HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. Jets coach Herman Edwards realized in the offseason he needed to make the NFL clock his friend, after so many time-management gaffes made him look like a goof.
So he assigned assistant coach Dick Curl to only one task: helping Edwards manage their games. Now even that system has failed, leaving Edwards to shoulder the blame once again for another clock fiasco.
This one, a 20-17 overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, could have adverse effects on the rest of the season.
And it showed once again the Jets will not make the jump from good team to elite Super Bowl contender unless Edwards can figure out how to manage games properly. Time management issues have sabotaged at least one game a year since Edwards became coach in 2001.
''You can always second-guess what you should have done, what you could have done,'' Edwards said about the Baltimore loss. ''All calls, they go through me. I have the decision.''
Remember the comical ending to the game against the Giants last season, when kicker Doug Brien was not ready for the snap, his kick that would have won the game in overtime was blocked and the Jets lost 31-28?
How about the last time the Jets played the Cleveland Browns, their opponent this Sunday. The Jets took a 21-6 lead into halftime two years ago, but somehow blew three timeouts with more than 6 minutes to play in the third quarter.
Edwards tried to downplay that error, but it cost them when they tried to rally at the end with no way to stop the clock. Their final drive ended with a blocked field goal and Cleveland won 24-21.
Who can forget the late-season game against the Buffalo Bills in 2001 that nearly cost the Jets a playoff spot? Trailing 14-9 with 13 seconds remaining and no timeouts left, Vinny Testaverde threw a completion to Curtis Martin over the middle to the Bills 17.
Though Testaverde managed to throw an incomplete pass to Kevin Swayne in the end zone on the next play, it appeared time expired before the ball was snapped.
But the Baltimore game is the worst defeat of all under Edwards. Not only did the Jets botch a halfback option pass, giving the Ravens the momentum they needed just before halftime, but they could not figure out how to use the clock once again at the end of a game.
Quincy Carter, filling in for the injured Chad Pennington, had no sense of urgency during the final set of plays. The Jets wasted 32 seconds getting off one play deep in Baltimore territory. Then on a crucial third-and-goal from the 3 with 8 seconds to go, Carter got to the huddle too late. The play came in late, and Carter was late breaking the huddle.
Edwards was forced to use his final timeout and kick a tying field goal rather than take one more shot at the end zone. The conservative approached failed because they lost in overtime.
Though the Jets dropped those Buffalo and Cleveland games, they managed to make the playoffs. But the loss to the Giants last season in Pennington's first start since returning from a broken wrist could have helped turn the tide on a disappointing season that they finished 6-10.
Will the Baltimore loss send the Jets spiraling into oblivion? Once sitting pretty at 5-0, they have lost three of four and are one of six AFC teams at 6-3. Their final four games are against teams currently with better than .500 records.
After the devastating loss, Martin said, ''These are the kind that put a dagger in your heart, the kind that hurts the most.''
What seems inexplicable is the way they lost after being burned in the same manner so many other times. Curl went from tight ends coach to senior offensive assistant/special projects coach in the offseason. He stands next to Edwards the entire game, advising the head coach on how to use the clock to their advantage.
Players also are not allowed to call timeouts in the first or third quarters without approval from Edwards. With those added safeguards, Edwards hoped these issues would be relegated to the past. Even last week, he said of Curl, ''He's like the guru of the clock all of a sudden.''
But Curl was not available for comment after the game or on Monday, leaving Edwards to talk the fall for all the errors. Perhaps Carter is most at fault for being so slow in getting the play off. When asked what took so long, Carter said, ''I'm not sure.''
One has to wonder whether Pennington, who led two fourth-quarter comeback victories this season alone, would have allowed the clock to nearly expire on a play that could have won the game.
''As a team, as coaches and players we take our lumps together, and when it comes up again we will definitely be ready to execute that to make sure we use our timeouts appropriately,'' Carter said.
How many times have the Jets said that before? They better hope Edwards figures it out fast before he ends up costing them more games.
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