For the third consecutive preseason game there weren’t any touchdown celebrations or high fives in the end zone to speak of for the New York Jets. Despite amassing 290 yards of total offense and making three trips into the red zone, neither Mark Sanchez nor Tim Tebow managed to cross the goal line or lead the Jets’ offensive unit to pay dirt.
With Gang Green planning to rest its starters for next Thursday night’s fourth and final preseason contest against the Philadelphia Eagles, New York’s quarterbacking-duo will have to wait until the regular season gets underway to put a halt to its scoring slump.
“Tonight, we just have to hang onto the football," acknowledged Sanchez. "I know our guys can catch the ball. I know we can make plays out on the edge. We have the talent and the playmakers to do that, but unfortunately tonight, we didn’t execute to the best of our ability. The way I see it, we’re saving all of our good stuff for the regular season."
Sunday night’s 17-12 loss to the Carolina Panthers raised more questions than answers regarding the state of the Jets’ offense. New York produced 18 first downs on 11 offensive possessions averaging merely 4.4 yards per play.
Even with wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley back healthy and in the starting lineup, dropped passes and untimely penalties disrupted a few promising scoring drives.
With 6:47 remaining in the first half, rookie defensive end Quinton Coples stripped Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and linebacker Bart Scott recovered the fumble at the 12-yard line. Sanchez and company couldn’t capitalize on a short-field and settled for Nick Folk’s 22-yard field goal.
"Last year we were pretty good in the red zone," said Scott of the offense's struggles inside the 20-yard line this preseason. "I’m sure that once they get a little time to game plan for somebody and understand what kind of defense they’re
playing, (they’ll be fine)."
New York’s next great scoring chance came during the opening possession of the third-quarter. The Jets drive stalled when left guard Matt Slauson was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after shoving Carolina's safety Haruki Nakamura to the ground following a scuffle with wide receiver Patrick Turner. Three plays later, backup placekicker Josh Brown sent a 45-yard field goal attempt outside the left upright as the Jets came up empty once again.
"We were probably going to score, so it’s unfortunate," admitted Slauson. "I’m not going to make that mistake again."
Tebow and the second team offense had one last gasp for glory on the final play of regulation, but No. 15’s desperation heave to the end zone sailed high and out of the reach of tight end Hayden Smith.
"Obviously, we wanted to put it in the end zone, especially at the end trying to drive downfield and win
the game," noted Tebow on the Jets' final drive. "Unfortunately, we came up a little short. I think we got better at some things. We still have to continue to improve and find a way to win the game."
One bright spot for the Green-and-White on Sunday was the outstanding performance of new starting right tackle Austin Howard, who replaced embattled lineman Wayne Hunter this week. While Hunter became a scapegoat for New York’s lackluster play this preseason, it appears the issues on offense are deeper-rooted than previously thought.
"I was just proud of our offensive line," declared Sanchez. "I was proud of the way Austin Howard competed. That’s not an easy
spot to jump into."
With their regular season home opener against the Buffalo Bills set for Sunday, September 8, the Jets will have just two weeks to find a way to jumpstart their faltering offense.
"If anything, we’re going to draw some confidence from some of the things we did today," remarked Rex Ryan of his offense's performance. "Clearly, we’d like to score. I hate losing. We all do, our fans included. We know we deserve more, but we’re making some
strides. By the time we get going, we will be a confident group."
News and Notes
Jets’ linebacker David Harris (ankle), tight end Josh Baker (knee) and tight end Dustin Keller (hamstring) left Sunday night’s contest and did not return. Panthers’ running back Jonathan Stewart was carted off the field with an apparent ankle injury.
Rick Laughland covers the New York Jets for Greenandwhitereport.com
You can follow him on Twitter @rlaughland
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