HOUSTON — Former Jets coach Herman Edwards famously ranted, “You play to win the game.’’

The message right now from current Jets coach Robert Saleh to his players entering Sunday’s game at Houston goes something like this: “Don’t lose the damned game.’’

The 2-8 Texans, who ended an NFL-high eight-game losing streak last Sunday with an upset of the Titans, are a team the Jets are viewing as ripe to be beaten.

Of course, the Texans are looking at the 2-8 Jets, losers of their past three games and five of the past six, the same way — as a potential easy mark and a chance at a two-game winning streak.

Saleh, who’s projected a distinct players-coach positivity since the moment he was hired, was as publicly perturbed as he’s been all season after last week’s 24-17 loss to the Dolphins, a game in which the Jets sabotaged themselves with a barrage of self-inflicted wounds.

Saleh made it clear immediately after the game that his team had beaten itself, and you could tell by the expression on his face and the tone of his voice that he was ticked off. As ticked off as he’s been all season.

“You have to learn how not to lose games,’’ Saleh said. “A lot of time it’s because, one you’re either trying to make a play that you don’t need to make, you just need to do your job. Two, you get caught up in the moment and the moment gets too big for you. Or three, you’re just a young kid who needs time, who needs to be able to be exposed to those situations.

“So, you educate as much as you can.’’

Jets coach Robert Saleh has had special Friday film session in an attempt to limit penalties.
Robert Sabo

A big part of that education process is a weekly Friday meeting Saleh has implemented called “Learning Around the League.’’ It’s conducted by Matt Burke, the team’s director of game management.

There were a number of teachable moments the coaching staff drew from the Thanksgiving Day games, including the Lions-Bears game, during which the Lions were penalized for calling consecutive timeouts at a crucial moment late in the game, and in the Cowboys’ loss to the Raiders, in which Dallas was called for killer pass interference penalties that cost it the game.

“You saw it in the Dallas-Las Vegas game, [when] they both kept shooting themselves in the foot,’’ Saleh said. “You saw it in the Bears-Lions game. Ways to lose games. Every game has teachable moments. I’m sure teams are using our stuff as teachable moments — some of the stuff to do and some stuff not to do.’’

Saleh’s goal, of course, is for his team to cut down on the stuff not to do, which is what cost the Jets the Miami game.

“It’s educating the young players,’’ linebacker Quincy Williams said of the Friday film sessions. “Most people think football is just physical, that person is just better than the other person. We talked about the Lions game and the two timeouts back-to-back. I didn’t know that [was a penalty]. When I play ‘Madden’ and I try to press timeout again after [I called timeout], it won’t let me do it, and now I know why it won’t let me do it.

“The biggest thing is learning from other people’s mistakes. In a close game like that, it’s all about who makes the most mistakes.’’

Or the least mistakes.

Sunday’s game figures to be a close one, because neither the Jets nor the Texans are very good. You can bank on the team that makes fewer mistakes winning the game.

As of last week, the Jets thought they’d reached the portion of their schedule when there were some so-called winnable games against vulnerable teams. That didn’t start so well against the Dolphins (then 3-7).

Now come the struggling Texans. After this game, the Jets will be staring at one more eminently winnable game — Dec. 26 at home against the Jaguars (currently 2-8) in a matchup that will feature the No. 1-overall draft pick, quarterback Trevor Lawrence, against the No. 2-overall pick, Zach Wilson.

The Jets next game is at home against the Eagles (5-6), then home to the Saints (5-6), then at Miami (4-7), home for the Jaguars and Tom Brady Buccaneers (7-3) and the finale in Buffalo (7-4).

So, the message at the moment, with the Texans in their sights, is get while the getting’s good. Because, if the Jets cannot beat the Texans and the Jaguars, it’s not out of the question that they might not win another game this season.



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