FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Four is the magic number for the New York Jets.
Offensive coordinator John Morton holds up four fingers during practice and shouts it out at his players. So do his assistants, as well as quarterback Josh McCown.
The fourth quarter has been a huge problem for the Jets, and they are doing anything they can to turn things around with the game on the line.
"I'm doing it, coaches are yelling it," Morton said Thursday. "We've been yelling 'FOUR!' I don't know if it's going to happen in the game, but I'm going to yell it. Josh has been doing it, communicating it to the huddle and everybody that comes in there: finish. Every play, let's go, let's finish the game. It's just a mindset. You call certain plays, goal-line, short-yard situations, it's a mindset.
"So now it's the fourth quarter, it's a mindset, let's finish the game."
For the Jets, that has been easier said than done.
New York has blown fourth-quarter leads in three of its past four losses, and ugly stat that is the difference between the Jets being right in the playoff mix instead of sitting at 4-7 and seeing their postseason chances fading fast.
"We have to continue to carry out that voice and go out and get it done," McCown said. "It starts with also how you prepare. If you prepare throughout the week the right way, then when stress hits you and you're tired in the fourth quarter and all of those things, if your preparation is good, then you will fall back on those things."
The Jets have five losses in their past six games, but the blown leads in the final 15 minutes of three of those defeats have been frustrating.
The latest came in a 35-27 loss to Carolina on Sunday, when the Panthers got touchdowns on a fumble recovery and a punt return in a span of just over two minutes. New York also held leads in the fourth quarter of losses to Miami and Atlanta.
"It's on us as we study and prepare and put the time in to be ready to go," McCown said. "It's one play here or there that's making the difference. We're making plays. We're proud of how we responded after some bad things happened the other day, we went down and got another touchdown. We've shown the capability to bounce back from things and do things like that.
"For us, it's sustaining, playing at a high level the whole time and finishing those games."
The Jets have focused on two-minute periods at the end of practice where the offense and defense are put into high-stress competitive situations.
"The results have been great," defensive end Leonard Williams said. "What I've been liking so far that I've seen is that guys are really getting competitive. They get angry if they don't make the play and they get really excited when they do make the play.
"Even though it's practice, they're showing that edge that we need in fourth quarters and situations where we need to finish."
Penalties and turnovers have been the biggest culprits for the Jets late in games.
New York has been outscored 113-47 in the fourth quarter, with five opponents scoring at least 10 points in the final 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, the Jets have scored 10 or more in those situations just twice — including last Sunday.
"Sometimes, it's a mindset and you just have to do it on game day," coach Todd Bowles said. "You have to learn how to win and right now we're learning how to win. Until we do that, it's always going to be somewhat of a mindset. It's not a detriment or saying people are doubting themselves, but we just have to finish ballgames."
The Jets have been penalized 88 times this season, a total that ranks third-most in the NFL behind only Seattle (109) and Miami (90). Kansas City, New York's opponent Sunday, trails the Jets by just one, so there's a good chance the yellow flags could fly at MetLife Stadium.
Bowles pointed the finger at himself and his staff, saying that it falls on the coaching. But under Bowles, the Jets had been one of the league's least-penalized teams during his first two seasons as coach, with 96 in 2015 and 93 last season — both totals ranking New York 30th in the NFL.
"The first year in three years, it's been an issue, and that's a problem," Bowles said. "That's a pet peeve of mine. We work on them. Guys get in game situations, they have to have more control and self-control and awareness of some of the things they do. They work at it all week. They're excellent during practice, but they have to execute it on Sunday."
NOTES: CB Juston Burris did not practice for the second straight day while in the concussion protocol. ... RB Matt Forte (knee), RG Brian Winters (abdomen, ankle), WR Jermaine Kearse (shoulder) and DT Xavier Cooper (knee) were limited. ... NT Steve McLendon was a full participant after sitting out Wednesday with neck and hip ailments.
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