EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The game was effectively over. With a little over a minute left in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium, fill-in starting QB Joe Flacco hit tight end Tyler Conklin in the end zone for a touchdown.
Kicker Greg Zuerlein missed the follow-up extra point attempt, and the score was finalized at 24-9 in favor of the Ravens. It was one of those days for the New York Jets as their Meadowlands matinee quickly turned into a horror story for the offense.
Jets searching for silver linings on both sides of the ball in loss to Ravens
Following the lopsided loss, the Jets sulked over missed opportunities. Sure, the defensive front held QB Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ running backs from running them over, but that was a small miracle in an otherwise one-sided affair. Jackson still tossed for 213 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception.
That pick by cornerback D.J. Reed came at the end of the game with the Ravens’ win locked up. Like the touchdown that it eventually led to, the Jets weren’t relishing in their late-game heroics.
“I’m not a huge fan of the pity touchdowns,” Conklin said after the game. “It’s good that we got in the end zone, I guess, for positive momentum going next week, but I think it really just comes down to that we made some mistakes that we can’t make.”
Conklin, who received considerable media hype during the summer due to his chemistry with Zach Wilson, took part of the blame for the lame outing by the offense. The former Minnesota Vikings tight end seemed destined for a big season in August, but after the Week 1 loss to Baltimore, he admitted there are things he needs to correct.
“My fumble, for instance, on 3rd-and-5, can’t do things like that in the red zone,” Conklin said. “That really bugs you because you know you letting your team down, and you’ve got to look yourself in the mirror and make sure it doesn’t happen again. But we’ve got a good team here, and I think we’re going to come out and prove — we just made some mistakes today that we can’t make.”
Like Conklin, the offensive line dealt with its fair share of letdown. Flacco was hit 11 times and sacked three others. The 37-year-old QB completed 37 of 59 passes for 307 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. But the overall performance was less impressive than the actual numbers in the stat sheet.
The porous performance in the trenches played into Flacco’s various failures.
“I thought Joe did a real good job of keeping his composure in there and finishing the game for us,” starting guard Laken Tomlinson said. “I appreciate Joe and everything he does for us.”
Jets defense contains Lamar Jackson on the ground
Following the game, there was little for the team to hang its helmets on. They have a week to prepare for the Cleveland Browns, who won their season-opening matchup on the road against the Carolina Panthers, 26-24, on Sunday.
That said, if there’s a silver lining to the matchup, the Jets’ front seven held Jackson in check on the ground. They’ll be asked to do the same against Browns QB Jacoby Brissett next week.
“I think it just starts with just hitting some of the O-linemen,” defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers said. “I think you kind of get scared and you play nervous when you see a running quarterback, but we had a great game plan, it’s just getting off the ball and hitting guys. Just kind of making a wall and building a wall, and that’s kind of our plan — just building the wall. It worked out for the most part.”
The Jets were a bottom-five run defense last season. Against the Ravens — who sport an offense built to bully defenses in the trenches — the Jets’ front seven looked sharp, holding Jackson and the running backs to 63 total yards on 21 carries. The group also sacked Jackson twice and hit him five times. That’s an encouraging effort for a defense that was among the laughingstock units of the league last season.
“Speaking for the defense, I thought we came in and had a really good plan, I thought our guys came in with a lot of juice and energy,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said.
“Gave up three explosive plays — unfortunately, two of them on third down resulted in a touchdown, and one of them was that 55-yard explosive [TD reception by Ravens WR Rashod Bateman] — we got caught getting little nosy in the back end. But overall, from the defense, did a really, really good job going blow-for-blow with those dudes. Lot of respect for Lamar and what they’ve got.”
Tomlinson, a veteran who has been through the ups, downs, and in-betweens of the NFL with the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers, said there’s only one thing to do from here.
“It’s important to win, hands down,” Tomlinson said. “And that’s what we’re focused on, that’s what we’re going to talk to the guys about tomorrow, and the coaches are going to go in tomorrow and break down the film and be critical of all the mistakes we made and find a way to get better next week.”