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Jets fall to Texans as final drive ends in INT

Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets

Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets stands on the sidelines against the Houston Texans in the second quarter on Nov. 22, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Scott Halleran

HOUSTON - Todd Bowles gritted his teeth and offered measured responses, but he was seething underneath the surface. His expressionless face couldn't mask the irritation in his voice as he tried to explain what went wrong in yet another loss.

In a game his team needed to gain ground in the AFC playoff hunt, the Jets looked abused on both sides of the ball Sunday in a 24-17 loss to the Texans. DeAndre Hopkins set up shop on Revis Island, J.J. Watt used Breno Giacomini like a turnstile and Ryan Fitzpatrick killed all hope of a comeback with two fourth-quarter interceptions. And it all left Bowles visibly frustrated.

"It's about execution,'' he said. "It's about understanding situational football when it's time to be played. And that's not getting done right now.

"I'm extremely upset today, but I'm not going to take it out here.''

Forget the fast start and the high expectations. The past month has been a sobering reminder that the Jets (5-5) are a mediocre team that doesn't know how to win when it matters most.

Their 4-1 start in Bowles' first year as a head coach seemed to signal a new direction for the wayward franchise. But four losses in five games have exposed deficiencies in their roster and their play-calling. Sluggish starts, defensive breakdowns and dropped passes have become recurring themes.

The Jets, who face the Dolphins (4-6) next, trail the Steelers (6-4), Bills (5-4), Chiefs (5-5) and Texans (5-5) in the race for the two AFC wild-card spots.

"We're just trying to keep our heads above water right now,'' receiver Jeremy Kerley said.

Said safety Calvin Pryor, "We just have to finish. That's it.''

The downward trend could continue if Bowles doesn't shake things up. But one thing that isn't changing -- at this moment, anyway -- is his starting quarterback.

Asked if he's given any consideration to benching Fitzpatrick in favor of Geno Smith, Bowles said: "Not at this time. We'll meet on all that stuff Monday.''

Pressed on the subject, he said: "We meet every Monday, and our discussion involves who should start at every position. I'm still committed to Ryan. I just don't think he played very well, just like a lot of other people on both sides of the ball.''

Despite being without their starting quarterback and several cornerbacks, the Texans had their way for much of the game, thanks to an impressive performance by Watt (two sacks, six tackles) and Hopkins, who caught five passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns. T.J. Yates, who filled in for Brian Hoyer (concussion), threw for 229 yards and two TDs, including a 61-yard deep ball as Hopkins burned Darrelle Revis.

Fitzpatrick, who was traded by the Texans in March, struggled against his former team until the final minutes of the fourth quarter. He barreled headfirst into the end zone -- losing his helmet in the process -- on a quarterback keeper for a 6-yard touchdown that pulled the Jets to within 24-17 with 4:20 left. But he had two passes, the first intended for Devin Smith and the second for Brandon Marshall, intercepted with 2:47 and 1:52 left.

"Every loss is a missed opportunity,'' Giacomini said before referencing the Jets' .500 record. "That's not gonna cut it.''

Several of his teammates had referred to this game as "critical'' and a "must-win.'' But their postgame interviews again centered around another squandered opportunity.

"This team is built to win,'' Kerley said. "The good teams win. And we're a good team. We just need to find out how to win.''

With six games remaining, Kerley and Pryor offered an optimistic outlook.

"It's a long season,'' Pryor said. "Worry about our next opponent and try to get a win. We have to get back on track and start winning games because every game counts.''

Said Kerley: "There's always time 'til there's no more time.''

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