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Sunday's game continued a theme of slow starts by the offense, but this time also saw a worryingly flat start by the defense. The Jets gave up 251 yards in the first half, and having previously been one of the league’s best defenses in the red zone, gave up three touchdowns in four Falcons red zone trips.
“We need to look ourselves in the mirror,” said linebacker C.J. Mosley, who noted that the team needs to eliminate mistakes and that they “left a lot of plays out there.”
For much of the game, it seemed like Mosley and Quincy Williams were the only defensive players making any plays, as they combined for 16 tackles and three forced fumbles. However, Mosley was quick not to absolve himself from being included among the players who had some reflecting to do, acknowledging that some of the success of players like Kyle Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson in this game was on him.
What led to the slow start, though? The Jets had meticulously planned their entire trip around sleep patterns and combining rest and relaxation with good nutrition to ensure the team was ready to go on game day. The Jets stayed in their hotel all weekend, other than a trip to the stadium for a Saturday walkthrough, whereas Falcons players were allowed out to do some shopping and sightseeing.
Mosley said the Jets did all the right things and implied that everyone was on board with the plan the organization had put together and suggested the responsibility lay with the players themselves. While acknowledging that fatigue was a factor after enduring an overtime game last weekend, Mosley didn’t want to use this as an excuse and said that the team needed to cut out the penalties and mental mistakes.
The latter were particularly disappointing, especially since Mosley himself had noted on Friday that the team had been sharp in practice and specifically noted that there weren't any mental errors.
The Jets gave the Falcons four first downs via penalty to extend drives, including a controversial roughing the passer call on Williams after a third down incompletion. Nathan Shepherd also had a roughing the passer penalty that tacked 15 yards onto a big Pitts reception to set up the Falcons' second touchdown. The backup defensive lineman has now committed five penalties in the last two games.
It wasn't just penalties that were the issue, though. The Jets also had some missed tackles and there was a busted coverage that saw Lee Smith left uncovered for an easy 22-yard gain to set up Atlanta's first touchdown.
After the game, Mosley and Bryce Hall were both asked if the Jets' defense needs to develop a killer instinct because they were unable to stop Atlanta after the Jets had pulled within three in the fourth quarter. However, they each made it clear that they believe in the system and the attitude and approach of the players they have, but just need to execute better without making mistakes.
Unsurprisingly, Robert Saleh continues to express full confidence in his scheme and players, too, giving plenty of credit to the Falcons for their game plan and execution. Matt Ryan's ability to get the ball out of his hands quickly proved crucial in terms of the Falcons' ability to convert drives.
Saleh's focus over the bye week is going to be working hard to try and come up with something that might prevent the Jets from starting slowly in games. As the Jets have been learning, you can’t play from behind all the time and, having lost four of their first five games, that’s something they’ll need to deal with all year if they still believe they can work their way back into contention.