CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Geno Smith found himself apologizing to his head coach after another key turnover led to yet another loss.
The struggling rookie's 21st interception of the season was returned 42 yards for a touchdown by Captain Munnerlyn, and helped the Carolina Panthers top Rex Ryan's Jets 30-20 on Sunday.
"I let Rex down today," Smith said. "He had talked me about not having a turnover. I wanted to do that today. On one occasion, I got sloppy with it and forced it. I didn't get it done. Ultimately, in this league, that's something I've learned, that's what it comes down to — one or two plays here or there."
Smith's miscue in the fourth quarter came with the Jets trailing by 10 and trying to get back in the game. He threw it into double coverage, and helped put the Jets' already slim playoff hopes in serious jeopardy.
The Jets (6-8) will be eliminated from playoff contention if Baltimore wins at Detroit on Monday night.
"This one would be Ripley's if we pull it off," Ryan said of the team's playoff hopes.
Ryan said the Jets are still making too many mistakes.
"Really all three phases made a critical error that contributed in this loss," he said.
The defense allowed a 72-yard touchdown pass to DeAngelo Williams on a screen play, the special teams allowed a blocked punt which led to a Carolina touchdown and Smith's pick-six sealed the game for Carolina.
"It is always disappointing when you are not able to make the playoffs," Smith said. "It is as disappointing for us as we feel that our fans and all of us deserve a shot in the playoffs. It's not time to hang your head. No time to feel sorry for yourself."
The Panthers are right back in the hunt for the NFC South division title and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Cam Newton threw for 273 yards and a touchdown, Munnerlyn had two sacks along with the interception and the Panthers bounced back from their most lopsided loss of the season.
With New Orleans losing 27-16 to St. Louis, the Panthers (10-4) have pulled even with the Saints with the rematch set for next Sunday in Charlotte. If Carolina wins its final two games, it will clinch the division and the first-round bye. The Panthers haven't been to the postseason since 2008.