Rex Ryan’s hot seat got a little bit hotter when the New York Jets (6-8) squandered away a huge opportunity Sunday, losing 30-20 to the (10-4) Carolina Panthers.
The Jets played tough and hung in their against one of the top teams in the NFL, but couldn’t do it for a full 60 minutes. The Jets battled all game and were only down 10 going into the half. The Jets made one mistake in the first half on a Carolina screen pass to DeAngelo Williams that resulted in a 72 yard catch and run touchdown. The Jets answered by keeping the Panthers scoreless in the third quarter and cut the deficit to 3 points.
However, the changing point came in the fourth quarter when the Panthers blocked a Ryan Quigley punt that resulted in a Mike Tolbert touchdown 4 plays later. On the next drive, Geno Smith threw a pick six, and the Jets watched their upset bid fade off into the darkness.
Geno Smith wasn’t impressive but played fundamentally sound on Sunday. Smith was 15-of-28 for 167 yards and a touchdown. Smith also added 44 yards on the ground and besides the one interception protected the ball well. Smith said after the game that he let Rex Ryan down and wanted to finish the game with zero turnovers. Smith will have two weeks to prove he deserves to be the starter next season, whether that’s for Rex Ryan or a new Jets head coach.
The Jets defense did what it does almost every week, play well enough to give the Jets a chance to win the game. The Jets held the Panthers to three field goals in the first half. The first half touchdown pass to DeAngelo Williams was the only mistake the Jets made all day on defense. Mike Tolbert’s 1-yard touchdown was the result of a blocked punt and the Panthers other touchdown was on an interception from Geno Smith. The Jets were physical up front but still allowed 131 yards rushing on the ground. Cam Newton was 7-of-10 for 139 yards and a touchdown against five or more pass rushers proving that the Jets blitz packages were ineffective.
The game changed after the blocked punt on the Jets 14-yard line. The Panthers cashed that gift from the Jets into 7 points and then turned a bad Geno Smith pass into a touchdown. In the matter of five minutes the Jets went from being down 16-13 to being down 30-13.
The Jets didn’t play bad but just happen to make the two mistakes that cost them the football game, and maybe Rex Ryan his job. The Jets are not eliminated from playoff contention yet, but will need a miracle to be playing on Wild Card Weekend. The Jets will host the Cleveland Browns next week in what may be Rex Ryan’s last home game as the head coach of the New York Jets.