FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The New York Jets’ eye-popping offense that had a stunning opening-week scoring splurge was nowhere to be found for most of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Neither was Tim Tebow, who had even less of a role than he did in Week 1.
Rex Ryan’s self-proclaimed dominant defense also missed plenty of tackles late in the game.
“We made too many mistakes to beat Pittsburgh,” Ryan said.
That’s for sure, and an understatement at that.
There was little resemblance to the team that thrashed the Buffalo Bills 48-28 a week earlier, although things started out on a bright note. The Jets (1-1) led 10-6 in the second quarter and appeared in good shape to make a run at only their second win at Heinz Field.
Then, everything went sour in a hurry.
The offense couldn’t convert on third downs, finishing a dismal 4 of 12. Mark Sanchez didn’t complete a pass to any of his wide receivers in the second or third quarters, ending up 10 of 27 for 138 yards and a touchdown with a lousy 66.6 quarterback rating. He was off target on some throws, but his receivers also failed to haul in a few, too.
The defense kept the Jets in the game while the offense struggled — until they couldn’t make several big tackles.
“If we’re going to be a dominant defense, we can’t allow people to break that many tackles and to extend plays that long,” linebacker Aaron Maybin said. “You’re never going to play a perfect game and you’re going to have things like that happen, but on days like this, this is one of those days when we try to pay attention to those details as much as possible.”
New York’s special teams unit wasn’t without blame, either. Jeremy Kerley muffed a punt in the third quarter, and punter Robert Malone was inconsistent.
“Our week’s preparation going into the Buffalo game, we looked different than we did last week,” Ryan said. “Last week, we had guys out, we weren’t as sharp during the week as we were the previous week, and it carried over to the game, obviously.”
Well, the Jets better regroup in a hurry with the AFC East-rival Miami Dolphins (1-1) up next. Whether that means more Tebow than the first two weeks, that remains to be seen.
Tebow took only three offensive snaps — all in one second-half drive — leading many to wonder if the Jetsshould use him more. For months, the Jets have talked about how his presence alone leads to game-planning problems for defensive coordinators who need to account for him. So far, Tebow has had little impact on the field.
The secretive wildcat package has stayed mostly under wraps, and that’s OK as far as Ryan is concerned.
“We’ve always said from Day 1 that we can do it 20 times, 40 times, 10 times, two times, whatever, but we determine that, OK?” Ryan said, taking a slightly defensive tone. “It’s not just going to be that these specific things have to be lined up. It’s just that that’s exactly what happened in this game. Does that mean that given the exact same scenario against a different opponent that we may or may not use it? That’ll be up to us.”
Tebow didn’t see the field on offense until the third quarter and the Jets trailing 20-10. The superstar backup took a snap out of the shotgun and immediately ran for 22 yards to get New York to midfield, pumping his fists and yelling.
“Clearly, what I loved about when Tim was in there, was when he made that big run, the emotion and all that kind of stuff,” Ryan said. “It was great to see. I’ve always said he is a tremendous football player, so we’ll see how many times we’ll run it this coming week. I’m not sure yet.”
After that initial spark, Tebow stayed in and handed off to Joe McKnight, who ran for 12 yards. But then, Tebow handed off to Shonn Greene, who lost 6 yards and set up a second-and-16. Out went Tebow, and back in came Sanchez to try to clean up the mess. Instead, Sanchez threw two incompletions and the Jets were forced to punt.
Tebow was done for the rest of the game on offense.
“Right now, we think Mark gives us the best chance to be successful in that particular situation against that particular opponent,” Ryan said. “Those are things that we’ll always look at. I believe Tim can pass. We’ll make the decision on when a guy is out there, not out there, or whatever.”
Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano also took some heat for being conservative before halftime, when the Jets got the ball with 57 seconds left and two timeouts remaining but ran out the clock.
“Our thinking was, we get the ball to start the second half, that if we pop the run, we had a run called, if we pop it, we’ll continue,” Ryan said. “When they stop the run, that put us in a different mindset.”
The Jets sacked Ben Roethlisberger three times, but had the Steelers quarterback in their grasp several times and couldn’t take him down. It cost them a few times, including on Mike Wallace’s 37-yard scoring catch over Antonio Cromartie on third-and-16 to make it 20-10 and effectively put the game out of reach.
Pittsburgh also went 8 of 15 on third downs, extending drives and keeping New York’s offense off the field. Still, that doesn’t have Ryan concerned at this point.
“Bet against us, that’s all I’m saying,” Ryan said defiantly of his defense. “Bet against us and we’ll see where it ends up. I know where it’s going to end up. I tell you every year, it’s the same thing. We’ve had some issues. … I thought we were much more physical than we were the previous week, and that was good, and stopped the run against a team that can run the football.
“Obviously, we have to improve third down, and we will.”
NOTES: Maybin, who led the team with six sacks last season, was critical of his start in which he has no sacks or quarterback hits in the first two games. “I feel like I’ve got to step it up,” he said. “When you look at our performance (Sunday), I don’t feel like I played bad, but when I don’t have game-changing plays, per se, I don’t feel as though I did my job because that’s what they expect from me.” … Greene briefly left the game after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from Ryan Mundy and appearing dazed, but came back after passing tests for a concussion. “I’m fine,” he said. … Ryan told ESPN New York 98.7 radio that he thinks hard-hitting S LaRon Landry, who committed two personal fouls, is “a target” who will be watched more closely because of his aggressive style.