2006-12-15 / Sports

Jets Loss To Buffalo Damages Wild Card Hopes

By Elio Velez

Erik Coleman and Kerry Rhodes wrap up Buffalo RB Willis McGahee, who rushed for 125 yards in the Bills victory. Photo By Peter Borriello.Erik Coleman and Kerry Rhodes wrap up Buffalo RB Willis McGahee, who rushed for 125 yards in the Bills victory. Photo By Peter Borriello. Throughout the Jets success in the last two weeks, fans didn’t have many things to complain about. Like spring that blooms for flowers, the talk of heading into the playoffs began to heat up as fast as a raging forest fire.

And the opportunities were there to take hold of a wild card spot. So when it was time to make the big play, with a sellout crowd of Giants Stadium waiting to cheer on their heroes, the home team was curiously silent at the wrong time.

The visiting Buffalo Bills were 5-7 coming into this game but they knew how to make the most of their chances and silent the crowd. Even with losses by front runners Denver and Kansas City, a 31-13 Bills win damaged the Jets and the hopes to control their own destiny for playoff positioning came crashing down in a myriad of ways for head coach Eric Mangini.

“We needed to play good in all three phases as we have been. We didn’t do that. We gave up way too many yards in the running game, too many big plays on defense and then we turned the ball over on offense. We didn’t effectively execute the things we had hoped to execute,” Mangini said.

For weeks, the Jets may have said they weren’t looking at the wild card standings. Though KC, Denver and the Jets all have 7-6 records, they are all looking up at the new wild card leaders in Cincinnati and Jacksonville.

The Bengals and Jaguars have overall records of 8-5 and with the Jets having five conference losses, they would lose tiebreakers with Jacksonville and Cincinnati if a playoff tiebreaker has to be decided.

Mangini has to figure out why the spark they had previously in a 38-10 victory Green Bay was absent and get his players to focus on the game at hand and not scoreboard watch.

“This is a good example of why it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what happens outside of what we do here. If we win the game and take care of the things we need to take care. That’s what is most important. If you lose the game, none of that other stuff matters,” Mangini said.

The players sounded shellshocked after the game, knowing that many of them were responsible for having a poor showing.

An admittedly lousy Chad Pennington took full blame for his actions. A pass intended for WR Jericho Cotchery slipped out of the QB’s right hand and fluttered past the fingertips of his teammate and into the arms of Buffalo’s Nate Clements.

His costly interception would cost the Jets a 58 yard touchdown and a 21-13 Buffalo advantage. When Pennington is on target, the Jets have a fighting chance to win games. But when he completed 22 of 35 for only 182 yards and two costly interceptions against Buffalo, Pennington is honest enough to give himself a failing performance. “Anytime you lose, you let an opportunity to slip away. And in this league, everytime you lose, we let things slip because we only have 16 of those opportunities,” Pennington said.

“It was a lack of execution. It starts with the QB and I got to do a better job of putting us in successful situations.”

Instead of the “P” word bandied about Week Ewbank Hall meaning playoffs, the Jets are still in the building stages of becoming a better team.

Progress might be the better term applied to this group who has performed well in certain games, but not up to snuff in others. They’ll need to regroup fast because even if the last three games are with teams under .500, they will not be easy. Sunday they will face a tough Metrodome, where to face the Vikings on Sunday and a trip to an improved Miami, who shutout the AFC East leading Patriots.

And a part of that progress is to become consistent each week, which Mangini knows the Jets weren’t last Sunday. There won’t be any Knute Rockne type speeches to inspire the troops. He just wants resuls.

“The key thing is the concept of ‘One’, the concept of everybody focusing on one thing at a time.  Motivational tools are important but the game is won with the work ethic,” Mangini said.

“The game is won with the studying.  The game is won with the preparation.  The game is further won with the execution. That’s what we need to focus on.”

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