How Jets went from playoff hopefuls to familiar mess

When the Jets beat the Colts convincingly Oct. 14, the postgame locker-room talk was about how the Jets were back in the thick of the playoff race and how, at 3-3, they were going to avoid the fate that hit them in each of the past two years, when they finished 5-11.

Boy, does that seem like a long time ago.

The Jets have lost five straight games since then to fall to 3-8 and are staring at another losing season. A 5-11 finish this year would be an accomplishment looking at the Jets’ remaining schedule. The five-game skid is the Jets’ longest since 2014.

So what the heck happened?

The offense stopped, averaging 11.2 points per game over the five-game stretch. The Jets have scored one touchdown or none in four of the five losses. The defense gives up big plays (28 plays of 20 yards or more in the five games) with alarming frequency. The coaches have been terrible. The players have been awful. It’s one highly forgettable stretch.

“With the exception of the Buffalo loss, which was not a good day, it’s a guy here or there,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said Monday. “We’re in the game into the fourth quarter and we’ve got to close them out. It’s one guy here or there, whether it’s execution or communication, we’re not closing them out. We’ve got to close them out regardless of who it is and which side of the ball it’s on. We just haven’t been consistent in closing them out.”

That sounds good, but it has been more than that. Here are a few areas where the Jets have struggled during this five-game stretch that began with a 37-17 loss to the Vikings and continued through Sunday’s 27-13 loss to the Patriots.

Playing takeaway

It is the most popular cliché in football that the team that wins the turnover battle wins the game. For the Jets, it has rung true lately. The Jets have failed to produce one takeaway during this five-game stretch. Here is how amazing that is: It ties an NFL record for the longest drought without a takeaway, according to ESPN.

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“It’s not mind-boggling, but you want to get them,” Bowles said. “We work on them all the time, and they come in bunches. We had our hands on a few. We’ve just got to come down with them.”

Compounding matters has been the Jets’ offense turning it over. The Jets were minus-4 against the Vikings and Dolphins in turnover margin and minus-2 in the 41-10 loss to the Bills. Over this five-game stretch, they are minus-11. Overall this season, the Jets are minus-8, which is tied for 27th in the NFL.

Nowhere to run

Remember when the Jets ran for 323 yards against the Broncos? That really happened. They broke 100 yards the following week against the Colts and not since. Over the five-game losing streak, they have scored two rushing touchdowns. They have rushed 102 times for 365 yards, averaging 3.6 yards per carry. So they nearly had as many yards on the ground against Denver as they have in the past five games. On Sunday, they ran the ball just 15 times.

This is the Jets’ longest stretch since 2005 without a 100-yard rushing game.

Red means stop

The Jets are the worst team in the NFL in the red zone, converting 40.7 percent of their trips into touchdowns this season. But during the losing streak, it has not been about red-zone conversions as much as it is just the infrequency with which the Jets have gotten inside the 20. They have had just seven trips to the red zone in five games. They had none in the 13-6 loss to the Dolphins and just one in the losses to the Bears and Bills.

No pressure

Tom Brady was barely touched Sunday, and that has become a consistent problem with the Jets. They have eight sacks during the five-game losing streak, with four of them coming against Brock Osweiler and the Dolphins. They had one sack in the losses to the Bills and Vikings and no sacks against Brady.

Out at third

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The Jets were much better on third down against the Patriots (6-of-14, 43 percent) than they have been lately, but in the past five games, they have converted a total of 21 percent of their third downs. They had just one conversion against the Bills, two against the Dolphins and Vikings and three against the Bears.

Big-play problems

The over-hyped Jets defense has given up 28 plays of 20 yards or more, including 10 against the Patriots, during this stretch. There have been 11 plays of 30 yards or more and three plays of more than 40 yards. Offenses are not having to work to score against the Jets.

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