GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Jets hoped to be playing in January. Instead, their season ended in October.
The Cardinals dominated the Jets 28-3 on Monday night at University of Phoenix Stadium, handing the Jets’ their fourth straight loss and dropping their record to 1-5, effectively dashing any playoff hopes for this team unless you expect it to go on a 10-game winning streak.
The Jets showed no signs Monday night of being capable of winning two in a row, nevermind 10. The Jets offense was inept, the defense gave up another big play and coach Todd Bowles looked frozen on the sideline. And now there is a quarterback controversy.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was benched in the fourth quarter with the Jets down 28-3, replaced by Geno Smith after another ineffective game. Fitzpatrick was 16 of 31 for 174 yards and an interception in the end zone. Smith played one series, going 4 of 6 for 31 yards and an interception.
David Johnson starred for the home team, rushing for three touchdowns, including a 58-yard score in the first quarter that gave the Cardinals a lead they would not relinquish. Johnson ran for 111 yards on 22 carries and the three scores.
There were plenty of places to point the finger at for the Jets’ struggles. You can start with Fitzpatrick, the man the Jets gave $12 million to this summer. Fitzpatrick led a sputtering offense through much of the night. Fitzpatrick threw his 11th interception of the season, missed wide open receivers too often and failed to get the offense moving. The Jets did not convert a third down until late in the third quarter and were 2-for-13 in the game. They had five three-and-outs.
Finally, Bowles made the move to change quarterbacks midway through the fourth quarter and Cardinals safety D.J. Swearinger intercepted Fitzpatrick in the end zone, the final straw for Bowles.
It was not all on Fitzpatrick. The offensive line was not any good, failing to open up holes for a running game that has become nonexistent. The Jets finished with 33 yards rushing. Matt Forte had 19 yards on nine carries.
The offense failed to score a touchdown for the second time in four games. The unit has scored just three touchdowns since its Week 2 explosion against the Bills. One of those touchdowns was a fumble recovery.
Then, there were the penalties. The Jets had 12 penalties, 10 that were accepted. Some were terrible calls, but not enough that the Jets can pretend it was not a problem. Cornerback Buster Skrine was the worst offender — called for four penalties, two that were declined.
Now, the question is where do the Jets go from here? Do they give Smith the starting job or was this a one-night move to get a spark? The schedule softens now with the Ravens, Browns, Dolphins and Rams before the bye week. Can they turn their season around against those weaker teams to finish with a respectable record or is the season now about draft position?
It was clear from the start the Cardinals (3-3) were the better team. The Jets managed just one first down and 27 yards in the first quarter. Johnson ran through the Jets’ defense, juking inside linebacker Erin Henderson, on his way 58 yards for his first touchdown and a 7-0 lead. It was the first points the Cardinals scored this year in the first quarter.
The Jets showed life at the opening of the second quarter. They drove to the Arizona 18 and then Bilal Powell ran 10 yards to get inside the 10, but tackle Ryan Clady was called for holding and the Jets lost 20 yards. They wound up settling for a 39-yard field goal by Nick Folk to cut the score to 7-3.
The Cardinals answered on their next drive, an 11-play, 75-yard march that included a killer pass-interference penalty against Skrine. The penalty, which looked questionable, moved the Cardinals 19 yards to the Jets’ 25. Johnson capped the drive off with 2-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead that felt insurmountable.
The Cardinals put the game away in the third quarter with a 14-play, 68-yard drive against an exhausted Jets’ defense. Johnson again scored from 2 yards out to put the Cardinals up 21-3. They tacked on a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to Michael Floyd.
The Jets were awful all night, so it is hard to zero in on specific things, but the game continued their second-half woes. During the four-game losing streak, the Jets have been outscored 51-7 in the second half. That one touchdown was a fumble return by Charone Peake against Seattle.