It wasn't so much that the Jets lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, it's how they did it that was bothersome. Cautious and conservative, this wasn't the same team that walked into the Georgia Dome and upset the Atlanta Falcons just six days prior.
Gang Green treated their opponent as if they were playing the old 1970's edition of the Steel Curtain defense. Considering the Steelers were winless and yet to force a turnover in their first four games, the offensive play calling early on was curiously predicated on being overly careful.
After being too aggressive at times earlier in the season, the one occasion where the offense should've been on the attack, they decided to dial things back.
In the first quarter, faced with fourth and one on the two-yard line, the Jets opted to kick a field goal rather than taking a chance and going for it. While conventional wisdom might say to play it safe and take the three points, the team had nothing to lose by trying to extend the drive and going for the touchdown.
Given their inability this season to string together consistent performances, this was an opportunity to make an early statement and put pressure on the Steelers in the process.
Worst-case scenario, the Jets fail to pick up the first down and would have made the Steelers drive 98 yards down the field. Pittsburgh entered the game with offensive line issues which were made even worse by an injury during pregame warmups to tackle Levi Brown. It was only a few minutes earlier that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was pinned back deep in his own territory and narrowly avoided getting sacked for a safety
Instead of, at the very least, forcing Pittsburgh to operate from an area of weakness, the Jets were content to take a 3-0 lead and ended up not sniffing the end zone the rest of the day.
After playing so well against the Falcons, the effort was a total step backwards. Geno Smith and the offense never seemed to get into any sort of rhythm and didn't help matters by killing two separate drives with interceptions.
Defensively, the front seven did their best to exploit Pittsburgh's depleted offensive line, sacking Roethlisberger three times and allowing just 2.8 yards per run, but the Jets secondary was horrendous.
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie started despite being listed as questionable with a knee injury. He probably would've been better off sitting this one out as he was beaten badly on a 55-yard touchdown pass and struggled in coverage all game.
As the injuries continue to pile up in the secondary, corner Dee Milliner missed his third straight game and Kyle Wilson left early with a head injury, scoring points are going to become all the more important.
Coach Rex Ryan joked earlier in the week that he received a memo from the league stating it was okay for the team to win two games in a row but he sure didn't game plan like it. The once boisterous Ryan spoke in his postgame press conference as if the better team had simply won and, quite frankly, it was sickening to hear.
Going against a team that hadn't even held the lead in the second half of a game this season, the Jets should've gone for the jugular. Rather than coming out and smacking them around, Gang Green played timid and wary.
As the Jets continue to alternate good and bad performances, hopefully for their sake this one doesn't carry over into next week. They're a better team than they were originally given credit for and it's about time they started acting like it on a weekly basis.