Jets eliminated from playoff contention – “It’s heartbreaking”
SEATTLE — New York Jets quarterback Mike White sat motionless at his locker for several minutes, staring at the game sheets at his feet. Finally, he reached down, picked up the papers, and methodically tore them into tiny pieces — a metaphor for the Jets’ once-promising season.
Their 23-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at Lumen Field was the Jets’ fifth straight loss, eliminating them from playoff contention in an epic meltdown. It extended their postseason drought to 12 straight years, the longest active streak in the NFL and now the longest slump of its kind in franchise history. It also won their seventh consecutive losing season.
“It burns,” White said. “It’s tough. It’s heartbreaking. It’s all of the above. You can use any adjective you want to use to describe it.”
The Jets were 7-4 after a 31-10 loss to the Chicago Bears on Nov. 27 and appeared to be heading for a playoff appearance that shattered the slump. Undermined by a cold offense and quarterback instability, they are now in the midst of perhaps the worst late-season nose crack in team history. The last time they lost that many in a row after game 10 was in 1996, their infamous 1-15 season.
“No one suffers more than the people in the dressing room, especially me,” said coach Robert Saleh. “At the same time I know it’s hard to see light at the end of the tunnel but there are a lot of really cool things to look forward to this season. But right now it stings a lot.”
The Jets (7-9), who posted a 4-13 record in Saleh’s freshman season, shouldn’t be strong playoff contenders in 2022, but they provided one of the biggest surprises with their quick start. Expectations were raised – and everything fell apart.
“We feel drained as players,” said tight end Tyler Conklin. “No one is happy about that. I feel for the fans, I feel for everyone. We wanted that too and we just didn’t play well enough and it hurts. it sucks You know you won’t get an opportunity to change that until next season, which makes it even better.”
Saleh said he will “look at everything from the top down, starting with me of course”. The offense is the most closely investigated. He failed to score a touchdown in the second game in a row. The Jets have averaged just 12 points per game during their five-game losing streak.
“It’s shocking,” White said of the slump — eight quarters without a touchdown.
The Jets had hoped that White’s return to the lineup would provide the spark needed to win the last two games and perhaps sneak into the playoffs. Two wins paired with a New England Patriots loss would have resulted in a wild card spot. But after missing two games with broken ribs, White was rusty and looking uneasy under pressure on Sunday.
White completed just 23 of 46 passes for 240 yards and two interceptions in his fourth start since replacing Zach Wilson on the bench. He was sacked four times and went 3-for-15 with one duress interception, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
He didn’t deny that his ribs could have been a factor in his performance.
“I was cleared to play by the doctors,” he said. “The boys in this dressing room deserve a certain standard. I knew what I was signing up for. I was cleared by the doctors, I’ve been practicing all week. Basically I’m saying there’s a standard these guys deserve. I didn’t meet that standard today.”
Different quarterback, same result.
In their last four games — two with Wilson, two with White — the Jets have scored 12, 17, 3 and 6 points. It sheds a light on offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, whose offense has surpassed 30 points just five times in 33 games. Conklin said they were “flat” at times on Sundays.
“We feel like we screwed up the season,” rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson said when discussing the team in general. “We wanted a chance at the playoffs. I’m pretty sure about it [loss] means we don’t go. After all, that’s what we wanted – and to prove ourselves. We didn’t get there, so we don’t feel good about it at all.”
The Jets were out of the game from the start, falling 17-3 after the defense allowed three straight scoring drives. They never really threatened after that, as LaFleur escaped ground play and White continued to miss. He was 17 to 40 when targeting non-Conklin receivers.
After some fortuitous results last weekend, the Jets were handed an unexpected playoff shot — “a blessing from the football gods,” said cornerback DJ Reed. But they missed their second chance.
“We had high expectations all season and we didn’t live up to them,” said Special Teams captain Justin Hardee. “It’s always disappointing when you don’t take the next step and get into the post-season. We’re going to have a bad taste in our mouths for a long time.”