The Jets were right: The Wildcat is causing a lot of confusion -- for them, not the opponent.
They wasted two timeouts and hurried another play -- all in the fourth quarter of Monday night's 23-17 loss to the Texans -- and the common denominator was ... you guessed it, the Tim Tebow package.
The first two hiccups came after long gainers. After a 36-yard completion, OC Tony Sparano wanted to change on the fly with the ball at the Houston 16 with 13:17 remaining. But there was confusion and they called timeout. Ultimately, they inserted their Wildcat package, with Tebow and WR Jason Hill replacing FB Lex Hilliard and WR Jeremy Kerley. They used Tebow behind center, with Mark Sanchez split out wide. Tebow ran for 13 yards.
Five minutes later, it happened again after a 19-yard completion by Sanchez. This time, it was chaos, and it was embarrassing. First, they had 12 in the huddle. Then two players left and it was 10 in the huddle.
Eventually, Sanchez, RB Shonn Greene, Kerley and Hill were replaced by Tebow, RB Joe McKnight, TE Jason Smith and TE Konrad Reuland. With a run-heavy package, the Jets, uh, ran and Tebow was stopped for no gain.
Five minutes later, Sparano got real funky, sending in Tebow and CB/WR Antonio Cromartie at the same time, joining Sanchez. The Jets seemed more surprised than the Texans, with Sanchez barely getting the play off before a delay penalty -- an incompletion to Cromartie.
The Jets aren't good enough to overcome this many game-management glitches. How could this happen? According to Ryan, things got out of whack when WR Clyde Gates left with a shoulder injury. Suddenly, they had to use Hill -- signed only five days earlier -- in some of the Tebow packages. Apparenly, Hill didn't get the memo.
"It's just that we had to put somebody in, in an unfamiliar position for him," Ryan said. "(He) hadn't practiced it. Hopefully, we get guys that will be here longer than three or four days or whatever (and) maybe he'll pick it up."
Ryan insisted that he likes the Tebow package, claiming it's not as hard to manage as it might appear. Could've fooled me.
MENTAL MISTAKES: Even though RG Brandon Moore said "it goes down as a loss, they don't keep a solace column" in the standings, the Jets can take some measure of satisfaction in knowing they went toe-to-toe with one of the elite teams in the league. In the end, the difference was a few costly mental mistakes.
Mistake No. 1 -- Owen Daniels' 34-yard TD reception. The Jets, in their base 3-4 scheme, were supposed to play a simple Cover-3, but "we totally blow a coverage," Ryan said. He said the middle safety, responsible for the middle third of the field, blew his assignment. Can't say for certain, but it appears the guilty party was S LaRon Landry, who got drawn out of position by a heavy play fake. Daniel ran a post-corner-post route and was wide open for a "gimme touchdown," as Ryan called it.
Mistake No. 2 -- Arian Foster's 46-yard run. The Jets had the Texans backed up to their 4-yard line, but they blew an opportunity for great field position by letting them escape. Ryan blamed it on a "critical alignment error," not offering any specifics.
The Jets were in an eight-man front, playing the run. Four players didn't do what they had to in order to stop the play: NT Kenrick Ellis, double teamed, was pancaked. LB David Harris got blown up in the hole by the lead blocker. DE Bryan Thomas was a split-second late getting off his block. S Yeremiah Bell, lined up as a linebacker, was late in providing help on the second level. Put it all together, and you have a field position-changing play.
Mistake No. 3 -- Sanchez sacked on a blindside blitz. One play before the game-clinching interception, the Jets still had a great chance to win -- second-and-10 from their 40. Texans DC Wade Phillips made a great call, sending CB Brice McCain on a slot blitz. There was a protection breakdown by the Jets, who failed to block him. Who's fault was it? There's a lot of blame to go around.
The offensive line slid toward the center, with LB Brooks Reed coming in an A-gap blitz. That gave McCain an easier path to Sanchez. RB Bilal Powell leaked out of the backfield instead of staying in to block. Sanchez failed to recognize the blitz and held the ball too long, missing two receivers that were open underneath. The sack created a third-and-18 and, well, you know how it ended.
THE CENTURY CLUB: Joe McKnight's 100-yard kickoff return was a thing of beauty. It was a blend of great running and terrific blocking. Garrett McIntyre and Reuland got him started with an effective, two-man wedge. They had a nice wall set up, with Nick Bellore pancaking Jesse Nading. From there, McKnight blew past PK Shayne Graham in the hole and did some nice balance work along the sideline to reach the end zone.
It was the Jets' 16th kickoff-return TD since coach Mike Westhoff arrived in 2001. That's more than the all-time total for 11 teams, according to the NFL.
SAME STRUGGLE, DIFFERENT TWIST: The Jets' run defense continued its problems, but this was different than the previous week. Unlike the 49ers, who killed the Jets on the perimeter, the Texans enjoyed most of their success up the gut.
Foster rushed for 147 of his 152 yards inside the tackles, a season-high and the third-highest total in his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Nine of Foster’s 29 rushes came with three tight ends on the field.
THE HOLMES FACTOR: The Jets struggled with Houston's pressure. In fact, the Texans sent five or more pass rushers on 21 of the Jets’ 35 dropbacks Monday (60.0 percent), their highest percentage in a game this season, per ESPN Stats. All three of their sacks came when they sent five or more pass rushers. The Jets, without WR Santonio Holmes, have no proven threats on the outside that might dissuade teams from sending the house.
ODDS AND ENDS: Brandon Moore is one of the best pass-blocking guards in the league, but he allowed a sack to J.J. Watt, who pretty much had his way with everyone on the Jets' line ... The Texans were expecting a fake punt (they had eight in the box) and they still couldn't stop Tebow ... Curious call by Sparano in the third quarter. With C Nick Mangold (ankle) out, they had seldom-used C Matt Slauson snapping in shotgun on an end-around. The snap was high, disrupting the timing of the play ... Rookie NT Damon Harrison, in his NFL debut, showed some promise. On his first play, he stood up C Chris Myers.