OAKLAND, Calif. — A boisterous crowd beyond the south end zone wore black-and-silver pirate costumes and gorilla suits and chain mail, and mocked and taunted and yelled at the Jets. The fans were mostly harmless, certainly not as terrifying to the Jets as what occurred between the sidelines. Their defenders grasped at air. They lay flattened on the grass. They failed to stop a Raiders offense despite knowing exactly what was coming.
“Our defense let us down,” Ryan said.
Those five words cut deep, like a biting wind, and no one in a hushed locker room could argue. His players dressed as if they were sleepwalking, still stunned at how easily the Raiders ran over, away from and through them, for 234 yards, for 7.3 per carry, for 4 touchdowns. To add injury to insult, Antonio Cromartie, who committed four penalties and muffed a kickoff, was taken to a local medical center with injured ribs but flew back with the team.
“Embarrassing,” defensive tackle Sione Pouha said. “It was humiliating for us to have something like that happen to us.”
And it will be worse still when they review the videotape, watching Darren McFadden zip around the edge on a 70-yard touchdown run, or Denarius Moore elude Jamaal Westerman, then juke Bart Scott, on a 23-yard reverse that put Oakland ahead to stay. It was doubly painful for Jim Leonhard, who was blindsided on a vicious block by the hulking left tackle Jared Veldheer.
“I haven’t been hit that hard in a long time,” Leonhard said.
Nor have the Jets felt, to borrow Pouha’s words, this embarrassed in a long time. The defense’s Week 1 performance against Dallas, in which it allowed 390 yards and received no game balls, was viewed as an exception against a skilled team and after an abridged training camp. The defense rebounded to throttle Jacksonville last week, when the Jaguars scored 3 points and never reached the red zone, but having two shaky games out of three concerns Ryan and his players.
“Whatever you can say bad about our defense, we were,” said linebacker Calvin Pace, who expects a verbal flaying on Monday. “Some bad things are going to be said to us, from Rex to Mike Pettine, but we deserve that.”
The Jets could have envisioned dozens of more appealing ways to begin a critical three-game road stretch that continues next Sunday night at Baltimore, and the week after at New England. The Patriots might not be the class of the division, after a loss to Buffalo launched the Bills into first place in the American Football Conference East.
The Jets (2-1) “have a lot of issues to correct,” according to Leonhard. The correction process will begin Monday, if not sooner, and it will be hard for Ryan to find anything redeeming about how his team played, especially in the second half. He tried, though, singling out Mark Sanchez, who threw for a career-high 369 yards and 2 touchdowns. But the Jets’ offense sputtered, going nearly 30 minutes without scoring after failing to convert a critical fourth-and-2 at the Oakland 37. With 2 minutes 31 seconds remaining in the third quarter and the score tied at 17-17, Sanchez misfired on a quick slant to Plaxico Burress.
Almost immediately, the game turned, on two plays that highlighted the Jets’ defensive futility and lack of discipline. First, Moore seemed to elude the entire defense on his 23-yard scamper, sprinting past three players before falling into the end zone.
And then, Cromartie combusted for the final time. It was a measure of his miserable game that his four penalties, which went for 46 yards, were not his most egregious mistakes. On the ensuing kickoff, he booted the ball, which was recovered by Taiwan Jones at the Jets’ 13. Two plays later, Michael Bush scored from a yard out, and in less than a minute, the Jets went from being tied to down by two touchdowns.
The collapse was shocking and swift, and the Raiders, a week after allowing 35 second-half points in a loss to Buffalo, enjoyed the turnabout.
“You know, Coach Hue always says that we are building a bully,” McFadden said of Raiders Coach Hue Jackson, adding, “It doesn’t matter who we are playing against and that is what we want to go out there and try to do — go out there and bully them.”
All week, Leonhard said, the Jets focused on not giving McFadden, a versatile speedster, an opportunity to utilize his quickness on the edge. So, what happened? On his 70-yard burst, McFadden zipped outside, en route to a 171-yard day. Before Sunday, that had been the most rushing yards allowed by the Jets to an entire team during Ryan’s tenure.
Pace seemed bothered that they “lost to a team that was not as good as us, that was inferior to us,” though it was difficult to discern in just what areas the Jets could flaunt their superiority. Not offensively. Not in special teams. Certainly not defensively.
The Raiders were averaging 160.5 yards rushing coming into the game, so the Jets braced for them to run, expected them to run, planned for them to run. Still they could not stop them.
“It’s extremely frustrating to know that you have to stop certain aspects of their game in order to win, and series after series you go out there and don’t do it,” Leonhard said. “It’s extremely frustrating to game-plan for a team and let them dictate what they want to do.”