In the midst of a surprising push to overcome midseason mediocrity, the New York Jets fell 19-6 to the Pittsburgh Steelers at home in Week 6. The loss knocked the Jets to an even 3-3 on the season and squelched speculation that New York might be a serious contender in the AFC East.
Many thought the Jets would be able to deliver a statement win over a surprisingly innocuous Pittsburgh team that was, and perhaps still is, on its way to one of its worst seasons in recent memory. Instead, the Jets, and their perpetually inconsistent rookie signal-caller, fell back into old habits and handed the Steelers their first win of the season.
Here are the five most critical takeaways from Sunday.
1. Geno Smith Isn't There Yet
However, his three-touchdown, zero-turnover outing was quickly forgotten after his inexperience surfaced once again at MetLife on Sunday.
Smith played conservatively in the game's first half, seemingly comfortable in Marty Mornhinweg's prudent offensive game plan.
However, when the Jets needed to mount a second-half comeback, Smith ran into trouble.
The former West Virginia Mountaineer threw two interceptions that cost the Jets any chance of pulling out a victory. Moreover, Smith's ability to throw the ball deep was stifled by the Steelers' veteran secondary. According to ESPN Stats & Info, through the first five games of the season, Smith completed 21-of-36 attempts at passes longer than 15 yards, including three touchdowns.
Against the Steelers, however, Smith was 2-of-10 with an interception.
If Geno is unable to generate points against the Patriots next week, it could be an ugly outing for the Jets.
2. More Injuries
Injuries have plagued the Jets all season. And on Sunday, the Jets lost two more weapons to season-ending injuries.
Receiver and kick returner Clyde Gates suffered a shoulder injury on Sunday that has landed him on injured reserve. For an already depleted receiving corps, the loss of Gates could be significant.
The Jets also lost running back Mike Goodson to a knee injury. Goodson, who had been suspended for the first four games of the season, tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee during the fourth quarter of the Jets' defeat.
MRI Shows that I Tore My MCL and ACL yesterday😳..... Not to happy right now But Everything Happens for a reason! #LetGoAndLetGod— Mike Goodson (@GoodNplenty33) October 14, 2013
The Jets had high hopes for Goodson. In an interview with Rich Cimini of ESPN, Rex Ryan said, "We all saw what we were so excited about, the type of explosiveness that young man presents."
3. Jets' Run Game Is Still Shaky
The Jets have been inconsistent in their commitment to the run. Without a standout running back, Mornhinweg has been unable to implement a dependable running attack.
However, with an increasingly erratic passing game, the Jets will need to figure out a way to get yards on the ground.
According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the Jets are 2-0 when they run the ball more than they pass it.
Against Pittsburgh, the Jets tried to run the ball early. However, after falling behind, the Jets were forced to throw the ball downfield, which ultimately resulted in takeaways for Pittsburgh's defense.
A good running attack opens up the passing game. For Geno Smith, a respectable run game would lessen some of his offensive responsibilities.
4. Cromartie Isn't 100 Percent
Cromartie continued his streak of subpar play on Sunday. The former standout cornerback has struggled to lead the Jets' secondary without Darrelle Revis at his side.
Whether it was his hyperextended knee or his nagging hip injury, Cromartie got beaten on several plays against the Steelers that seriously hurt the Jets' chances.
The most notable of these plays was a 55-yard bomb to Emmanuel Sanders that resulted in a touchdown for Pittsburgh. That easily could have been the second touchdown that Cromartie allowed Sunday. Earlier in the game, Antonio Brown dropped a ball in the end zone after beating Cromartie near the goal line.
After further review, NFL stats keepers should take away TD from Emmanuel Sanders and just give it to Antonio Cromartie.— Andy Benoit (@Andy_Benoit) October 15, 2013
For the Jets defense to continue being one of the best in the league, Cromartie will have to step up his play in the secondary. Despite all the pressure the Jets' pass rush has put on opposing quarterbacks, the Jets have only one interception this season.
5. Jets Can't Win Two in a Row
In the last 24 games under Rex Ryan, Gang Green has been able to string together two wins only once.
What that means? I don't know.
However, the Jets won't get anywhere, no matter who is at quarterback, without building some momentum. The Jets had an ideal opportunity to get two big wins in two weeks, but inconsistency and sheer lack of talent prevented them from doing so.
Now, the Jets are back at .500 with the New England Patriots looming in Week 7. How they will respond is anybody's guess.