New York Jets: Five Reasons for Losing To Steelers in AFC Title Game
Yet again, the Jets fail to make the Super Bowl. This time, their season ended in the most heart breaking of fashion to the Steelers in Pittsburgh, falling a touchdown short of an epic comeback.
The Jets didn't show any life to start the game, and at halftime, they trailed 24-3, looking completely out of the game.
They did attempt what would've been the greatest comeback in Championship Game history, cutting a 24-point deficit to five, before failing to make a defensive stop with under two minutes to go.
The Jets were the better team in the second half, shutting the Steelers out, but there were plenty of reasons they'll be watching Super Bowl XLV. Here are five of those reasons.
Absolutely No Pressure Put On Ben Roethlisberger
The Jets beat the Patriots in the Divisional Round in large part because of the pressure they were able to put on Tom Brady, sacking him five times. Brady only attempted two carries of his own in the game for a total of two yards.
In this AFC title game against the Steelers, the Jets defensive pressure on Ben Roethlisberger was nonexistent. They virtually never got to him in the pocket, allowing him plenty of time to scramble and make plays out of what appeared to be nothing. They even allowed him to run 12 yards on a 3rd-and-12 for a first down.
Inexplicably, the Jets defense allowed Roethlisberger to attempt 11 rushing plays on his own for 21 yards. That, coupled with Rashard Mendenhall's 121 yards rushing was an absolute killer for the Jets.
They only sacked Roethlisberger twice and that was during a three-play span. The Jets defense had great coverage on the Steelers receivers, therefore allowing Heath Miller to go for only 38 yards—the most of any Steelers receiver—but that left the quarterback way too much free space to work with.
Roethlisberger's quarterback rating was only 35.5, but he and Mendenhall's rushing helped the team score enough points to win the game.
Allowing Nine-Minute Opening Drive Touchdown to Steelers
This may have doomed the Jets for the rest of the game. After saying all week that they wouldn't suffer a letdown from beating the Patriots, the Jets allowed the Steelers to score a touchdown on the opening drive of the game that took over nine minutes to complete. That just can't happen at any point, and especially when trying to start the game on the right foot.
Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense looked unstoppable to begin the game and throughout the entire first half.
The initial 15-play drive featured Rashard Mendenhall on eight of the plays, including a one-yard touchdown run to cap it off. The Jets defense had no answers right from the beginning, giving up huge plays and allowing Mendenhall to run all over them and right through everyone.
The drive really took a huge amount of life right out of the Jets and it wasn't until after halftime that they regrouped. Unfortunately, it was a matter of too little, too late.
Jets Lack of Answers In The First Half
Although the defense wasn't doing its job, Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense didn't show up in the first half either. Every time the Steelers scored—mostly all touchdowns—the Jets would give the ball right back without even taking time off the clock.
Maybe the offense stalled and could never get going as a result of the nine-minute opening drive the Steelers had. The weather was ice cold, feeling like it was below zero, and Sanchez had to spend the first 27 minutes of the game on the sideline.
But, that isn't an excuse in the biggest game of the season. The entire team on both sides just didn't come to play until it was too late.
Things were looking good for the Jets offense to start, as Sanchez converted on a 3rd-and-10 on a 14-yard pass to Jerricho Cotchery. Although three more first downs would be converted, the Jets had to punt on the opening drive and the next two drives to start the game.
Then in the second quarter came a costly fumble from Sanchez, allowing William Gay to strip him and take it back to the end zone, making it 24-0 Steelers.
The lack of any energy from the Jets offense is why they trailed by 24, without a half having been completed yet. The flat start to the game on both ends is what ultimately cost the Jets the AFC title.
Failing to Score a Touchdown On 1st and Goal From The Two
If only one more yard was gained during this possession, the Jets would've had the seven additional points necessary to pull out the victory. It was the most annoying and agonizing drive of the entire season for the Jets as midway through the fourth quarter, they wasted a 17-play, eight-minute drive, attempting to come within a touchdown of tying the game.
The Jets, trailing 24-10 with plenty of momentum, had a first and goal at the two-yard line. With four shots at getting into the end zone and plenty of weapons to use, they failed to do it.
This was by far Brian Schottenheimer's worst play calling sequence as Jets offensive coordinator. You'd figure with talent such as Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson, those two would attempt all four plays, but instead, Schottenheimer went with two pass plays in between.
After Greene rushed one yard to the Steelers one-yard line, Sanchez passed the ball to Dustin Keller who dropped it in the end zone, and Santonio Holmes who never had a chance with the ball having been batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Then, with the season on the line in all likelihood, the older Tomlinson attempted to run it in instead of the fresher Greene. He ran up the middle for no gain, and that ended an atrocious goal-line effort by Schottenheimer and the Jets.
All four plays should have been Shonn Greene rushes and passing was a terrible call, especially with no room to work.
This is the type of drive in the biggest game of the season that should get the offensive coordinator fired. Rex Ryan already said Schottenheimer is returning next season, but he better not bring that offensive play calling sequence with him to training camp. If nothing else, hopefully a lesson was learned.
If the Jets score seven there, they obviously win the game by two points.
Defense Not Allowing Sanchez Chance at Game-Winning Drive
After the devastating non-touchdown conversion on 1st-and-Goal from the two, the Jets did record a safety and subsequent touchdown to pull within 24-19. They did take a little too much time when scoring their touchdown, not going for the no-huddle and acting as if they only needed one touchdown to tie the game.
But, they had a good chance of getting the ball back for the final shot at an amazing victory. They gave the ball back to the Steelers with 3:06 to go in the game, needing big plays from their defense.
After all, the Jets defense is all head coach Rex Ryan ever worries about. He always believes in them and always expects them to get the job done. That's why he always defers the opening coin toss in order to allow his defense on the field first. He needed them to come through more than ever and they just couldn't do it.
The Steelers had a 1st-and-10 at the Jets 44-yard line and the Jets did a good job for the first two plays at not allowing the first down.
Then, the Jets had a must-stop on a 3rd-and-6 with under two minutes to go and no timeouts left. Roethlisberger decided to pass the ball and the Jets appeared to have him trapped near the sideline. Unfortunately, he threw a pass to Antonio Brown who tumbled to make a clean catch for a 14-yard gain, officially ending the Jets season.
Rex Ryan immediately threw his headset off in disgust, knowing that his vaunted defense couldn't make the biggest stop of the season.
Mark Sanchez had been so hot and efficient throughout the second half that he may have took his team down field for the victory had he got the ball back.
It's something we'll never know and that's what may stick with Jets fans for the entire offseason.