What went wrong in the New York Jets’ shutout loss to Denver

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In the team’s worst performance of the year since Week 2, the New York Jets were shut out 23-0 by the Denver Broncos Sunday at Sports Authority Field. New York fell to 5-8 and mustered exactly 100 yards of total offense, the second-lowest single-game total in franchise history.

Here are just a few of the main themes from this embarrassing performance:

A down day for McCown

Just one week after being named the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Week, Josh McCown finished Sunday 6-for-12 for 46 yards and an interception and left in the third quarter with a broken non-throwing hand.

Although he achieved career highs for most passing yards, passing touchdowns and rushing touchdowns in a season through the first 12 games, McCown once again looked like the 38-year-old journeyman some Jets fans thought they were getting in free agency. This includes two leaves of absence – one brief, one more lasting – due to separate injuries. It’s remarkable McCown went 12 games and change before suffering any kind of injury this year.

First was a brief two-play absence in the second quarter after he was shaken up at the end of a run. Petty looked competent in McCown’s stead, but the vet came right back on and promptly threw an interception on his first play back. It was a deep ball attempt, snagged by Denver’s Darian Stewart. This was his second turnover of the game, after fumbling on the Jets’ first drive.

By the late-third quarter, it seemed like McCown was slow to get up from every offensive play. One play after enduring his fourth sack of the game, McCown was hit on a pass attempt by Denver linebacker Shane Ray, who caught McCown’s left (non-throwing) hand. He was immediately sent for X-rays and Petty played the rest of the game. Petty had a much worse time of it in the second half and finished the game 2-for-9 for 14 yards.

The Jets finished the first quarter with negative-14 yards and behind Denver by 10 points, and unlike last week’s slow start against the Chiefs, New York couldn’t salvage it and make a comeback. Credit Denver’s defense for the shutout, too; it entered Week 14 a top-five unit in yards allowed despite giving up the second-most points per game.

Claiborne can’t handle Thomas

This was especially the theme of the first half. Demaryius Thomas is sometimes forgotten about when we discuss the best wide receivers in the NFL. He’s caught for at least 1,000 yards each of the past five seasons, and he’s way off pace for that mark right now as he deals with the ugly quarterback rotation of Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch.

But Thomas absolutely owned the Jets’ presumed no. 1 cornerback Morris Claiborne Sunday. He caught five passes on seven targets for 56 yards and a score in the first half alone, providing most of the Broncos’ yardage. He finished the game with eight receptions for 93 yards, and Claiborne gave up almost all of those plays. We’ve seen better out of Claiborne, the former sixth overall pick by Dallas, but if that’s the best he can do against a top-tier wide receiver, the Jets are in trouble at that position once again.

The trenches: O-line and D-line

Analyzing the battle in the trenches is never a bad idea. The Jets generated very little pressure on quarterback Trevor Siemian, sacking him only twice for 11 yards. Only one sack was by a defensive lineman, Muhammad Wilkerson, who upped his season total to just 3.5. Siemian finished 19-for-31 for 200 yards and one touchdown, partly thanks to having many plays with no defenders getting in his face.

Meanwhile, say what you will about Matt Forte and Bilal Powell, but the Jets’ offensive line gave them no room to run today. It was the eighth game this year that the Jets averaged 3.2 yards or fewer per carry as a team; they averaged 2.6 on 23 carries against Denver. Sure, the Broncos are stout on defense, but that isn’t the whole story. Wesley Johnson has not proven he can be a starting NFL center going forward, and frankly the tackles and guards haven’t made the best cases for themselves to stick around, either.

No road warriors

There’s not much else to say about this besides stating the facts: New York is 4-3 at home and 1-5 on the road after this game. The Jets’ lone road win came by three points over Cleveland, who is now 0-13.

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