- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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The New York Jets might have a three-and-out offense, but they're not three losses and out of hope.
Off to their worst start under coach Rex Ryan, the Jets (2-3) took a united stand Monday, insisting they won't allow the adversity -- and possible locker-room fracturing -- to ruin their season. Ryan, perhaps in damage control, backed embattled offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
Asked if he still has faith in Schottenheimer, Ryan gave a quick laugh and praised him -- although it was hardly effusive.
"I feel great," Ryan said. "We're fortunate to have Brian coaching with us. I look at that entire offensive staff" -- he named the position coaches -- "that whole group is an excellent staff. We'll get this thing righted."
Later, in his weekly spot on 1050 ESPN Radio, Ryan claimed he's happy with Schottenheimer: "Yeah, without question."
Schottenheimer is under fire after two poor performances by the offense. In Sunday's 30-21 loss to the New England Patriots, the Jets went three-and-out on seven of their 11 possessions. It came against a defense, ranked 32nd overall, that had forced only eight three-and-outs in the first four games.
The Jets have dropped three straight -- all on the road -- and tension is building in the locker room. They return home to face the winless Miami Dolphins on Monday night, a virtual must-win.
"Quite honestly, we have to win this," Ryan said on the radio.
Nose tackle Sione Pouha didn't disagree.
"There are a lot of cute titles you can put toward this game -- home game, Monday night game, make-or-break game," he said. "It's going to have to be a Jets game."
The Jets, showing no resemblance to the team that marched into Foxborough nine months ago and stunned the Patriots in the playoffs, suffered breakdowns on both sides of the ball. They allowed 446 total yards, committed eight penalties and made too many mental mistakes.
Ryan's trademark bravado has disappeared, but he tried to remain positive. He surprised his players Monday by giving them a day off, perhaps a mental-health day. He insisted the team won't be ripped apart by dissension.
"We may get beat, but we're not going to get beat because we don't believe in each other and we're coming apart at the seams," he said. "That's not who we are."
Ryan praised his team's resilience. He looked back to his first year, in 2009, when the Jets became the first team in history to make the playoffs after two three-game losing streaks in the same season. So, yes, they've dealt with adversity, but the circumstances are different. Little was expected of them in '09; this season, they began the season as a Super Bowl contender.
"Unfortunately, we've had this experience," Ryan said. "But we know how to get out of it."
Added Pouha: "We're a team that's built to keep swinging."
Lately, they've been swinging and missing, especially on offense. As a result, the team's confidence in Schottenheimer is being tested. The Jets are 21st in total offense and 30th in rushing, but 14th in scoring.
Against the Patriots, the Jets didn't record a first down until their fifth possession, another typically slow start.
"Very frustrating," said tight end Dustin Keller, who caught only one pass. "We're a better offense than that. We have so much more ability than that. That has been a common theme. In most of these games, we started slow. That's something that has to change. You would hope it wouldn't take this long to change and get right, but it has."
Keller said the offense is "very confident" in Schottenheimer, adding, "He's the same guy that had our offense playing well in the playoffs the last two years."
The Jets parted ways with three of the top four receivers, Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery and Brad Smith, replacing them with Plaxico Burress, Derrick Mason and rookie Jeremy Kerley. Despite the upheaval, the Jets leaned on the passing game over the first four games, straying from their run-oriented approach.
After getting blown out by the Baltimore Ravens, Ryan announced a return to Ground & Pound, a tacit admission that the pass-first philosophy didn't work. He raved about the improved running game against the Patriots, but the Jets were outrushed for the fifth time, 152-97.
"Each team is going to have to deal with adversity, and this is our opportunity," Ryan said. "We've been resilient in the past and we've overcome some things, and I think we'll overcome it now."
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.
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