No fun & games, Jets hurtin' for a road win

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
9:35
PM ET
 

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The Dave & Buster's in Hanover, Md., about 20 minutes outside Baltimore, would love to host the New York Jets on Saturday night. It hasn't heard from the team, but the folks there would be willing to accommodate an 11th-hour reservation for 53 large men.

[+] EnlargeNational Aquarium
Steve Ruark/AP Images for National AquariumWould a trip to the aquarium come back to bite the Jets?
"Yeah, of course," a D&B manager said Thursday by phone. "We've had some Redskins players here. Some Ravens have stopped in, even some Steelers -- and they're in our division. We don't discriminate. We never turn away business."

Considering the hullabaloo caused by last Saturday's Dave & Buster's visit in suburban Buffalo, it's probably safe to assume the Jets are done with team trips to the high-end arcade chain. But, hey, there are a lot of other neat attractions in the Baltimore area.

They could visit the Babe Ruth birthplace and museum.

Or tour the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards, where the great Brooks Robinson is scheduled to make an appearance Saturday.

Or maybe they can stop by the National Aquarium at the Inner Harbor.

We offer these suggestions in jest, but coach Rex Ryan probably would try anything if he knew it would change the Jets' karma on the road.

The Jets used to be a terrific road team under Ryan. Now they're a bad road team, and they face the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium -- a matchup that could turn ugly.

Forget Dave & Buster's. The way the Jets play away from home, this is David & Goliath.

The Jets have dropped 15 of their past 21 games on the road, which includes a 1-4 mark this season -- and the last two were 40- and 23-point losses.

They're the big, bad Jets at MetLife Stadium, where they shocked the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints. When they travel, they almost always forget to pack their heart and resilience.

The book is out on the Jets: Punch them early in the game, and they don't get up. They've been outscored 34-6 in the first quarter of road games and 92-32 in the first half.

"That's ugly, there's no question," Ryan said.

You can blame quarterback Geno Smith, who has committed 13 of 20 turnovers in visiting stadiums, but the poor starts indicate a lack of mental and physical preparation -- and that falls on Ryan.

[+] EnlargeBaltimore Ravens fan
Rob Carr/Getty ImagesGood luck shutting up this Ravens fan on Sunday, Santonio Holmes.
As offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg noted, "Really good football teams win anywhere you play." No one is saying the Jets are a really good team -- perspective, please -- but that doesn't excuse a defensive no-show (at Cincinnati, Week 8) or an offensive no-show (last week).

It's hard to explain, because the Jets are a resilient team on a week-to-week basis, demonstrating the ability to rebound from lopsided losses, but they can't handle adversity within the game.

"Starting fast is always a key," wide receiver Santonio Holmes said. "You come out firing, you shut the crowd up and you (force) those guys to get behind and play from behind."

The Jets did it in Atlanta, Week 5, but they haven't been able to recreate that mental toughness anywhere else. It won't be easy in Baltimore. The Ravens (4-6) aren't what they used to be, but they play great defense at home, not having allowed more than 19 points.

They're the defending Super Bowl champs. It's always hard to knock out the champ, even a struggling champ. This is a major challenge for the young Jets, who will get blown out again if they show up without their A-game.

Ryan said the keys on the road are protecting the quarterback, running the ball and preventing big plays. They can accomplish the latter because Joe Flacco, the $120 million Super Bowl MVP, is throwing interceptions at almost a Geno-like rate. But it will be tough to handle the Ravens' defense, still formidable in the post-Ray Lewis/Ed Reed era.

"We've had our share of struggles on the road, so it's going to be a huge test for us," Smith said. "It's pretty much going to tell a lot about this team and our character."

It sure will. The Jets need a Ruthian effort.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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