opportunities to get the ball, so the ones I get I do gotta make the play. The pick that I dropped, I was thinking about scoring more than catching the ball." - Sauce
If that wasn’t bad enough, the Jets lost Tony Adams, Jordan Whitehead and Michael Carter II to injuries, then Quincy Williams went down in the second half.
Then Zach showed some real life, doing what he should do more of…running. Dallas plays a ton of man-to-man coverage, and it took the Jets a while to figure out if you have an athletic QB, defences who play a ton of man-to-man are susceptible to the run. That 2 minute drive at the end of the first half was excellent time management, had it not been for a Demarcus Lawrence pinky, Zach would have found Wilson for another TD.
Considering the Cowboys had 45 plays to 24 for the Jets and dominated time of possession from 20:16 to 9:44, it was nice to only be down by 8.
Unfortunately, that was as good as it got for the Jets and Wilson.
I’m not sure I’ve seen a worse half of offensive football for a long time, four turnovers on the last five possessions for the Jets, three Zach Wilson interceptions and one Dalvin Cook fumble.
Here’s what I’ll say, the Jets couldn’t do anything up front against a dominant Dallas defensive line, they rushed for just 64 yards all night. Cook and Hall combined for just 16 yards on 8 carries. When you can’t run the ball, it makes defending the pass all that much easier.
But Zach was awful in that second half and Robert Saleh deflecting the blame may be something he should do as a head coach, but it’s getting a little tiring to hear:
"I thought he did a nice job," Saleh said. "Obviously, late in the game, he had to force the ball to make something happen and, obviously, it didn't go our way. There was a miscommunication on one of his interceptions with him and the back. They have a hell of a front.
"He did a really nice job in the pocket, extending plays, scrambling. He had a couple of nice off-schedule plays. It just wasn't good enough."
It wasn’t all on Zach by any means, but when you throw for 76 yards in the second half with your team down by one score, complete 44.4% of your passes on the night and throw 3 interceptions…you didn’t do a ‘nice job’.
You know what I’m going to say because I say it all the time. My opinion of Zach won’t change until he shows he can complete passes under pressure. Last night he completed 2 of 13 passes while pressured, 15.4%. Last week I believe it was 1-5 but he got away with it.
A lot of the pressure is obviously on the blockers up front, but this is where you miss someone like Aaron Rodgers who can identify where the pressure is coming from and communicate that to his blockers. Without that, it’s going to be hard. The Jets didn’t block Micah Parsons all night, 2 sacks and 9 pressures for the Dallas man, and I actually thought it was more.
Of all the things that frustrated me about this game, the Jets game-planning was certainly one of them. For some reason, Nathaniel Hackett and the Jets constantly ran to the left, despite their two best run-blockers being on the right side of the line
Breece Hall tweeted and then deleted this, but he was obviously unhappy with how he was used with the star RB only getting 4 carries all night.
“I only had four touches, that’s why we struggled. It is what it is. We just got down early today and just abandoned the run”
“I feel like with any team, when that stuff happens, that’s how it is. You feel like you gotta get back into the game and everything”
But it wasn’t just the running game. Mecole Hardman, the Jet’s fastest player was a side note, for some reason they didn’t think getting Hardman the ball was a good idea.
I will say that in my eyes, Connor McGovern had a really bad game last night. The worst offensive lineman on the field, I don’t know how many pressures he allowed, but if it’s below 4 I’d be surprised. For a centre, that’s awful. With Joe Tippmann waiting in the wings, he can’t have too many more of those.
It’s important not to overreact to one game, especially a game on the road against what looks like a Super Bowl calibre roster.
There is a fair amount of blame to pass around, but above all, I think this is on the coaching staff. They were simply out-coached by a more experienced man in Mike McCarthy.
But I do think this showed the ceiling that Zach has this year, against good teams like the Cowboys the QB will be asked to make some tough plays in some tough situations against some tough defences, right now Zach has not shown the ability to do that.
It was also interesting hearing Sauce talk after the game, he obviously owned that pick-6 which is great to see, but there was also some discussion as to whether he should have been shadowing Lamb.
The Dallas receiver caught 11 passes for 143 yards and it would have been more had the Cowboys not been able to coast for most of the second half. Sauce allowed 4 receptions on 5 targets, but only 18 yards. Physically he matched up well with Lamb and I don’t think a single catch by Lamb was on Sauce. Jets coaches don’t believe in shadowing, but maybe they should think about it going forward.
I do think there are some worrying concerns with the game plan right now. Breece not getting the ball, the play of the offensive line, the rushing direction mentioned above. The Jets have a lot of work to do before they start making everyone a believer without Rodgers behind centre.
The Jets didn’t throw a pass over 20 yards against the Bills and Wilson was 0-4 on such throws last night against Dallas. When you can stack the box and not worry about the deep ball, you make it very easy for the defence to defend.
Next week the Jets will face the old nemesis and you better believe that the Patriots will load the box to try and stop the run to force Wilson to beat them through the air.
We need to chalk this one up to a bad night at the office, and like my man Ted Lasso says, we all need to be goldfish…meaning we need to forget quickly.
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