Saleh ‘sick’ as the Jets fail the 4th-down call in losses

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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – Two yards away from one of the biggest disruptions in franchise history, the New York Jets gave the wrong play to quarterback Zach Wilson on a crucial fourth-and-2 late in a 28-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

Jets coach Robert Saleh said the result “makes you sick,” saying it should have been a transfer to wide receiver Braxton Berrios at one end instead of driving a quarterback sneak – which was filled with no win on the Bucs’ 7 -yard line with 2:12 left in the fourth quarter. The Jets, ahead 24-20, could have run the time out with a first down.

Saleh blamed the coaching staff, and although he did not name any names, his anger was directed at offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. Saleh called it a communications crash, saying Wilson should never have had the opportunity to sneak into that situation.

“They deserved better,” Saleh said of his players. “We won that match and we have to be better for our players.”

Saleh explained what should have happened:

“In that situation, we would have the ball passed to Berrios, but we did a very bad job as a coaching staff in communicating it in a squeeze,” he said. “Zach performed the play as it was designed. Unfortunately, if you look at the TV [replay]”Braxton probably has a first down and the game is over.”

The Jets (4-12) actually took a timeout before the play to talk about it, making an error communication unforgivable. LaFleur, who was in the coaching staff, was not available after the match.

“It’s Mike to Zach,” Saleh said of the communication. “It’s simple: He calls a play and says, ‘Tear this ball off no matter what.’ That’s all the communication that needs to be said. It never came through. Zach executed the playbook as designed.”

Berrios, a dangerous runner, got moving, from right to left. The Bucs were gathered at the line. Chances are he would have picked up the first try, maybe a touchdown, if Wilson had given him the ball.

The Jets ran the same game earlier in the season against the Houston Texans, with Wilson passing to wide receiver Elijah Moore on an end from Houston 15. But it was fourth-and-1, not fourth-and-2. It got 7 yards.

When the Bucs got new life, the Bucs took advantage when quarterback Tom Brady – with no timeouts left – orchestrated a 93-yard touchdown drive and hit Cyril Grayson to a 33-yard score with 15 seconds left. It was a crushing loss for the Jets, bringing a 24-10 lead in the third quarter.

Wilson, who explained what he saw on the fourth-and-2, said he was simply trying to accomplish what he was told.

“We got the call and I liked it just because it has a lot of different options,” Wilson said. “Right there, I was just thinking about doing my job. We had an open A-gap there. Unfortunately, we fell short.”

Asked if he had guessed his decision, Wilson said, “I did what I thought was necessary to do right there. It was in my parameters. Coach LaFleur understands that. The hard thing right here is, it’s easy to say, ‘Hey , I’ll hand it over and we’ll get the first one down. ‘ OK, well, say it’s the other way around. Say I handed it over and we’ll be filled. Then everyone says, “Why didn’t you take the open A-gap?” It goes both ways. “

Except for Wilson (18-for-32 passes, 224 yards) should never have had the opportunity, according to Saleh, who seemed upset.

“We need to get better as a coaching team in terms of communicating and making sure everything we want is exactly the way it needs to be done,” Saleh said. “It’s the first time for Berrios, and we’re talking about something completely different.”

The Jets could have taken a seven-point lead if they had gone after the field goal, but Saleh chose to make the brave call on the fourth-and-2.

“We are a yard away from keeping the ball out of the biggest player in the hands of football history,” Saleh said, explaining his choice even though the Jets were actually 2 yards away. “I take that farm every time.”

The Jets, 14.5-point underdogs, managed almost the biggest home disturbance in the team’s history, based on the spread, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. Wilson played his best game, the Berrios scored two touchdowns and the Jets frustrated Brady (34-for-50 passes, 410 yards, three touchdowns) in three blocks.

“When you have a team down with multiple touchdowns,” New York linebacker CJ Mosley said, “you have to find a way to put them to bed.”


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