CINCINNATI -- They fooled you, didn't they? The New York Jets made you believe they had taken a big step in their development. Their three-game winning streak made you forget about the 1-7 start. They made you think coach Adam Gase, who seemed like the wrong hire in October, really was a quarterback whisperer.
And then Sunday happened -- as disgraceful a performance as you will ever see. Not only did the Jets lose to the previously winless Cincinnati Bengals 22-6 at Paul Brown Stadium, but they were dominated by the worst team in the NFL. They showed no energy whatsoever, committed mistake after mistake and played (and coached) as if they were stuck in a tryptophan coma.
It was historic. The Jets (4-8) became the first team in NFL history to lose to two teams in the same season who entered a game 0-7 or worse -- the 0-7 Miami Dolphins in Week 9 and the 0-11 Bengals this week. The last time they fell to a team that was 0-10 or worse was 1980 (New Orleans Saints, 0-14).
Yes, the Jets are a special kind of bad.
The obvious takeaway is that their recent winning streak was a mirage, the byproduct of a cupcake schedule. Still, it injected the team with confidence and that should've been enough to beat the Bengals, but the Jets showed an alarming lack of maturity by underestimating Cincinnati. At some point, a developing team must learn how to handle prosperity. Clearly, they haven't reached that stage yet. That's troubling.
A lot of this falls on Gase, who called a horrible game on offense and didn't have the team ready to play, mentally or physically. They didn't adjust, made too many mental errors and showed no fight when they fell behind. Quite frankly, they didn't do anything right. This was straight out of their 1-7 start.
And quarterback Luke Falk isn't around anymore to be the scapegoat.
Biggest hole in the game plan: Facing the league's lowest-ranked run defense, the Jets ran only nine times out of 37 plays in the first half. Gase got too pass-happy, and they never got out of that mode once they fell behind. Granted, Cincinnati had improved in recent weeks, but this was unforgivable: Le'Veon Bell had only 10 carries. You're paying the man $13 million a year. Give him the rock -- or give somebody the rock. Gase kept running the ball up the middle instead of attacking the edges, where the Bengals had been vulnerable.
Eye-popping stat: The Jets had no red zone possessions against the 32nd-ranked defense in yards. Gase should burn the tape because this ranks as one of the biggest clunkers on his coaching résumé.
Troubling trend: The revamped offensive line, which showed signs of hope in recent weeks, regressed in a major way. The line, with its seventh different starting combination, committed seven (seven!) penalties and allowed four sacks. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum played one of the worst games of his career -- three penalties, including a holding call in the end zone for a safety. This was a clear reminder for general manager Joe Douglas: Find better linemen.
Sell your stock on the defense: So much for the scrappy/overachiever narrative. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had no answers for wily veteran Andy Dalton, who passed for 243 yards and a touchdown. The Jets had to shuffle their cornerbacks because of injuries to Brian Poole and Arthur Maulet, but that was no excuse for the bad tackling and lack of fire. Where was safety Jamal Adams?
QB breakdown: The quarterback can't do it alone. Sam Darnold (28-for-48, 239 yards) played turnover-free football and well enough to win, but he was undermined by five dropped passes and an offensive line that couldn't block a four-man rush (three sacks). Darnold's job is to get the team in the end zone and he failed to do that, so this is a step back after a good run of games. Don't blame him, though. The problems were everywhere.
Silver lining: Wide receiver Robby Anderson (seven catches for 101 yards) made some tough catches, especially in the traffic.