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Maybe by next year the Jets, all but eliminated Sunday by surrendering three big plays to the playoff-bound Panthers, will have a few more players to make those plays, too.
Turning Point: Jason Williams’ punt block really was Stage II. The Jets had gotten consecutive stops around their nine-play, 86-yard touchdown drive to cut the lead to 16-13 when Brian Winters got caught holding on first down. Only after the Jets went 3-and-out was that punt blocked.
Best Play, Either Side of the Ball: Sheldon Richardson shed Ryan Kalil, grabbed Cam Newton by the jersey and dragged him down 2 yards short of the marker. Carolina settled for a second-quarter field goal that kept the Jets within 10 points.
Best Special Teams Play: Nick Folk hit a 54-yard field goal as time expired in the first quarter to tie the game, 3-3. He has missed one field goal in 14 games.
Worst Special Teams Play: Williams had such a clear path up the A-gap, he almost had time to snatch Ryan Quigley’s drop before it reached his foot.
Best Throw: A Geno Smith bullet to David Nelson on third-and-5 leading to the Jets' first field goal.
Worst Throw: From the standpoint of never should have been thrown? It was Captain Munnerlyn’s pick-six of Smith that put the game out of reach. But the weakest throw itself was when Saalim Hakim had a step down the sideline and Smith, on the run, threw the ball five feet out of bounds.
Most Perplexing Question About Geno as a Quarterback to Build Around: There still is no evidence he can look off receivers. If he did that, there would be less double coverage for him to throw into and not five interceptions returned for touchdowns this season.
Next Most Perplexing Question About Geno as a Quarterback to Build Around: How often has he missed the hot read, allowing a blitzer to come free? For shortage of weaponry, this offense is not all his fault for sure. But after 14 games, win or lose, it would be reassuring to see more light bulbs coming on.
Best Run: Chris Ivory bounced outside for 35 yards on a misdirection play well-executed by D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Jeff Cumberland to set up Nick Folk’s second field goal and the 6-6 tie.
Best Catch: By a leaping Jeremy Kerley over the middle on the Jets’ second touchdown drive.
Next Best Catch: Bilal Powell had to go up, too, to bail out Smith on the Jets’ first touchdown drive.
Biggest Defensive Play That Wasn't Made: Ed Reed not only bought Newton’s look-off before the screen taken 72 yards for a touchdown by DeAngelo Williams, but then took a terrible angle in pursuit, essentially picking himself off while Dee Milliner was surrendering the sideline to Williams. Back upfield, it wasn’t exactly David Harris’ finest hour, either.
Greatest Gift: Leading, 16-6, in the third quarter, Carolina coach Ron Rivera decided to go for it on fourth-and-2 at the Jets 14. Quinton Coples got to Newton’s arm as he released and the Jets held. Why would any coach figure he needs touchdowns to outlast the 30th-best scoring offense in the NFL?
Biggest Red Herring: That the Panthers had the last laugh on Santonio Holmes, who this week said the Panthers’ secondary was “their weakest link.” Yeah, Holmes had an embarrassing early drop on a quick out. But he was held twice by Melvin White to prevent completions, one of which saved a touchdown, and could have had another touchdown had Smith not apparently thrown to the wrong shoulder. Jets receivers were open a lot more often than they were not, including Cumberland for a 35-yarder to set up the first Jets TD. Had Smith (sacked four times) had more time and more accuracy, that secondary would have been exposed. In other words, Holmes was spot-on.
Best Play Call: From the Carolina 2, Mornhinweg gave it twice to the snowplow, the 294-pound Richardson, he scored on the second, and a legend was born.
Best coverage: Antonio Allen on Greg Olsen in the end zone on third-and-goal from the 4. Olsen had five catches, but not that one.
Best Hit: Brandon LaFell got clobbered by Dawan Landry on a delivery from Newton over the middle and still hung on.
Most Embarrassing Moment: The Jets lined up Jeremy Kerley in the Wildcat, switched to Smith to take the snap, and started to switch again when Smith finally admitted they had no idea what they were doing and had to waste a second-half timeout.
Biggest Jets Draft Need: A fast and durable deep threat.
Biggest Jets Free Agent Need: A guard. Not to dismiss the struggling rookie Brian Winters, who may improve, but the Jets have been fortunate that Willie Colon has stayed healthy, plus Vlad Ducasse doesn’t provide much depth.
Next Biggest Jets Free Agent Need: A dynamic safety and a young corner. That way, John Idzik can put more cap money into the offense, perhaps including a quarterback to challenge Smith for the No. 1 job.