Florham Park, N.J. - Nothing is ever guaranteed in the NFL but the one thing certain about this New York Jets team - they have a strange affection of playing from behind. They did it against the Arizona Cardinals. They tried their luck again against the Baltimore Ravens. It happened again this past Sunday against the winless Cleveland Browns. No matter which way you look at it, the Jets love the challenge of digging out of deep holes. If they don't change that deadly habit this week, fans could expect what plagued the team earlier in the season: turnovers, major deficits and more unnecessary stress.
At this point - it is still unknown what attributes to the slow starts. You can signal out coaching for not preparing the team well enough. You can point the finger at the players themselves for simply not being ready to play. Slow starts have been an issue for the Jets since the start of the season, which have resulted in major holes needing to be dug out of to make a game remotely competitive.
"Everything out there is mindset," head coach Todd Bowles said when asked how much of getting off to a fast start is a head-game. "It's not a matter of inches a game, we're there and it's just the hype of the crowd, or the excitement, or calming down. Everybody is just doing their own job and some people try to over-do their jobs."
The old saying of 'don't think, just do it' comes into play. When players over-think, over-analyze and over-do their jobs, games tend to go off the rails. While a player is in the middle of anticipating what will happen next, he forgets about the present which leads to missed tackles and lapses in coverage. For the Jets in particular, the execution level is poor in the beginning of games, which explains why they have trailed early on opening drives. It has happened in four of eight games.
"Everybody is just doing their own job and some people try to over-do their jobs," said Bowles. "Sometimes they make a good play here or there, but we have to find a way to have better chemistry and get off to a quicker start somehow."
That quicker start means New York needs a spark. The current energy level at the start of games is not effective enough. The Jets need a powerful run to set the tone and gain an extra yard. They need a circus catch on a perfect throw from the quarterback. They need a sack - maybe a fumble recovery on defense. They need a tipped pass and an interception to sway momentum. Todd Bowles stressed execution during his press conference with the media - now the team needs to perform.
"It's just not making small mistakes. We come up with third-and-inches and we don't execute," Bowles said while alluding to last Sunday. "We miss a block or sustained a block or running the right route depth, or missing a throw here or there. We just have to get off to a better start. We have to execute better earlier."
It starts with the play of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. If he can manage the game and protect the football, the start of the game will not be an issue. It will be up to Fitzpatrick - like the rest of the team - to execute from start to finish.
"There's a lot of things that we need to do better if we're going to continue this winning streak and continue to win games," said Fitzpatrick. "[Last game] we were able to overcome a lot of [first half issues] in the second half."
The Jets cannot afford to trail early to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday because this game is far too important for their season. There should be no reason for Bowles to add to the swear jar his staff set up for him or a motivational halftime speech from one veteran. If the Jets can't be ready to face a divisional rival for a potential third consecutive victory then their already slim playoff hopes will be in major jeopardy.