New York Jets head coach Adam Gase’s first postgame statements of 2020 were understandably somber after Sunday’s shellacking in Buffalo.
Sunday’s opening game was a case of deja vu for the New York Jets and head coach Adam Gase. Not only did they fall to the Buffalo Bills on opening weekend for the second straight season, but the final margin 27-17 was nowhere near indicative of how one-sided the game truly was. Parallels could perhaps be drawn to the Jets’ final ledger of 7-9 earned last season. The Jets’ best victory tally since the star-crossed 10 wins in 2015 somewhat masked a brutal opening stretch to the season, one only exacerbated by injuries.
Either way, the trend of losing continued for New York…at least by literal name…and the head coach was forced to atone for it.
“It was about as bad of a start offensively as we could have had,” Gase said in his opening statements, per transcripts provided by the Jets. “We didn’t do anything when the defense did a good job getting a turnover. Complimentary football was non-existent throughout most of the game. We just really did not play well.
“The disappointing aspect is just watching the guys work all week and the excitement level coming into this game. We have a lot to work on and a lot of things to get fixed.”
To Gase’s point, Buffalo didn’t seem pleased with what was otherwise a dominant performance. Josh Allen became the first Bills quarterback to throw for at least 300 yards since December 2016 but two lost fumbles denied Buffalo a chance to truly break the game open.
The Jets, however, failed to truly capitalize on either opportunity. Allen’s latter fumble, forced by Bless Austin, le to their first points via a Sam Ficken field goal, but a chance to pull early momentum yielded only a three-and-out. When Allen held onto the ball, the Bills built a 21-0 lead that was never truly in doubt.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) September 13, 2020
“We had to get into that rhythm,” receiver Jamison Crowder said. “I feel like guys were trying to press to hard and we just couldn’t get into that rhythm. We have to change that going forward. We have to come out early and bring the energy and get some plays going, stay ahead of the sticks and get first downs.”
The lack of preseason games certainly didn’t play in the Jets’ favor. Even if each of the 32 teams were not granted the benefit of four consequence-free opportunities to develop chemistry and the rhythm that Crowder desired, the Jets may have been one of the teams most affected by the decision to outright cancel exhibitions. The starting offensive line, for example, was completely new. Every receiver from third-year quarterback Sam Darnold’s rookie season has likewise departed. A rare leftover, Chris Herndon, missed all but 18 snaps last season due to suspension and injury.
Gase wasn’t fully buying into the theory, insisting that Buffalo didn’t throw anything unexpected at them. It was the on the Jets for not performing and not taking advantage of opportunities.
“When we had opportunities to make plays, we didn’t make them,” Gase said. “I thought there were some things that, I felt like the line gave us enough time. We were not good in the passing game today, especially early.”
The task ahead for the influx of newcomers playing their first game under a new system was made all the more challenging by changes Gase has to make. Free agency arrival Pierre Desir was removed for Nate Hairston, while a hamstring injury to Le’Veon Bell forced him to press Frank Gore and Josh Adams (scorer of the Jets’ final touchdown) into further action.
Gase would express remorse keeping Bell in the game as long as he did. His status for next week’s game against San Francisco, a Sunday home opener (1 p.m. ET, Fox) is yet to be determined.
“I’m mad at myself that I let him to back in there in the second half,” he said. “I saw him grab his hamstring and he wouldn’t come out. When we came in at halftime, I let him go back in there. I was worried about it. Eventually, I was like, ‘I can’t put you in there. We can’t take a chance of getting more hurt than you already are.’”
In the midst of his somber statements, Gase did address the fledgling positives that emerged from defeat. He was inspired by Crowder’s 69-yard hookup with Darnold, one that narrowed the Jets’ deficit to 21-10 in the third quarter. The drive that led to Ficken’s field goal was also inspiring to Gase, a 10-play, 70-yard quest that took up 87 seconds of game time. Offensive line play was also to Gase’s liking. Newcomers Mekhi Becton and George Fant each managed to have a decent blocking day in their green debuts, with Darnold only getting sacked three times. Buffalo defenders got to him four times in last year’s opener.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) September 13, 2020
But if the Jets are going to steal a couple of wins before this season of uncertainty lets out, Gase knows that more complete efforts are required. The drive starts upon the Jets’ return home, one whose end features a battle with the defending NFC champions.
The discussion in (the locker room) was of making every possession count. That was a different feel for me with that group. These guys have a plan themselves going out there before we even said anything. It was good to see how all of those guys were working together. There is so much for us to clean up. It was a rough game. We didn’t play well enough. We have to get a lot of things fixed in a short period of time.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags