Bowles: Penalties not a coaching problem but a players’ one

The Jets thought they were past this point.

They thought they knew how to finish games, something that killed them repeatedly in 2017. The Week 1 victory over the Lions felt like these Jets were different than last year’s version. Instead, Thursday showed they still have a long way to go.

“We’ve just got to learn how to finish games,” wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said after Thursday’s 21-17 loss to the Browns. “That’s just something that we’ve got to continue to harp on and continue to talk about is just finishing.”

It was not just the lack of a killer instinct that felt familiar Thursday night. It was the boneheaded penalties the Jets committed at inopportune times. It was a lack of discipline on the field that showed up again. It all felt too familiar for the Jets.

“I think we just have a lot of growing up to do in terms of one, being able to handle a lead and two, being able to be composed when adversity hits,” Kearse said. “It’s frustrating because it’s something we’ve been dealing with and it’s just something we’ve got to continue to push the pedal on.”

Coach Todd Bowles said it is not one thing that continually trips up his Jets.

“It’s different things that happen at different times,” Bowles said. “You don’t want things to happen on a two-point play and some plays he has too much time in the pocket and they can’t cover [receivers] forever. Sometimes the pressure is good and they’re not covering [receivers] at all or are blowing an assignment here or there. With a young team and with certain new guys it’s something we have to iron out that we will take care of.”

After taking all the blame following the loss Thursday night, Bowles said Friday that the penalty problem that plagues his team is not a coaching issue.

“Well, the penalties are definitely on the players. Coaches can’t play for them,” Bowles said. “We understand situations and we know what to do and what not to do. Guys got to be calmer in certain situations.”

Bowles said he believes the Jets will be a good team. But they did not look that way in Thursday’s game. They blew a 14-0 lead, gave the Browns chances by committing penalties and looked helpless against rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield.

In the postgame locker room, the Jets searched for answers.

“I think that we have some smart players and we just didn’t play smart football,” wide receiver Quincy Enunwa said. “It’s unfortunate because I don’t want to say we’re better because obviously we weren’t better. We started off really strong. We let their momentum kind of roll downhill. On top of that, we shot ourselves in the foot. Anytime you do that, it’s always going to be a loss, man.”

The theme of the night was that the Jets lost their composure.

“We just got too excited,” Enunwa said. “Thursday night and we lost our composure. We’re a smarter team than that. It’s unfortunate we put that out there on Thursday night in front of everybody.”

Offensively, the Jets looked scared of the Browns’ pass rush and their game plan reflected that. Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates called short passes again and again and never let Sam Darnold try anything downfield. Bowles defended the play-calling on Friday.

“I thought we were well-balanced on offense,” Bowles said. “I thought we had some plays dialed up off of what they did. They changed some things around in the second half that negated some of the things we had dialed up. But I thought offensively we had a good game plan that was balanced.”

Despite the devastating loss, Bowles said he is not worried about the season getting away from his young team.

“It’s not a concern at all,” Bowles said. “I know we got good character and I know we’ll fight and I know we have a decent team. I just got to cut down and fix some things.”

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