In the world of basketball and Schoolhouse Rock, three is a magic number. Alas, it's a tragic number in the NFL; every field goal you kick is one step closer to your defeat.
Just ask the touchdown-challenged New York Jets.
Rex Ryan's crew had its regular-season dress rehearsal Sunday night on national TV, but once again the offense wasn't ready for prime time. New York fell to visiting Carolina 17-12, and in the process extended its summer-long touchdown drought to an incredible 37 possessions (at least Kevin Smith can laugh about it). New York has been held to seven field goals in its 0-3 start, outscored 60-21.
"Looks like we're saving all of our touchdowns for the regular season," Mark Sanchez offered, by way of explanation, to NBC's Michele Tafoya. Sanchez isn't scheduled to play in next week's final preseason game.
To be fair, Sanchez probably played better Sunday than his final numbers (11 for 18, 123 yards, 6.8 YPA, one sack, one interception) would indicate. Four of his six drives (not counting the aborted possession right before the half) led to field-goal attempts, and the Jets had three extended marches on his watch. The pick wasn't Sanchez's fault at all — rookie Stephen Hill dropped a perfectly thrown pass, giving the Panthers a gift turnover — and as usual, there was no significant boost from the running game (Shonn Greene, a gaping-hole runner if there ever was one, made just 47 yards on his 13 rushes). Sanchez also had to make do without tight end Dustin Keller, who tweaked a hamstring on the opening drive.
The big failure of the offense came in the middle of the second quarter, when a Cam Newton fumble set up the Jets at the Carolina 12-yard line. Surely this would be where the Jets finally broke the seal and busted into the end zone. The Panthers supplied the first 5 yards via penalty, but the Jets stalled out quickly and had to settle for another field goal.
There were some positive signs for Gang Green. Other than the horrendous drop, Hill actually looked good (five catches, 68 yards) and might be the team's No. 2 wideout in two weeks. New right tackle Austin Howard had a smooth debut, much appreciated after the Wayne Hunter horror show from earlier weeks. Santonio Holmes didn't do much (one reception, 8 yards), but at least he was on the field, running around, taking a hit here and there. He's been battling a laundry list of injuries (back, ribs and hamstring) this summer. And the defense has been decent all month, to no one's surprise.
That's the 2012 Jets so far, in a nutshell — Top 5 defense, Big Ten offense.
The Tim Tebow appearance was a rerun, and it didn't really go anywhere. He was scattershot with his arm (4 for 14, 55 yards, one awful pick) and occasionally exciting with his legs (five carries, 45 yards). His pocket awareness left a lot to be desired (three sacks). Tebow tried to throw across his body a few times, a habit the Jets need to cure him of as soon as possible.
There's a convenient way for Jets apologists to spin these dog days of August. Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano is keeping things vanilla; he's holding back the best plays in reserve. No nifty formations and shifting yet. No gadget packages for Tebow yet.
You can accept that explanation at face value if you want. Maybe Sparano is sitting on the best part of the playbook. And maybe O.J. Simpson is out trying to find the real killers. And just maybe Matthew Perry's latest inane comedy is saving the best jokes for next month.
But on my clipboard, I have to conclude the dress rehearsal was a bomb. Anyone interested in opening-night tickets?