Lichtenstein: New Year, Same Old Jets' Offensive Offense

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If any of you were expecting Adam Gase to undergo some sort of conversion therapy during the offseason to shock modern football into his system, I present to you the Jets’ hideous 27-17 loss in Sunday’s season opener in Buffalo that was nowhere as close as the final score suggested.

During his Thursday press conference, the Jets coach insisted that last season’s lousy offensive performance, which saw Gang Green rank last or second-to-last in the NFL in most categories, should be flushed down the toilet.

“I mean, (the offense) was absolutely atrocious,” Gase said. “Everything last year, just throw it out. All the stats were terrible.”

Oh, if it were only as simple as turning a page.

Feel free to call it one game versus a superior opponent, but so much of what went wrong for this team a year ago remained pervasive in Buffalo. It’s systemic, with Gase having little understanding of how winning teams manage games.

I’ve outlined many of his flawed principles in the past: the conservative play-calling, the devotion to the “11” personnel package (one running back, one tight end) despite the Jets’ obvious wide receiver depth problem, and overall playing not to lose. It was all on display on Sunday.

Of course, Gase, in his postgame interview, denied any correlation with last season, despite the data showing the Jets consistently in second and third-and-long situations on Sunday.

I get that Gase is not responsible for poor execution like throwing and catching, and Darnold in particular bears a ton of responsibility for coming out of the gate with a slew of off-target passes. He went 2-for-8 for 9 yards in the first quarter despite having at least three seconds to throw on six of those attempts, per ESPN.com.

However, didn’t Gase supposedly ride into town last season as a quarterback whisperer, with legend Peyton Manning’s blessing? If so, why does Darnold still all too often look like a rookie in his third season, taking a delay of game penalty after a kickoff, running out of bounds for a five-yard loss when a throwaway was available, and, most egregiously, heaving a prayer down the middle of the field across his body that was intercepted?

That the Jets were still “in it” until the fourth quarter was a statistical anomaly. By all rights, the Bills cost themselves as many as 20 points, with two Josh Allen fumbles as they were driving deep into Jets territory and two very makeable field goal shanks from kicker Tyler Bass.

Gase, however, made sure the Jets got no closer. With New York near midfield in the final minute of the first half, you could tell he was playing for a field goal despite a 21-0 deficit. Gase burned his last timeout with 47 seconds remaining, a poor clock management decision considering the previous play was a quick pass that took just five seconds. The Jets got to Buffalo’s 18-yard line with 17 seconds remaining, but Darnold threw a short pass over the middle to Jamison Crowder.
With no timeouts, all Darnold could do was spike the ball to allow for a Sam Ficken field goal. Ah, the euphoria of going into halftime with three points instead of zero.

In the second half, the Jets did grab some momentum on a 69-yard Crowder catch-and-run touchdown, but a costly Chris Herndon fumble set up a Bass field goal to put Buffalo ahead 24-10 in the fourth quarter.

With ten minutes to go, you’d think the Jets would show some urgency. Nope, Gase actually called a second-and-10 between-the-tackles run for Frank Gore that gained two yards, and then had Darnold huddle before his third-down pass overshot Chris Hogan. The Jets wouldn’t get the ball back until they were down three scores with 3:15 left.

Gase wasn’t the only Jets coach to have a less-than-stellar day. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had a rough go trying to figure out a way to contain the often-erratic Allen, who gashed New York for a career-high 312 yards passing with two touchdowns, and another 57 yards rushing with another score. In the first half, he was pressured just four times in 26 dropbacks, per ESPN.com. Safety Marcus Maye (ten tackles, two sacks, forced fumble, two pass breakups) was a sole bright spot on a defense that committed seven penalties, three on third downs that prevented them from getting off the field. Defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, last year’s third-overall draft pick, had almost as many fouls (two) as tackles (three). Free agent acquisition Pierre Desir, who was expected to handle the top cornerback slot, was benched in the second quarter in favor of Nate Hairston.

Still, it was the stench from Gase’s offense that proved most foul. Before a garbage-time touchdown drive, the Jets had amassed a whopping 184 yards.

That’s not going to get it done on most days. Unfortunately, we have 15 more of them, with the “home” opener versus Super Bowl runner-up San Francisco up next. Sure, there are going to be games where an opponent less well-rounded than Buffalo comes to the stadium lacking enough of the proper mindset and/or its starting quarterback to allow the Jets to escape with a few wins. That’s how they got seven last season, including six in the final eight games.

But what did that accomplish? Gase is still the head coach, Darnold isn’t progressing, and, in a twist on Yogi Berra, the new season will be over for all practical purposes before it’s over.

Nothing has changed.

For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Devils and Jets, follow Steve on Twitter: @SteveLichtenst1

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