Jets lose their poise, lack killer instinct in epic meltdown vs. Dolphins

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The New York Jets staged a football clinic on Sunday: How to blow a big lead in four easy steps. It was messy and embarrassing.

"A sick feeling," quarterback Josh McCown said.

A visibly agitated Todd Bowles bemoaned the lack of killer instinct after his team blew a 14-point lead and fell to the Miami Dolphins and backup quarterback Matt Moore, 31-28, at Hard Rock Stadium. This was first time since 1995 they lost a game after leading by at least 14 points in the fourth quarter.

Cardinal rule for Jets' coaches: Never do anything that warrants a comparison to a Rich Kotite-coached team.

"Too many mistakes, too many blunders," Bowles said. "At some point, we've got to develop some killer instinct to finish the ballgame."

Remember, the Jets blew a 14-0 lead last week to the New England Patriots. The latest debacle was worse because it happened against the offensively challenged Dolphins, who lost quarterback Jay Cutler (ribs) in the third quarter. The Jets were in control, 28-14, with 12 minutes left in the game. At one point in the fourth quarter, their win probability was 95.5 percent, according to ESPN analytics.

Then came the implosion. What happened?

The Jets' four-step guide to misery:

1. A ridiculous number of penalties: The Jets were called for seven in the fourth quarter (two declined) and a total of 12 for the game (124 yards). The biggest culprit was cornerback Buster Skrine (three for 36 yards), but eight other players committed at least one penalty, including four offensive linemen. It was a total lack of poise, and here's the scary part: It wasn't a fluke. The Jets, among the least penalized teams in Bowles' first two seasons, have regressed in this area -- 57 accepted penalties in seven games.

"We can't do stupid stuff like that and expect to win," running back Matt Forte said.

2. A killer turnover: McCown played a terrific game for 59 minutes, becoming the first Jets quarterback since 1960 (Al Dorow) to have three touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown in the same game. Then disaster struck. On a first down from his own 15-yard line with 47 seconds left, he was intercepted by Bobby McCain, setting up Miami's winning field goal.

McCown blamed himself for the interception, saying it was a bad read. He threw into zone coverage, looking for Jermaine Kearse on an "out" route -- a silly mistake.

3. A weak link in the secondary: Skrine, who played one of the best games of his career last week, followed with a nightmarish performance. In addition to the penalties, he surrendered two touchdown catches to Kenny Stills in the fourth quarter. Moore, who did everything but pull off a fake spike play, attacked Skrine relentlessly. Bowles had no other options because the Jets' backup slot corner is a rookie, Xavier Coleman, and he already was sidelined with a shoulder injury.

4. A disappearing offense: The Jets produced minus-4 yards in the fourth quarter. McCown dropped back to pass eight times, and they lost 22 yards on those plays. Everything that worked in the first half stopped working, and they never adjusted. The offensive line was a mess, unable to protect McCown.

Some people might try to blame this on the Jets' youth, but that's a bunch a hooey. Their veteran players made some of the biggest mistakes, not the rookies. Some of the kids, namely safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, played well.

"We're not going to say we're a young team and lean on that excuse," tackle Kelvin Beachum said. "We didn't get it done. Whether you're an old team, a young team, a new team or an expansion team, when you have a team down by two scores, you have to demolish them and close it out and leave no hope for there to be any type of comeback."

Bowles and several players blamed it on not having a killer instinct, but linebacker Darron Lee wasn't buying that.

"It's not about killer instinct. We have killer instinct," he said. "We have a bunch of killers on defense and on offense."

Mistake-prone killers.