This is why the Jets are the most maddening team of all: They’re just good enough.
Just good enough to tease their tortured fans, coaxing them into an occasional state of euphoria, then leaving them in a state of perpetual anger and frustration.
Just good enough Saturday night at MetLife Stadium to lose a game they should have won, respectable enough to give the Texans (10-4) a game before succumbing, 29-22.
Just good enough to take a 22-19 lead with five minutes remaining only to allow the Texans to march 75 yards on seven plays and win on a Deshaun Watson 14-yard scoring pass to star receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10 catches, 170 yards, two TDs) with 2:15 left.
Just good enough that their rookie quarterback Sam Darnold played his best game to date — completing 24-of-38 for 253 yards with two TDs and no turnovers — and it still wasn’t good enough.
Just good enough that the defense sacked the dangerously mobile Watson six times for 55 yards in losses, but none on the game-winning drive.
Just good enough that they didn’t allow the disruptive Texans pass rush to ruin the game, holding J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus and Co. to just three sacks.
Just good enough that their most dependable player this season — kicker Jason Myers, who had been having a season worthy of a Pro Bowl invite — inexplicably missed two extra points, including one in the third quarter that would have tied the game at 16-16.
Just good enough to be not good enough.
“It’s frustrating, but sadly it’s been the story all season,’’ linebacker Brandon Copeland said.
“It’s frustrating when we play well again and can’t get a stop when we need it most,’’ said defensive lineman Henry Anderson, who sacked Watson three times.
“We know it’s there, man,’’ linebacker Avery Williamson said. “We obviously didn’t do enough. We did a lot of good stuff, but we’ve got to close. We finished last week [against the Bills]. We’ve got to do the same thing every week. That’s what’s holding us back. Sometimes it’s on the offense, sometimes it’s on us [the defense]. Today it was on us. We didn’t finish.
“It’s been a tough year. It definitely can be mentally draining when you’re not winning.’’
There were many familiar refrains coming out of the Jets’ locker room.
“We go out there and compete [and] we’re coming up short,’’ safety Jamal Adams said. “Every ballgame besides [the 41-10 home loss to the Bills last month] we’ve been in, so I don’t really know where the speculation of … just because we’re losing we’re a bad football team. We’ve just got to make more plays and play smarter at times.
“We’re a good team. We’re well-coached.’’
That’s a difficult argument to make when you’re 4-10, in last place in the AFC East and will miss the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season.
Yet there are positive signs. The comeback last week at Buffalo. Darnold’s continued progress.
“He played phenomenal,’’ Adams said of the rookie QB. “He’s a bad man. The future’s bright for him.’’
The future’s bright for Adams, too. For it to be bright for the entire franchise, though, there needs to be more building around Darnold and Adams, and it had better happen quickly with the $100 million the Jets will have to spend in the offseason.
There, too, needs to be better coaching, and that hopefully will come when Todd Bowles and his staff are let go after the season.
The Jets. Just good enough to get close and fall short. Time and time again.
Bowles spoke during the week about “cleaning up’’ the repeated mistakes for this game. He has been doing so much cleaning up it’s a wonder there’s any soap left at the Jets’ Florham Park, N.J., training facility.
Running back Elijah McGuire’s lost fumble in the second quarter wasn’t evidence of mistakes having been cleaned up. Two plays later, Jets cornerback Darryl Roberts lost Hopkins and the ball on a 45-yard Watson scoring pass to his favorite target for a 13-3 Houston lead.
Cornerback Mo Claiborne’s holding penalty on Hopkins on a third-and-4 to keep Houston’s game-winning drive alive with the Jets trying to protect a 22-19 lead wasn’t evidence of mistakes cleaned up. Moments after the penalty, Hopkins made a marvelous TD catch over Claiborne.
Just good enough to win, as usual for the Jets, had a shelf life that lasted only long enough to tease their fans yet again.
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