There's nothing that makes a football team look worse than when it can't protect its quarterback. By that standard, the Jets looked like garbage in Sunday's 27-17 loss to the Chargers.
The Jets tied a team record by allowing 11 sacks -- in only 35 dropbacks, mind you. That kind of incompetence is unfathomable. "Ridiculous," Rex Ryan called it. When the Jets allowed 11 sacks on Oct. 4, 1987 -- in a strike game, with replacement players -- they had 46 dropbacks.
How did the Jets, who sent three offensive linemen to the Pro Bowl last year, sink so low? Obviously, the line deserves its share of the blame, but this debacle went way beyond one position group.
After breaking down the tape, let us count the ways:
• The Jets couldn't run the ball, creating obvious passing situations. In fact, eight sacks came on second/third/fourth-and-9 or greater.
• First-time starting QB Greg McElroy held the ball too long on occasion. By my unofficial stopwatch, he held the ball at least 4.0 seconds on six sacks. At times, he didn't sense the pressure. Other times, he sensed it but slid the wrong way in the pocket.
• The Chargers didn't exactly send the kitchen sink. They recorded six sacks on four-man rushes; four sacks on five-man rushes; and one sack on a six-man rush. Only once did they send a defensive back and, naturally, he was unblocked.
• There appeared to be a litany of mental mistakes and confusion. RB Bilal Powell, usually a sure pass blocker, constantly leaked out of the backfield into pass routes. Once, there was a miscommunication between Ferguson and LG Matt Slauson. Another time, Moore and Howard were occupied with one rusher, letting another rusher swoop past them on a stunt.
• Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano and line coach Dave DeGuglielmo deserve plenty of blame, too. On six sacks, they didn't have any RBs or TEs blocking -- just the five linemen. They had maximum protection (seven blockers) on only one sack. If your quarterback is getting his butt kicked, do you think it might make sense to keep in an extra blocker or two? This was a poorly coordinated effort. The players were indecisive and, at times, confused. That goes on the coaches.
A breakdown of the 11 sacks:
1. Melvin Ingram. Before the draft, there was a lot of speculation about the Jets picking him 16th overall. He looked pretty good on this play, beating Ferguson with an outside move.
2. Kendall Reyes/Brandon Taylor. This was a rookie combo. Reyes, the former UConn standout, beat Moore for a half-sack. Taylor came free on a safety blitz for the other half. McElroy was indecisive, double pumping.
3. Donald Butler. Ingram pressured on a stunt between Slauson and Ferguson. McElroy took forever (8.0 seconds) and Butley cleaned up for the sack.
4. Larry English. The Jets actually kept in RB Shonn Greene and TE Jeff Cumberland to block. No matter. NT Antonio Garay made the sack possible by beating C Nick Mangold for a pressure. All English had to do was clean up.
5. Shaun Phillips. He beat Howard on an outside move, fell, got up and kept going -- a great hustle play. McElroy held the ball too long.
6. Reyes. He beat Moore, who didn't get any favors from McElroy, who slid in the wrong direction and went right into Reyes.
7. Corey Liuget. The powerful defensive end joined the sack party, beating Feguson with a spin move. McElroy stepped right into the sack.
8. Phillips. He got past Howard, cleanly. Powell leaked out to the flat and was open, but McElroy never saw him.
9. Reyes. Yeah, him again. He stunted to the outside, defeating Moore and Howard. McElroy moved the wrong way -- again.
10. Reyes. He finished off his 3.5-sack day, probably earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. An assist goes to English, who harrassed McElroy by beating Ferguson to the outside. Moore and Howard both blocked LB Jarret Johnson, allowing Reyes to come free on a stunt. Someone messed up.
11. Liuget. You didn't think we'd be able to get through the debacle without mentioning Ducasse, did you? Liuget beat Ducasse with a power rush, ripping McElroy to the ground with a spectacular, one-handed takedown. It looked like something out of the WWE.
In fairness to McElroy and the pass blockers, it's hard to execute a passing game when the receivers struggle to get open. That was often the case. It was just an entire mess, from play calling to blocking to throwing.
"A lot of times, when I turned around," WR Braylon Edwards said, "Greg was already on the ground."
That about says it all.