Print and Go Back ESPN.com: BlogsColumns [Print without images]

Sunday, January 23, 2011
Updated: January 24, 12:42 PM ET
Jets' goal-line fail inexcusable, deflating

By Rich Cimini
ESPNNewYork.com

PITTSBURGH -- The New York Jets couldn't make 2 yards in four plays, and they ended up 6 feet under.

You could almost hear the angry mob, screaming for Brian Schottenheimer's head. The second-guessers will be screaming long into the offseason because of what transpired at the Pittsburgh Steelers' goal line with under eight minutes to play Sunday night in the AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field.

Schottenheimer's play calling over the four-play sequence was questionable, and it loomed large in the Jets' crushing 24-19 loss to the Steelers.

After Shonn Greene rushed for 1 yard, Schottenheimer called two straight pass plays from the 1-yard line -- a rollout to Dustin Keller and a quick slant to Santonio Holmes that hit linebacker LaMarr Woodley in the chest. On fourth down, Schottenheimer sent LaDainian Tomlinson into the line for no gain.

It was a brutal sequence. Instead of getting cute with a rollout to Keller, Schottenheimer should've sent the 230-pound Greene into the line again. Moments earlier, he ran for 16 yards against a Pittsburgh run defense that was sucking wind.

"We were trying to score," said Rex Ryan, defending his offensive coordinator. "We don't design plays to fail."

Schottenheimer isn't going to get fired, which may disappoint a lot of Jets fans. Just the other day, Ryan was raving about Schottenheimer, calling him a future head-coaching star. Schottenheimer staged a late-season rally, as the Jets averaged 29 points over the previous five games. He doesn't deserve to get fired, but the goal-line sequence was inexcusable.

"It was really deflating," left guard Matt Slauson said. "It's really tough to take as an offensive line because we pride ourselves on that."

Except Schottenheimer took it out of the line's hands for those two pass plays.

Granted, he wasn't helped by a malfunctioning headset in Mark Sanchez's helmet, which caused a delay. Unable to speak to his quarterback via the radio, Schottenheimer's play arrived late and the offense had to hurry to the line of scrimmage.

"We were kind of rushed, and that makes it tougher in a situation like that," said Keller, who couldn't haul in Sanchez's below-the-knees pass.

Sanchez thought about calling a timeout, but he didn't want to burn one in that situation. So they rushed, and the entire operation was out of whack.

If Schottenheimer was intent on passing, why not a fade route to Braylon Edwards or Holmes, the master of toe-tapping, corner-of-the-end-zone grabs?

Sanchez's third-down pass never had a chance; he threw it blindly, expecting Holmes to be in a spot. On fourth down, it was Tomlinson up the middle, and he was swallowed up by Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel.

"I don't know how close I was," Tomlinson said. "I couldn't really tell where the end zone was. I just tried to fight as much as I could. I wanted to extend the ball, but there was a lot of traffic there and I couldn't get the ball up to extend it."

The Jets held the ball for 17 plays and 80 yards, chewing up 8:06 on the clock. A touchdown would've made it 24-17, but they got nothing. Moments later, they tackled Ben Roethlisberger in the end zone for a safety, but they needed seven points, not two.

With a championship possibly on the line, they couldn't make 2 yards. Six feet under.