Post Game Thoughts: Jets 48 Bills 28 Tweet
I said it during the game and Iíll say it again here. Never in a million years did I expect to see that type of game and output from the Jets today. Granted they were helped out a lot by the Jets MVP on the day- Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, but the Jets did exactly what they needed to do to wipe out the stench of 2011 and kick off 2012 with a bang.
It was certainly not the best of starts for the team when Mark Sanchez made a terrible decision to try a little flip pass on the run that led to a quick turnover for the team. It was the type of play that last season would have destroyed Sanchez. But Sanchez shrugged it off and came out and really played one of the better games of his career. That being said the real stars of this game were the Jets wide receivers- Stephen Hill, Santonio Holmes, and Jeremy Kerley. For those who have followed my writings for the last few months you know I am not enamored with the Jets receivers, in particular Hill, but there was no denying that they made the difference on offense. They abused and exposed the Bills secondary. Hill was so wide open on one of his passes that he had plenty of time to wait for a pass catch it and still walk into the end zone without being touched. Holmes should have scored 1 touchdown and had a deep catch for another that would have set them up for scores had Sanchez thrown better passes. Kerley was terrific in his role and made the grab on a picture perfect pass for the first score that really sent the crowd and team into a frenzy.
What was nice to see, and in many ways expected based on OC Tony Sparanoís past history, was the Jets conversion of some longer passes and attempting to use more of the field. It seemed to catch the Bills completely off guard who were just a disaster on defense. They took advantage of the inexperienced corners using pump fakes to set up big passes and really seemed to just outsmart Buffalo at every turn. And of course you have to give major credit to the Jets pass blocking today, which was collectively better than at any point last season. I do believe that the Bills pass rush is tremendously overrated and their line is filled with players who have not played football in a long time, due to injury, but they pitched a shutout out there. There was never any time when you felt the QB was going to take one of those big hits that jarred the football loose. They set a tone that they were not going to let Sanchez get hit and Buffalo had no answer.
The whole Tim Tebow package seemed overblown. They threw him out there to start and he came in a few times to run but it really amounted to nothing. Maybe they didnít need to use the full bag of tricks, but if the team had to rely on the Wildcat it would have been a long day. Now I do believe the Jets performance is going to be a bit overblown and overrated. The running game was mediocre and there were a number of missed passes by Sanchez that you canít have in a close game. The receivers were so wide open that you will never get easier passes than what the Jets got today. That doesnít mean it wonít happen again, just that we need to remember its one week and in one week you cant tell if its necessarily your guys doing it or your guys taking advantage of poor play. That being said this was exactly what the Jets needed to get themselves some breathing room off the field.
I didnít really get a feel for the defense at all today. Like I said when previewing the game a week one point total wasnít going to effect anyoneís opinion of the defense but there were a number of things that I donít think the coaches will be happy with when they review the film. First we will start with the good though. The Safeties are clearly a huge upgrade over what the team had last season. The hits that Yeremiah Bell and especially Laron Landry put on the Bills were the type that you would never see from Eric Smith and Jim Leonhard. When people talked about the Jets losing their ďswagĒ they meant they lost their attitude. Bart Scott used to be that guy, but it sure seems Landry can be that enforcer. Now, Landry has potential to be a walking penalty as many of his hits are borderline personal fouls, but I think these guys will have a big impact on the defense. CB Darrelle Revis changed the whole game with a terrify athletic pick of Fitzpatrick. It was a lazy pass by Fitzpatrick, but Revis came in so fast and made such a tough catch that you canít discount Revis on that one. The other interceptions the Jets had, one by Kyle Wilson and another by Antonio Cromartie, were gifts just handed to them by Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick isnít an NFL QB. Heís a career backup and a journeyman. This wasnít as bad a decision as Rob Johnson, but its close for Buffalo. He doesnít belong on the field against a good defense. When the outcome of the game was still in doubt you saw excellent penetration from the defense up front. There was no room at all for Fred Jackson to run before a vicious hit put him out of the game. Bottling up Jackson took the Bills out of their gameplan early.
But beyond that I donít know what to make of the team. The Jets gave up two monstrous runs to CJ Spiller, one 49 yards and another 56 yards. In the prior three seasons the Jets had given up only 1 40+ yard run play. Both were just sloppy play by the Jets. They were up by so much its difficult to say if it was lax playing by the defense or the sign of potential problems. The 56 yarder I felt was brought about due to all the turnovers from the Bills. Bart Scott had a clear opportunity to bring Spiller down but tried to go for a strip assuming that Landry was going to cut Spillers legs and tackle him. That is a sign of playing the momentum too much. You canít play like that in other games.
Late in the game the Bills started picking them apart with these little passes to drive down the field, made easier when Revis left the game after taking what looked like an accidental kick to the head. The pass rush never materialized on the day, though it should be noted that the Bills had arguably the best line in the league last season. That wouldnít worry me too much. But a defense that plays with attitude usually looks to snuff out the life of a team regardless of the score and it seemed like the first Spiller run took the wind out of their sails and they certainly didnít play to make a statement at the end of the game. I think we get a much better idea next week as to where the defense stands.
Kerley was the big star with the nice TD return to put the game away early. Nick Folk made his field goals and the team had one good punt. There was one long punt return allowed, but overall specials were clearly a net positive for the Jets.
Coaching Iím assuming much will be made of the ďsecrecyĒ of the preseason, but Im not sure that there was anything new in this game that didnít occur in the preseason. The offense had great field position and didnít drop any passes. In terms of gameplanning on offense they were very effective. They targeted players early that were likely low on the Bills priority list and took complete advantage of young players. The balance of long and short throws was well done. As soon as they would lure the Bills into playing deep causing corners to play far off they would call short patterns in front of the defender. When they played man on they burned them.
I thought Rex Ryan made the right decisions in going for the field goal to extend the lead on a 4th and short and it was probably worth taking a shot on the challenge since it was so late in the half. There were a few moves on offense I did not like, primarily the replacement of Sanchez in the red zone in two situations. Rich Gannon complained about it on the broadcast and I thought he was correct. If the QB is going well, and Sanchez was playing fine, what good is bringing Tebow in? On the bright side Tebowís lack of success helped Sanchez but I donít think that was Ryanís goal. The other poor call was the flea flicker. If you are concerned about protecting your gimmicks why waste it in a game already decided? The Jets did take two awful penalties which were from poor sideline management. They took a delay off a timeout which is just completely unacceptable. The second was from too much hesitation on the Tebow/Sanchez decision leading to another delay, partially on Tebow for being totally oblivious of the situation. Those things worry me more because itís not much different than last season.
That being said Rex clearly challenged his team to prove everyone wrong and they did. Ryan has always been known for motivating his players when the chips are down and they completely caught the Bills by surprise with the way they played. He completely outcoached Chan Gailey who had no answer. The Jets played with the intensity of the regular season while the Bills were still in preseason mode. That is almost always attributed to coaching.
While I would not have been too down off a loss Iím also tempering the excitement for the win. One game doesnít really change my opinions of the team. I think the defense is better than they showed here and I think the offense will struggle more when they donít get to start most drives beyond the 40 yard line. If the offense goes out and the receivers get open like they did this week in the game against the Steelers then you may have the start of something unexpected. But for now it was nice to see the trio seem capable of being useful on the field, especially Hill.
Still, winning a season opener is always important, especially against a division rival. The NFL is a momentum league and there is no better way to build momentum than a win like this one. Week 1 wins, especially blowouts, build up confidence among a team. This win had to mean a lot to Sanchez and Holmes. Both were under tremendous scrutiny following last seasons collapse and Sanchez was relatively ineffective in the preseason to boot. I donít like the way that they may rely on certain numbers as a reason for effectiveness, but if it makes Sanchez more confident that is really all that matters.
This was a devastating loss for the Bills who had the same issues on offense that they had last season. I think they quickly lost the crown for offseason champions. When you look at the efficiency numbers of those pass rushers they are just not good enough to build a franchise around and the Jets smacked them around. Iím sure the Bills will still be confident in their rush, and there will be games where they do get to the QB, but I canít see it working for 16 games. I do think they underestimated the Jets. The Jets were the second best team in the division last year and nearly made the playoffs. Buffalo, who finished playing some of the worst football in the league, seemed concerned only with the New England Patriots and how they werenít scared by New England. The Jets blindsided them and sent them right back to earth.
Somewhere in there is a lesson to be learned for the Jets. They fell into that same trap last year when Scott began lecturing reporters about how nobody knew what they were talking about after the Jets put together a streak against a few teams. They went up and down the rest of the season before finishing down for the count. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance and the Jets need this win to build confidence not arrogance. A good win? Absolutely. A referendum on the 2012 Jets? Absolutely not. Take it one step at a time and take each team on the schedule as an important opponent.
Good teams handle success well. One of the reasons the Patriots have been so good for so many years is the businesslike attitude they seem to take from win to win. Sure they have a few wild efforts here and there (last year against the Jets for example) where they stray, but keeping even keeled keeps a team grounded. Often when the Patriots have fizzled (SB 2007, playoffs vs Ravens and Jets) its been because of arrogance and overconfidence. They let success get to their heads and the result is a bad loss. The Jets donít really have the old veterans to lean on to prevent that from happening so its up to the young veterans like Nick Mangold and Mike DeVito to keep the team grounded and prepared. Next up the team has Pittsburgh, traditionally a tough defensive team that wants to get back to playing smashmouth style football. Iím sure the Jets brass will be watching closely tonight as Pittsburgh takes on Denver to see what real changes may exist between 2011 and 2012. Nobody is going to give the Jets a chance if Pittsburgh wins tonight, but if the team goes into that game with the same mentality as they did today they have as good a chance as anyone of being 2-0. Hopefully they do so.