Rex Ryan's Jets roller coaster hits bottom

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
10:54
PM ET
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CINCINNATI -- The New York Jets looked as helpless as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the current NFL, there's no greater indictment of a team.

The Jets were flat and non-competitive Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. That's on Rex Ryan. Their defense was historically bad, so bad that Andy Dalton and Dan Marino will now appear in the same sentence -- as the past two quarterbacks to throw five touchdown passes against the Jets. That, too, is on Ryan, who may have spoiled his feel-good season with the second-largest margin of defeat in his 72-game tenure -- 40 points.

It was 49-9 at Paul Brown Stadium, and it could've been 70-9 if Marvin Lewis had Bill Belichick's no-mercy attitude.

This was the kind of game that can wreck a season. We already know the Jets are a psychologically fragile team, based on their inability to win back-to-back games, so there's no telling how they will react to an embarrassing beatdown. The New Orleans Saints are coming to town next weekend, and Ryan already was imagining a doomsday scenario.

"If we don't play better than we did today, hell, yeah, that guy [Drew Brees] will break every record known to man against us," Ryan said.

Let's take a step back for a moment. The Jets reached the midpoint of the season 4-4, exceeding expectations. It would be wrong to lose sight of the big picture.

OK, enough perspective. Focusing on what unfolded Sunday, it's hard not to be concerned.

Unlike their other blowout loss, 38-13 to the Tennessee Titans in Week 4, this can't be blamed on the mistakes of rookie Geno Smith. Yes, he handed 14 points to the Bengals with two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns -- that makes three pick-sixes in two weeks -- but this game was long gone before Smith's first brain cramp at the start of the third quarter. It was 28-6 at halftime.

This was over in the first quarter because the Jets made Dalton look like … well, Marino, circa 1988, and they made Marvin Jones resemble Marvin Harrison. Jones set a franchise record with four touchdown catches, twice as many as the Jets' team leader for the season. Dalton passes for 325 yards, averaging nearly 11 yards per completion.

Ryan's defensive game plan was to rush four and play coverage against the Bengals' offense, which can best be described as A.J. Green and a bunch of pretty decent weapons. The Jets failed to generate a pass rush -- only one sack, their only quarterback hit -- but Ryan never adjusted. Where was the blitz? He was too conservative, allowing the Bengals to dictate the game. The Darrelle Revis-less secondary was exposed in an ugly way.

[+] EnlargeMarvin Jones
John Grieshop/Getty ImagesThe Jets surrendered four -- that's right, four -- touchdown passes to Marvin Jones.
"We got beat in every coverage known to man," Ryan said disgustedly. "Five touchdown passes -- I don't know how many times that's happened in my lifetime. Not very often."

Rookie cornerback Dee Milliner, an overhyped former Alabama star with little NFL game, was torched four times for 108 yards and a touchdown and was benched in the second quarter. So if you're scoring at home, he has been benched in two of his four starts. The rest of the secondary stunk, too, even Antonio Cromartie, who allowed a couple of 53-yard completions to Green.

"We have a Pro Bowl corner that didn't have a good day, either," said Ryan, trying to take some heat off Milliner, who's playing like an undrafted free agent, not the ninth overall pick.

No one had a good day, except kicker Nick Folk.

The Bengals were so into Ryan's head that it looked like they had a copy of his game plan. Maybe Bengals practice-squad quarterback Greg McElroy, who ran the Jets' scout-team offense for two years, provided some valuable intel on his former team. Defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman scoffed the other day when that was mentioned as a possibility.

Who's scoffing now?

"We didn't come out focused," linebacker Calvin Pace said. "You do that in somebody else's house, you get your ass handed to you."

"Just an old-fashioned ass whipping," guard Willie Colon said.

You expect a relatively young team like the Jets to experience some ups and downs, but the big green elevator descended all the way to the basement with this stinker. Their season is like riding the "Tower of Terror" at Disneyland. The Jets have managed back-to-back wins only once in nearly two full seasons.

"We have to eliminate it," Colon said. "The roller coaster we're on isn't working."

Cromartie admitted the inconsistency is "nerve wracking." It can be hard to watch. How could a defense that played with such intensity last week against Tom Brady appear so overmatched a week later?

Ryan claimed there was no overconfidence after last week's emotional win, but like he always says, the proof is in the pudding. The Jets showed their immaturity, and Ryan didn't have his team ready to play. They were outgained in the first quarter, 172 to 1. Need we say more?

"This is tough," wide receiver David Nelson said. "Hopefully, this won't define us."

It might.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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