Todd Bowles speaks with a brutal bottom-line honesty that can be tough to take for sensitive souls searching for excuses to explain the Jets’ miserable 1-3 start. He knows that none of this is acceptable.
His team has reached the watershed moment of their season much sooner than he had hoped thanks to a parade of gaffes. For all of the interceptions and big defensive breakdowns that have stained the first month, Bowles is most disturbed by a lack of a killer instinct in crunch time.
“Even with those (mistakes), we’re in the game,” a candid Bowles told the Daily News in the run-up to a pivotal road test against the Steelers on Sunday. “We’re not getting blown out. Somehow in the fourth quarter, we press. Plays that we run correctly in the first three quarters, we don’t execute them in the fourth quarter on either side of the ball. We just have to learn how to finish. We have to learn how to win all over again. Last year was last year. We have to learn how to win again this year.”
Jets head coach Todd Bowles says his team isn’t executing on both sides of the ball in crunch time.
(Aaron M. Sprecher/AP)
The Jets have entered the fourth quarter trailing three times by four, 14 and seven points. So, Bowles is right. They crumble in money time, which reflects poorly on everyone.
His thorough examination of the first quarter of the season includes himself. The man in the mirror isn’t immune to the current state of affairs. Accountability has always been one of Bowles most admirable traits.
“I haven’t done a good job,” he said. “Your record says what kind of coach you are… We’re 1-3, so by no means have I done a good job in my mind. I don’t think I did a good job at 10-6. You learn some things as you go, but you have to learn things while you win, not while you become 1-3. We’ve made some major mistakes. That doesn’t mean you give up on your team.”
Work ethic isn’t a concern in his locker room. So, it’s incumbent upon the coaching staff to find creative ways to counter the errors that have plagued the team. Players, of course, must take ownership too.
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s early woes are just one of the problems facing Todd Bowles’ 1-3 Jets.
(Al Bello/Getty Images)
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 10 interceptions have headlined the Jets’ offensive struggles. His nine picks, including seven in the fourth quarter, in back-to-back losses to the Chiefs and Seahawks have been backbreakers.
Bowles smartly is ignoring the nonsense to bench Fitzpatrick for Geno Smith, but realizes the veteran must reverse course quickly for the Jets to have any chance to avoid drowning before Halloween.
“He can’t put the game on his shoulders and try to be Superman,” Bowles said of Fitzpatrick. “If it’s not there, it’s not there. Whether we take the sack or we throw it out of bounds or we punt and move on, ball security is what wins in this league. The big difference between last year’s first quarter and this year’s first quarter is that we got a ton of turnovers (in 2015). And this year, we gave up a bunch of turnovers. That’s really the 3-1 and 1-3 scenario when you break it all down.”
The Jets have been overly careless with the ball this season. Their 13 giveaways through four games (10 interceptions, three lost fumbles) is nearly twice as many as they had at this point last season (seven).
Bowles’ defense was much more opportunistic a year ago with 13 takeaways to help the Jets win three of their first four games. This season: three takeaways (two interceptions, one fumble recovery).
The swing from a plus-6 to minus-11 turnover margin reflects in the record.
The leaky secondary has been an equally troublesome storyline. The Jets have allowed a league-high seven completions of at least 40 yards, including four for touchdowns. Only the Falcons and Raiders have allowed more 20-plus yard completions than the Jets’ 17. Opposing quarterbacks have a 116.5 passer rating, second highest in the league.
Although Bowles maintained that “I’m fine with our personnel” across the board, there’s little doubt that his defensive backs need to correct the litany of errors that have cropped up so far.
Players have repeatedly cited “miscommunication” as the crux of the problem.
Bowles called that B.S.
The truth: Brain cramps by one player (a different one each time) is the cause.
“You say miscommunication, because you don’t want to throw anybody under the bus, if you want to be honest,” Bowles said. “But when it’s repped in practice and carried over to the game — and it’s only one person and it’s a mental bust — there really is no communication needed. Because he knows. He understands his job. He understands where he’s supposed to be. And for some reason we have a Fubar, or a f–k up, whatever you want to call it. So we say ‘miscommunication.’ But in football talk, ‘miscommunication’ (means) you don’t throw anybody under the bus.”
“You try to remind everybody (of their responsibilities) and it just goes blank for some reason,” Bowles said of the inordinate number of mental busts. “They play real hard and the energy is good. It’s just awareness… You work at it as a coach, as a player, as a team and you try to get them together to make sure this puzzle fits without them being timid. You don’t want to spook them into, ‘I’m just going to play deep on every play.’ So it’s a fine line… We’re attacking it. We’re not shying away from it. And I guarantee that we’ll get better at it.”
The Jets wrap up their treacherous six-game stretch to start the season with back-to-back road tests against playoff teams from a year ago. So far, Bowles’ team is 0-3 against teams that made the postseason in 2015.
“You just need that one play — that one game — to change the course of your season,” wide receiver Brandon Marshall told the News. “We’ve proven that we can play with playoff teams, but we haven’t proven that we can beat them. So it would be great for us to get a staple win and start that whole flywheel effect. We really need a win.”
Bowles knows it’s a critical juncture. He’s seen games lost early in the second quarter. Seasons can be lost early in the second quarter too.
“I trust our team,” Bowles said. “I believe in our team.”
It’s time for his team to be worthy of that trust and belief.
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JETS (1-3) AT STEELERS (3-1), HEINZ FIELD, 1 PM
LINE: Steelers by 7
OVER/UNDER: 48 1/2
TV: Ch. 2 (Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts)
RADIO: ESPN 98.7 FM (Bob Wischusen and Marty Lyons); in Spanish on WEPN 1050 AM (Clemson Smith-Muniz, Oscar Benitez)
FORECAST: Plenty of sun. High 63°, Low 44°; Chance of rain: 3%
JETS HOT READ: CB Juston Burris
Darrelle Revis , the Jets’ No. 1 cornerback, is almost certainly going to be out Sunday. He’s officially listed as doubtful, and Todd Bowles said Revis will be a game-time decision. But Revis didn’t practice at all this week, and as of Friday, he hadn’t even attempted to run at full speed.
So an already-reeling secondary, which has allowed a reception of 40 or more yards in each of its four games, will be forced to turn to cornerback Juston Burris , a rookie fourth-round pick out of N.C. State who has played 23 defensive snaps in his brief career. Coaches have raved about Burris’ athleticism and build — he’s 6-1, 221 pounds — as well as his short memory.
Whenever he made mistakes in training camp, Burris stepped right back up to the challenge. The practice field is different than game day, though. Burris will play on the outside in the Jets’ nickel package, with Buster Skrine in the slot and Marcus Williams on the opposite side.
TRAINING ROOM: WR Eric Decker (shoulder), RG Brian Winters (concussion), QB Bryce Petty (shoulder), and TE Braedon Bowman (knee) are OUT. CB Darrelle Revis (hamstring) and WR Jalin Marshall (shoulder) are DOUBTFUL. WR Quincy (knee) is QUESTIONABLE.
STEELERS HOT READ: WR Sammie Coates
Between Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams, second-year wide receiver Sammie Coates, a former third-round pick out of Auburn, can be somewhat of an afterthought when dissecting the Steelers’ offense.
But the Jets can’t afford to overlook Coates this Sunday. The 6-1, 212-pound wideout caught a career-high six passes in Pittsburgh’s dominant victory over the Chiefs last Sunday night. He ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at the 2015 NFL Combine, and he’s developing into one of Roethlisberger’s favorite vertical threats. For the season, Coates is averaging 21.7 yards per catch, which is fourth best in the league. And he’ll be playing against a Jets secondary that has been susceptible to long completions because of repeated busted coverages and purported miscommunications.
With all eyes on Brown, Coates could be the true difference maker at receiver for the Steelers this weekend as they welcome Gang Green to Heinz Field.
TRAINING ROOM: CB Justin Gilbert (knee), T Marcus Gilbert (ankle), S Robert Golden (hamstring), CB Senquez Golson (foot), T Ryan Harrison (shin), RB Roosevelt Nix (back), WR Eli Rogers (toe), LB Ryan Shazier (knee) and C Cody Wallace (knee) are OUT.
With Daniel Popper
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News