EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For some 10-plus games, the defense was not only the heart and soul of the Oakland Raiders, it was also their strength.
Then a crack showed itself as the Raiders allowed a late score in a last-minute loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Two leaks sprung from the dam for every one that was covered by a finger in a second-half collapse on Thanksgiving Day at the Dallas Cowboys.
And Sunday, basically the whole building came tumbling down in a mess of a 37-27 loss to the heretofore offensively challenged New York Jets. How bad was the Raiders’ defense against that sudden model of efficiency, rookie quarterback Geno Smith?
“We allowed him to be sort of great today,” offered 16th-year veteran Charles Woodson.
“That’s as embarrassing a game that I’ve ever been a part of.”
Really, not much else needed to be said.
Consider: the Jets had scored a combined 20 points in their three most recent games -- all losses -- and had 46 in their previous four, yet dropped a season-high 37 points on the Raiders.
Smith, who had been benched at halftime of the 23-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins a week earlier and had committed the most turnovers of any quarterback in the NFL, had his usual gaffe, throwing a first-quarter interception. But he finished with 219 yards passing in completing 16 of 25 passes, and rebounded from that pick with a 25-yard touchdown pass to give the Jets a 10-0 lead with 3:17 to play in the first quarter. It was his first TD pass since Oct. 20.
Entering Sunday, Smith had a total QB Rating of 8.8 since Week 7, the worst in the NFL. And he merely toyed with the Raiders, especially in the second half, when he racked up 47 of his 50 rushing yards.
“That was huge,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said of Smith’s rushing ability. “He made some big runs. If (Oakland is) going to play certain coverages and you notice it, you can make those big plays.”
It was not as if the Jets dominated the stat sheet; they merely imposed their will and demoralized the Raiders. That was more than enough when the Raiders, for the second game in a row, seemingly forgot how to tackle.
Oakland's defense simply could not get off the field as the Jets converted five-of-their-first-six third-down conversions in the second half.
"I wish I had the answer to that," admitted Raiders coach Dennis Allen.
Plus, the Jets were only forced to punt twice, and the second came with 31 seconds to play in a game whose outcome was already decided.
Truly, it looked as though the defense was simply worn down and a lack of quality depth was exposed -- again.
“I do think the defense is worn down,” Allen added. “But we’ve got to go out and tackle ... we’ve got three more football games, and we’ve got to tackle better. We've got to do the things that we have to do to be able to get off the field.”
Then is it a matter of scheme, or talent? Probably a combination of both.
“We were like the Bad News Bears out there today,” Woodson said. “Defensively, we went out there and basically peed down our legs.”
And it was cold out.