NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Each week, the New York Jets sink a little lower. Each week, their glaring warts are on full display. They can't score touchdowns, their defense crumbles in big spots and they commit dumb penalties. Worst of all? They've been infected by a losing mentality, the type of virus that can ruin teams and ruin seasons.
It was on full display Sunday at Nissan Stadium, where the Jets came unglued in the second half and fell to the Tennessee Titans, 26-22 -- their sixth straight loss. This was brutal. The Jets led 16-0, but they played as if they expected something bad to happen.
And it did. Over and over.
Afterward, there was a sense of finality in the locker room, as if the dark cloud over coach Todd Bowles had moved into the players’ quarters. They know what fate awaits their coach. Oh, they defended him, insisting it wasn’t his fault, but they know it’s a cut-throat business and someone will have to pay for this mess of a season.
Bowles, in a rare moment of candor, called it a “disgusting” performance. It was. The Jets committed 11 penalties, including three on the Titans’ game-winning drive in the final two minutes. Trumaine Johnson, Jordan Jenkins and Morris Claiborne committed fouls, three seasoned veterans who lost their poise in the crucible of crunch time.
“Discipline, that’s all it is,” said linebacker Avery Williamson, meaning a lack thereof. “It’s becoming the norm.”
Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, measuring his words, said, “I could keep telling you we’re close [to a turnaround], but I keep contradicting myself when we’re continuously doing the same thing.”
Did anyone actually believe the Jets (3-9) would hold on for a win? Of course not. They're a bad team with no confidence and no discipline, as they did everything possible to blow a game that should've been wrapped up in the first half.
They were an utter disgrace. Bowles has suffered a lot of painful defeats in his career, and this had to be one of the worst. He's Dead Man Coaching, as the Jets have lost 18 of their past 23 games. This was the kind of game that gets coaches fired, but ownership apparently will wait until the bitter end to relieve Bowles of his duties.
“We’re frustrated, we’re pissed off, but we’re not fractured,” said Bowles, clinging to the only he has going for him -- a unified team.
On this day the offense, once again led by backup quarterback Josh McCown, failed to score a touchdown. Again. That makes five straight games with one or no offensive touchdowns, the longest streak in franchise history.
Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, who actually unveiled a few wrinkles, should thank his lucky stars if his keyless code to the Jets’ facility still is working on Monday morning. His unit melted every time it reached the red zone, 0 for 3.
The Titans scored the game-winning touchdown with 37 seconds left, an 11-yard touchdown pass to Corey Davis. It was the Titans' first third-down conversion of the game and their first lead, erasing all the positive that had occurred for the Jets -- their first takeaway in six games (a pick-six by Johnson) and a spectacular day by the special teams.
The day turned into a mixed-message infomercial, delivered by the players on behalf of Bowles. They said it’s wrong to make Bowles the scapegoat for the rotten season, yet they played as if they don’t want him around. Maybe that explains why Bowles, stepping out of character, publicly scolded the team for “dumb” mistakes.
“I feel like we’re disciplined,” Claiborne said, “but s--- happens sometimes in the heat of a game.”
Famous last words.