Sunday, October 2, 2011 Updated: October 3, 8:08 AM ET
Maybe Joe Namath was right after all
By Rich Cimini ESPNNewYork.com
BALTIMORE -- Mark Sanchez was the last player out of the New York Jets' locker room. He dressed slowly and was about to walk to the postgame interview room when he received an unexpected visitor -- Rex Ryan.
The coach and his quarterback spoke for several minutes after Sunday night's awful 34-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. It was unusual for Ryan to approach Sanchez in the locker room. Evidently, Ryan had some stuff he wanted to get off his chest.
Later, Sanchez declined to reveal what they talked about, but it couldn't have been too pleasant. Earlier, Ryan told reporters, "He struggled -- mightily, no question" -- rare criticism of his quarterback. But this utterly inept offensive performance by the Jets, something out of the Rich Kotite era, wasn't all Sanchez's fault.
The Jets put in another listless performance Sunday. Maybe Joe Namath's criticisms of Rex Ryan's methods weren't so far off.
Everyone deserved blame. You can start with Sanchez, who committed four turnovers -- three fumbles and an interception -- three of which were returned for touchdowns.
You can call out the offensive line, which allowed two sacks and 10 quarterback hits -- a bunch of them on three-step drops.
You can blame offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for an ill-conceived game plan, which failed to protect Sanchez from the Ravens' relentless blitzing. The Ravens blitzed a defensive back on 13 of Sanchez's 38 drop-backs, according to ESPN Stats & Information -- and the Jets had no answers. Two of his turnovers came on blitzes.
You can blame Ryan for forgetting his Ground & Pound roots. The Jets rushed for an embarrassing total of 38 yards, an indictment of how one-dimensional the offense has become.
Maybe Joe Namath was right, after all. The Jets were ill-prepared, and the Ravens made them look like 98-pound weaklings before a national TV audience. At times, the Jets seemed almost intimidated.
If last week's loss to the Oakland Raiders was a hiccup, what was this? This was a pass-the-barf-bag game. The Jets (2-2) have lost two straight, the first time they've suffered back-to-back, double-digit losses in the Ryan era.
And, oh yeah, they get to play the New England Patriots next. Have we reached a crisis, gentlemen?
"Next question," Santonio Holmes said tersely.
Dustin Keller called it "unacceptable," and Matt Slauson said it was "embarrassing." They were being kind.
The Jets have endured some clunkers over the last two-plus seasons under Ryan, but this was different. It was different because, in the past, it was easily blamed on the young, mistake-prone quarterback -- and the young quarterback readily took the blame in those cases.
But not this time. Sanchez didn't give a blanket mea culpa, taking it all on himself.
Sanchez blamed himself for Lardarius Webb's 73-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter, which made it 34-17, and he acknowledged that he misfired on some third-down passes. But that was it. He didn't point fingers, and he made sure to tell everyone he wasn't pointing fingers.
But this isn't about what he said; it's what he didn't say.
"I'm not pointing out everybody's mistakes, I'm pointing out my own," said Sanchez, who completed only 11 of 35 passes for 119 yards -- a 30.5 passer rating.
"It's just frustrating as the quarterback of an offense that can't get anything going," he said. "We have to get better and it starts with my position."
He's right about that. Sanchez has nine turnovers in four games, and he has to get better. But there was little help. His offensive line, sans center Nick Mangold (ankle) for the second straight week, was awful. And Holmes wasn't shy about saying so, indicting the line and Sanchez.
"It starts up front with the big guys," Holmes said. "They've got to do a better job of protecting Mark, and Mark has to do a better job of making reads and getting the ball where he needs to, so his playmakers can make plays."
It went bad on the first play. The Jets came out throwing -- what else? -- and Sanchez was blindsided by safety Ed Reed, a strip sack that was returned for a touchdown by Jameel McClain. Reed was unblocked. How do you leave the best safety in football history, as Ryan has said, unblocked?
Everybody said it was a blown protection call. No one named names. Sanchez said he was "reading the other side of the field," his way of saying it wasn't on him. Mangold's absence, no doubt, has disrupted the line's chemistry.
There was another miscommunication on Haloti Ngata's strip sack, another blindside hit that was scooped up and returned 26 yards by Jarret Johnson. Ngata received the red-carpet treatment from left guard Vladimir Ducasse, who, for some reason, let him go while trying to block another inside rusher.
That Ducasse was in the game was an embarrassment. The Jets' coaching staff benched rookie center Colin Baxter for three series in the second quarter, putting the seldom-used Ducasse at left guard and moving Slauson to center. By doing that, they weakened two positions and nearly put their quarterback in the ER.
Ryan said Baxter had made a couple of mistakes, and "we wanted to let him get his composure back" on the sideline.
Maybe the Jets could've survived the initial onslaught, but they had nothing to fall back on. They've steered so far away from their run-first philosophy that it's too hard to get back to it. The other day, RB LaDainian Tomlinson said their running scheme has become predictable. They can't survive being one-dimensional.
"We definitely have to focus more on running the ball," said Holmes, once again calling out the offensive line.
Instead of protecting his quarterback, Schottenheimer continued to put him in harm's way, exposing him to the Ravens' pressure. Only two quarterbacks this season have seen as many defensive-back blitzes as Sanchez did Sunday night -- Jay Cutler and Sam Bradford, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Ryan wasn't happy with his quarterback.
"It wasn't his best effort, that's for sure," he said, "but he's our quarterback and I believe in him."