Jets’ Secondary Leaves Itself Open to Criticism on Final Drive

That they did not only serves to highlight the role luck played in the Sunday, not that anyone was willing to acknowledge as much. The Jets’ perception is that they closed out the , just as Coach Rex Ryan had been preaching, because they did not let Buffalo score.

In reality, the Jets did not stop Buffalo. Buffalo stopped Buffalo, with Johnson’s unfathomable drop at the Jets’ 25 with 31 seconds remaining the pivotal play on a series that exposed, if not confirmed, the Jets’ defensive shortcomings. A Buffalo team that the Jets had crushed just three weeks earlier — on the road, against an offense at full strength — dismantled their vaunted secondary.

“Was that our best effort? No, it wasn’t,” cornerback Darrelle Revis said, adding: “It’s getting to be December. We can’t be making these mistakes this late in the season like this.”

As the Jets understand, the what-if game works both ways. Had they stuffed Tim Tebow at any time during the on Nov. 17, questions about their ability to finish off opponents would have ceased. But they did not that night, nor did they fluster Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick or lock down his receivers on that final drive.

“That’s a trend that you can see that happens,” defensive tackle Sione Pouha said. “We’re well aware of that trend, that we’ve got to finish drives.”

When the Bills took possession at their 27 with 54 seconds remaining, the Jets fell into a prevent defense, a cover-5, that they have not had much reason to play during games. When they sought to protect their lead in Denver, the Jets guarded against the run. When they aimed to stop New England on Oct. 9, the Jets flooded the box with defensive backs, daring the Patriots to run, which they did.

As a unit, the Jets’ defense on Monday watched film of Buffalo’s drive, and linebacker Aaron Maybin said he felt “a sense of frustration.” The defensive coordinator Mike Pettine preached consistency, bemoaning several small mistakes that created bigger problems.

On Johnson’s route, a post pattern, the Jets were playing zone coverage. Revis said he should have played Johnson tighter, not letting him cut outside, then in, to find space to roam. Revis also said that Brodney Pool, the safety on his side of the field, should not have allowed Johnson to move inside on him.

On Sunday, Revis did not think Johnson, had he caught the ball, would have scored. After watching film, he changed his mind.

Pool said, “He did a good job of just getting open, but he didn’t do a good job catching the ball.”

On Fitzpatrick’s next pass, which sailed a few inches behind Johnson in the back of the end zone, Revis faulted Pool for drifting toward him, for not maintaining his coverage.

Maybin said, “If we’re going to really consider ourselves one of the best defenses in the N.F.L., we can’t have those inconsistencies.”

Ryan said that some of his defenses in years past could preserve leads by shutting out opponents. This group, he said, is not there yet, but he vowed it would be. If so, it must happen soon. The Jets have five games left, of which they must win at least four to have a chance of making the playoffs.

Another lapse like Sunday, and the Jets’ chances could disappear.

“I hope we continue to be lucky,” Ryan said after initially dismissing the suggestion. “We’ll take that. The old saying, you’d rather be lucky than good? I’d rather be both. And I think we are.”

EXTRA POINTS

Stevie Johnson’s , in which he mocked Plaxico Burress by pretending to shoot himself in the thigh, was panned among Jets who did not see it until after Sunday’s game. Rex Ryan called it ridiculous, and Darrelle Revis called Johnson “young and immature.” Sione Pouha seemed more bothered that Johnson fell to the ground after spreading his arms and pretending to fly, suggesting that it was a reference to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “The airplane thing was kind of a dagger,” Pouha said. Burress told “The Michael Kay Show” on ESPN Radio on Monday that Johnson left him a voicemail and texted him an apology. … Ryan said defensive lineman Mike DeVito would miss Sunday’s game at Washington after injuring the medial collateral ligament in his left knee. … Safety Emanuel Cook, who recovered Buffalo’s botched squib kick Sunday, was released for undisclosed reasons. Tracy Wilson will be promoted from the practice squad to replace him.

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Big Yardage Out of Nowhere for the Bills

“A monster,” Coach Rex Ryan called Jackson.

“Born again,” the Jets’ defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine, said.

“He’s just playing at another level,” safety Jim Leonhard said.

When the Jets were not praising Jackson last week, they were devising ways to contain him in Sunday’s A.F.C. East showdown on the road against the first-place . Only Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears has amassed more yards from scrimmage than Jackson (1,074), who is as dangerous rushing with the ball (five 100-yard games) as he is catching it (an eye-popping 13.1 yards a catch).

He is big enough, at 6 feet 1 inch and 215 pounds, to and divert onrushing blitzers. He is fast enough to turn the corner and sprint down the sideline. According to the Web site , Jackson has avoided 27 tackles and rushed for 506 yards after contact, best among A.F.C. running backs in those categories.

“I think it’s a disrespectful thing to say that he’s different than he was before, because he’s been that workhorse since I was a member of that team,” said Jets linebacker Aaron Maybin, who played for Buffalo the past two seasons. “He was always the guy that when we needed a big play or when we needed a consistent ground game or even in the passing game, we would look to Fred.”

In seven previous games against Jackson, the Jets have largely handled him, limiting him to 3.2 yards a carry. He is now Buffalo’s feature back, no longer obscured by Marshawn Lynch, and the Bills are concocting ways to get the ball to him more than ever.

Driving that creativity is a spread offense that forces defenses to respect quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has thrown for 14 touchdowns in seven games, as much as Jackson. Many teams that deploy three or four receivers do not run the ball well, Pettine said. The Bills, with Jackson averaging an A.F.C.-best 103 yards a game, are an exception.

“It’s a perfect system for him,” Leonhard said. “Not only is he good in space, but when you get one-on-one with him, you see how many guys he’s making miss. If there are unblocked guys — defensive linemen, linebackers, secondary, whatever — it doesn’t matter. He runs right by them.”

Even though the Bills love spreading opposing defenses, they do so, Leonhard said, to run the ball. As Ryan said several times last week, the Bills actually have more rushing attempts this season — 195 to 177 — than the Jets, who have thwarted some running backs (Ryan Mathews, Felix Jones, Ray Rice) but not others (Darren McFadden, BenJarvus Green-Ellis). When Green-Ellis gained 136 yards against them Oct. 9, the Jets often flooded the field with defensive backs or linebackers, hoping to deter Tom Brady from passing. On Sunday, Pettine said, they will at times take the opposite approach, daring the Bills to throw, so concerned are they about Jackson, 30.

“Our priority coming in is we have to be at our best up front to stop the run,” Pettine said, “because that sets up everything they do.”

At their best, the Jets lean on tackle Mike DeVito, a supreme run stopper, to clog the middle. But a knee injury may sideline him for a second consecutive game, and the availability of his replacement, the rookie Kenrick Ellis (ankle), will also be a game-time decision. Their unavailability could compel Buffalo to run more.

Or, given the Bills’ diversified passing offense, it may not have any effect.

When the Bills throw, Jackson is a critical part of their plans. His pass-catching ability can make him a matchup nightmare for linebackers, and the Bills will almost certainly try to exploit that mismatch, whether by putting him in motion wide before the snap or by lining him up at receiver in an empty backfield.

“He’s a legit receiving threat,” Pettine said, “whereas some guys you know you can put somebody out there, but you really don’t have to worry about them.”

Coming off their bye week, the Jets have had two weeks to prepare for Jackson, and they want to curb him by bottling up the screen pass, a play Buffalo operates with conviction and, often, success. From studying videotape last week, the Jets noticed that Jackson was most effective coming out of the backfield untouched, permitted to run his route without disruption.

“We have to get our hands on him,” linebacker Jamaal Westerman said, emphasizing the word have.

The Jets have no other options — not Sunday, not against Jackson, dismissed and discounted no more.

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