Defensive breakdowns, special teams miscues and a few costly throws from Geno Smith cost the Jets the win in the fourth quarter. The game was relatively close for most of the game, but a blocked punt and a pick-six killed any chance of a Jets comeback.
Now, the Jets face the harsh reality that there will almost certainly be no playoffs this year. These final two games will consist of players and coaches working to stay employed.
Here are the takeaways from this week's loss to the Panthers.
Another week, another iffy performance from Geno Smith. While he made some nice throws and made some nice scrambles with his feet, he was simply too inconsistent to give the Jets a chance against a very good Panther defense.
Completing just 15 of 28 passes for 167 yards, Smith was at his worst when under pressure, particularly against the blitz. He took four sacks and failed to get rid of the ball on time on several more occasions.
With just two games left on the season, Geno is running out of time to convince the Jets that he is the quarterback of the future. Iffy performances like this only makes it easier for the Jets to be back in the quarterback market next season.
What started out as handshakes and smiles has turned into a nightmare for the Jets. Since signing to the Jets as a free agent after the bye week, Ed Reed has made a lot more mistakes than interceptions.
Inexplicably back in his role as a starter, Ed Reed was fooled badly on a long screen pass to DeAngelo Williams. The Panthers were hardly afraid to throw in his direction all night long.
It is one thing for Ed Reed to give up plays because he is slowing down, but to make mental mistakes is inexcusable for such a savvy veteran.
Ed Reed was at his best last week in a rotational third-down role. If the Jets are going to get anything out of Reed over the next two weeks, they need to use him in that role rather than as a starter.
So far, the Jets' special teams groups have been solid—but their breakdowns may have cost the Jets a chance to stay alive in the playoff race on Sunday.
The blocked punt was the most egregious error, as a Panthers player was able to easily run through the line to block a fourth-quarter punt and steal the momentum. This has not been a problem for the Jets this season, but the timing could not have been much worse.
Throw in a few coverage breakdowns, miserable "returns" from Kyle Wilson and an embarrassing onside kick attempt, and this was a forgettable afternoon for Ben Kotwica's unit.
Still, it wasn't all bad for the Jets. After all, they were able to keep the score down for most of the game thanks to some outstanding play form their young defensive linemen, most notably from rookie Sheldon Richardson.
Richardson will receive most of his (well-deserved) attention because he scored a touchdown on a short running play, but he was even more valuable as a run-stuffer and a pass-rusher.
He did not get a sack, but he recorded a lot of pressures. His most impressive play came when he chased down Cam Newton from behind to stop a first-down conversion.
Because of his position, Sheldon Richardson may not earn the award, but he should be the clear-cut front-runner based on his play in the trenches.
While the Jets' pass protection was not a total disaster—there were several instances in which Geno was given plenty of time to make big plays—they still have a lot of trouble countering blitzes.
A bulk of the blame falls on Geno himself, as there were a few occasions in which he failed to get rid of the ball quickly against a blitz. He needs to improve on getting the ball to his hot read within a couple of seconds as opposed to try and run away from pressure in a hopeless situation.
There are a lot of situations in which Geno had no chance as well, but the Jets need their quarterback to develop a sense of pressure and make opposing teams pay for their aggressiveness.
Otherwise, opposing teams are going to keep sending the heat until the Jets prove they can beat the blitz.
While it is difficult to pinpoint one player as the root cause of the Jets' offensive problems, rookie left guard Brian Winters deserves as much blame as anyone for their offensive woes.
Winters was beat routinely in simple one-on-one situations, and not because Geno was taking too long to get rid of the ball. Winters was beat right off the snap, killing plays before they even had a chance.
Thrown into the starting lineup for developmental purposes in Week 5, Winters has caused a lot of protection issues for the Jets over the past two months.
While there is no point in taking him out of the starting lineup just yet, with the season all but over, the Jets have to wonder what their season may have been like had they left Vladimir Ducasse in at left guard.
It does not take a brainiac to derive that the Jets are a better team with Jeremy Kerley in the lineup, but it is a mystery as to why he was completely removed from the game plan this week.
One of Geno Smith's favorite third-down targets, Kerley did not make a single catch until the fourth quarter (against a relaxed defense in garbage time). The Jets, who struggled to sustain drives all afternoon, desperately missed Kerley's presence over the middle on third downs.
If the Jets offense is going to be successful, they need to get more from Jeremy Kerley to bail out their young quarterback in difficult situations.
Just a few days removed from calling the Panthers' secondary the "weak link" in their defense, it appears as if karma caught up with Santonio Holmes for his controversial comments about the opponent.
Jeremy Kerley only caught one pass, but his day was nowhere near as disappointing as Holmes'. For all of his talk, Holmes finished with just two catches for 14 yards, dropping a slew of passes (including at least one touchdown) in the process.
Because of his bloated contract, Holmes' future as a Jet was bleak already—but games like this have all but cemented his future as a former member of the team.
More than anything, Sunday's game proved that the Jets need an entire re-shuffling of their receiving corps from top to bottom, starting with their No. 1 target.