Third downs are key

September, 16, 2012
9/16/12
10:58
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- New York Jets coach Rex Ryan takes pride in fielding teams that play tough, physical defense, but that unit fell a bit short in the club's 27-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field.

The Jets -- who were playing without All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis and veteran linebacker Bryan Thomas due to injuries -- bent and didn't break in the early going but eventually wore down against the Steelers. While there were several critical situations where the Jets faltered, the difference in the game was third-down conversions.

The Steelers were a spectacular 8-for-15 (53 percent), while the Jets converted 4 of 12 (33 percent).

"It came down to, we couldn't get off the field on third down, and we couldn't stay on the field on third down," Ryan said. “I think that's really where you look at it. That's probably the thing that jumps out at you. Ben (Roethlisberger) with a (125.1) quarterback rating, your highest rating that this Jet football team has ever given up with the exception of Dan Marino that one game."

Ryan's reference was a game where Chad Henne torched the Jets, and Ryan called him Marino afterward. Roethlisberger probably shouldn't be confused with Marino, either, but he certainly can be just as effective. He completed 24 of 31 for 275 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions and three sacks.

"You're not going to beat a quarterback with a 125 rating and over 36 minutes with time of possession (36:36)," Ryan said. "And that's exactly what happened. I thought the game started off well (for the Jets), but ... third-and-16 killed us. That was a back-breaker, obviously, when Ben avoids a sack and (Mike) Wallace does a great job of getting both feet in bounds."

While each NFL team maintains that its standard doesn't change, even with players out of action, it had to be difficult without Revis. He does so much for that secondary, and even though Kyle Wilson played well as his replacement it wasn't enough.

"We play our game, and that's what we focus on," Wilson said, sporting an ice bag on his right wrist. “So, everybody else had to pick it up with Darrelle out of there. They did a good job on third down, but we have to go back and check the film to see what happened. I thought I played solid, but I would've liked to make more plays. (And) there's never a good taste in my mouth when we lose.

"Any time you play a team like the Steelers, you know it's going to be a physical game. So, this was a game between two physical teams, and this one didn't go our way. Roethlisberger makes it tough, especially when he gets out of the pocket, but he's still pretty accurate and is tough to bring down. When that happens, we just have to cover longer. That's the answer."

Safety LaRon Landry also touched on Revis' absence.

"He was definitely missed, but Kyle stepped in and did a phenomenal job," Landry said. "I think he got the job done on his part, but as a team and as a defense we didn't finish. And we didn't get the job done.

"We didn't get off the field when we needed to, and they did a phenomenal job on third down. They beat us in that category, and that was the difference in the game. There's no question about it."

And as the Jets move forward, that third-down statistic needs to be reversed.

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