1. Geno, meet adversity: Bill Parcells used to say the true test of a quarterback’s mettle comes after he has a bad game, when he steps into the huddle in practice and has to look his teammates in the eyes. Do they see confidence, or do they sense self-doubt? That will be Geno Smith’s world next week. He said all the right things after his three-interception performance, but now he has to move past it and re-establish himself as the leader of the offense. This was a tough one for the rookie. The game was there for the taking, but he made a bad decision and two bad throws in the fourth quarter. The most troubling part? He struggled against a four-man rush, completing only 9 of 24 passes with three interceptions. The Patriots showed you can rattle an inexperienced quarterback without having to blitz him.
Stephen Hill and the Jets receivers had a tough time holding on to the ball Thursday night.
2. Catch the damn ball: This has been an issue since June minicamp, when the wide receivers left more droppings on the field than a family of geese. There were six dropped passes Thursday night, including three by Clyde Gates, who failed to bring in a low but catchable ball in the end zone. Clearly, coach Rex Ryan was exasperated. Gates was thrust into a bigger role because of the injury to Jeremy Kerley, and he responded with only two catches on eight targets. The bigger concern is Stephen Hill, who had a fumble and a drop. When they weren’t dropping balls, the receivers struggled to get open against the Patriots’ press coverage. The lack of a big-time threat on the outside has a trickle-down effect on the entire offense.
3. Overly aggressive play calling: Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg showed a lot of confidence in Smith, maybe too much confidence, especially in the fourth quarter. Not only did he call 10 pass plays, giving an effective Chris Ivory only one rushing attempt, but Mornhinweg raised questions with the type of throws he called. Smith attempted six passes of at least 10 yards, completing only one, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They might have been better served with safer passes, maybe a slip screen or two, instead of downfield shots.
4. Dee for disaster: Other than quarterback, the toughest position for a rookie is cornerback. You’re bound to experience growing pains against the NFL’s big-time receivers. But here’s the deal with Dee Milliner: Calvin Johnson wasn’t on the field. Neither was Larry Fitzgerald. Milliner struggled to cover Kenbrell Thompkins and a cast of no-name receivers, and that’s alarming. It didn’t take long for Ryan to say, “Enough is enough,” benching Milliner at halftime. Milliner wasn’t a third-round pick; he was the No. 9 overall pick in the draft. No one expects him to be Darrelle Revis, the man he’s trying to replace, but he should be better than this. What irked Ryan was that Milliner made mental errors -- or as Milliner called them, “simple mistakes.”
5. Mo bad news: Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) didn’t appear to be seriously hurt, but it would be a blow to the defense if he misses even one game. He’s the Jets' best defensive player, and they’re thin on the defensive line. They would be in trouble against the Buffalo Bills next week, especially if Quinton Coples (ankle) misses another game.