Slow start, turnovers doom Jaguars
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – For the second straight week, the New York Jets had an opposing quarterback blaming himself for a loss at the Meadowlands.
Luke McCown stood in for Tony Romo as the frustrated opponent Sunday after a 32-3 rout at the hands of the Jets in which the Jacksonville quarterback was picked off four times. McCown had an infinitesimal 1.8 passer rating and also was sacked for a safety as the Jets got off quickly and never looked back.
McCown's numbers were awful — 6 for 19 for 59 yards — before mercifully being lifted early in the fourth quarter for first-round draft pick Blaine Gabbert. He relied as much as he could on dependable running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who had 88 yards rushing. Otherwise, McCown was overmatched.
"Honestly, it was nothing they were doing. I was just off today," said McCown, who made his eighth NFL start in last week's opening win over Tennessee even though he's been in the NFL for eight seasons.
"You'd like to not have a day like this, but they happen. I'm not the first guy that had a day like this. I probably won't be the last. I've got to be better."
Whether he gets the chance isn't certain. Coach Jack Del Rio was noncommittal about who will start next week at Carolina.
Gabbert, the team's first-round pick, was 5 of 6 for 52 yards.
"We decided after Luke threw his fourth interception we would give Blaine an opportunity," Del Rio said. "That was the decision for today. The immediate next question is: What are you going to do going forward? My answer is, we'll discuss that as a staff."
The Jaguars (1-1) never came close to overcoming their giveaways, and were outdone on special teams, too. Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie had two long kickoff returns to boost New York's offense, and he had two picks, running back one to the Jacksonville 1 to set up a touchdown.
After the safety that made it 9-0, the Jets (2-0) never were threatened.
"They got off to a fast start," Del Rio said. "We'd like to be able to punt out of there and play defense. I thought we settled down and played decent defense for a large part of the afternoon. It was not an ideal way to start the ballgame, to take a safety and go down 9-0."
One annoyance for the Jaguars was a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on Dwight Lowery, who hit quarterback Mark Sanchez when as he was at the sideline. Replays indicated the hit by the former Jets defensive back came while Sanchez still was inbounds.
"If he was out of bounds, then I wouldn't be upset," Del Rio said. "When he is in the field of play and he has not slid, and we don't hit him high or low, then he's fair game. We got into an interpretation of the rule that now it wasn't necessary to tackle him, that we should allow him to slip out of bounds untouched. That just goes against everything I've ever been taught playing this game."
Sanchez threw two touchdown passes as the offense broke a 16-game skid without scoring a touchdown in the first quarter.
Jets coach Rex Ryan challenged his offensive line to play better than it did in the season-opening win over Dallas, and wanted to see the offense move the ball early.
The Jets won the toss, elected to receive — a rarity under the defensive-minded Ryan — and efficiently moved the ball downfield before scoring on a 17-yard catch by Santonio Holmes.
First-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson had his first NFL sack for the safety. Eric Smith and Josh Mauga intercepted McCown, too.
The Jets improved to 5-1 while wearing their navy New York Titans throwback jerseys, and are 2-0 for the second time in three years under Ryan. It was a crucial win for the Jets even so early in the season because they face three straight road games.
It's uncertain if they will be without All-Pro center Nick Mangold, who left with an ankle injury late in the first quarter and didn't return. Ryan said X-rays were negative, but that Mangold would undergo an MRI exam Monday.
Sanchez rested for most of the fourth quarter, finishing 17 of 24 for 182 yards with touchdowns to Holmes and Dustin Keller, and two interceptions. Keller had six catches for 101 yards, and Shonn Greene ran for 49 yards and a score.
New York was up 9-0 less than 5 minutes in, helped by its impressive opening drive highlighted when Sanchez connected with Keller for 33 yards.
On the next play, Sanchez found Holmes, who leaped to bring down a high pass for a touchdown. Holmes had been questionable with an ailing knee and quadriceps muscle.
On the Jaguars' first possession, Sione Pouha deflected McCown's first pass, and on third down, Wilkerson beat Jaguars rookie left guard Will Rackley and flung McCown to the turf for the safety. The play was upheld after a review by officials.
Josh Scobee made it 9-3 with a 55-yard field goal, but that was all the scoring for Jacksonville.
Nick Folk's 38-yard field goal early in the second quarter made it 12-3.
After Smith intercepted McCown and a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Eugene Monroe gave the Jets the ball in good field position, Folk's 45-yarder made it 15-3 with 26 seconds left before the half.
Keller's 11-yard touchdown catch put New York ahead 22-3 in the third quarter, capping another impressive drive in which he had a 37-yard reception.
Cromartie picked off McCown and returned it 26 yards to the Jaguars 1. It was initially ruled a touchdown, but a review showed the ball was out of bounds before Cromartie got it over the pylon.
Greene then bulldozed his way into the end zone from a yard out to make it 29-3.
On the Jaguars' next play from scrimmage, Mauga got the Jets' fourth interception. The Jets settled for a 23-yard field goal to make it 32-3 after Sanchez appeared to hurt his right arm on third-and-goal from the 5 when he was hit by Matt Roth.
It looked as though Sanchez was OK as he came out on the Jets' next possession before giving way to Mark Brunell and getting a nice cheer from the crowd.