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Post Game Thoughts: Jets 26 Patriots 29

Iím crushed and Iím sure everyone reading this and everyone in that locker room is crushed right now. The Jets outplayed the New England Patriots in almost every facet of the game but still ended up coming up on the short end.

Offense

I am sure that there are plenty of people killing Mark Sanchez right now. This is not the game to do it. I understand he missed a potential wide open TD throw to Stephen Hill, missed seeing a wide open receiver on another play and fumbled on the last play, but this was one of the best, if not best, games of his career. Players make mistakes. Tom Brady put the ball in Antonio Cromartieís lap and Cromartie dropped the ball. The Patriots did not. But Sanchez made plays. His touchdown pass to Dustin Keller was through such a tight window that it was the kind of throw few in the league can make. He constantly got the ball to Jeremy Kerley in a place where Kerley was the only guy who could make a play on the ball. Most importantly, with time winding down he hit Hill in the gut with the football on what could have been the game winning drive. He was the best QB on the field today and made big plays time and time again, especially in the second half. Maybe he took a few hits he should not have taken and maybe he should have tried to pick up that football in the end zone, but he hung in there and should have gotten all the credit for helping win this football game with his second half play.

The Jets offensive line needs a makeover. Matt Slauson had a hard time and Brandon Moore had a horrible game. Moore standing there and slowly reacting to the final fumble after he gave up the sack was unacceptable. Mooreís age seems to have caught up with him this season and there is a noticeable decline in his play. Vlad Ducasse did give up one QB hit but I think he is actually the better option at this point to play at left guard. It is not something I thought I would ever type, but he is far more physical than Slauson and has much more upside. Ducasse does have a small bonus in his contract that could keep him on the bench for a few more weeks, but there is no reason for him not to play right now. Maybe the Jets have a thought that he and Slauson will play the interior next season, but I feel better with Vlad right now. Maybe he wont hold up every down but he deserves the chance.

Shonn Greene had a costly fumble when he saw Wilfork burn through Slauson, which I think is indicative of some of his issues looking ahead on a play, but give him credit for taking a pounding today and getting up every time. The Patriots absolutely brutalized Greene on the field. People on Twitter though I meant bounty, which wasnít the case, but it was clear they were instructed to make him know that this was not the Colts. If the whistle blew he was getting thrown to the ground. They knew he puts his head down rather than body down and took their shots at him. The one hit he took made his body go limp. He didnít fumble. Everyone called for the sideline. He got up. Thatís a tough guy. Greene is not a great player but I donít know how you can question his toughness after this game. Lex Hilliard also had a nice game and you can see why the Jets got rid of John Conner. Hilliard did more in this game than Conner did in his entire tenure.

Kerley and Keller both had huge games. Kerley is really a diamond in the rough. He isnít explosive like Victor Cruz of the Giants, but if you can get him permanently in the slot on a more open offense he is going to be a 1000 yard receiver. Kellerís problem is that expectations are too high for him on a team with limited weapons but he does have a knack of getting open and you saw it here. The Patriots really could not match up with him. Hill is a tough guy to watch and why putting a project in these games is difficult. Can he get open? Absolutely. Heís a burner and you see him open a lot. But the hands are an issue. He dropped one early and the one at the end may have cost the Jets a game. It was such an easy reception and he just didnít get it. The potential is there but how patient can we all be for the potential? I donít know.

Defense

This was the game we expected from the Jets all season long. If you follow my efficiency ratings you would see the Jets defense has trended upwards the last two weeks and they shut down New England today. 5 quarters and 20 points on the board. Regardless of the Patriots problems that was excellent. The Jets got absolutely hosed on a pass interference call in overtime against Kyle Wilson. Iíve called Wilson out a number of times and he was burned over and over again in his first start this year, but he has been great since then. On that play he did ride Aaron Hernandezí back. The ball had no chance of being caught and itís the type of play in a tough game that should go uncalled. Part of the problem is the coaching staff not telling Wilson to play like heís been there, instead allowing him to make a scene after every incompletion. It helps an official 20 yards away make a call the guy 4 yards away could not. Why? Because Wilson looked first for a flag and then celebrated. That is what brought on the call. You would never see Darrelle Revis celebrate like that. Still its BS. Itís a basketball call when the guy missed a layup and looks for a call. The following sequence of plays saw Hernandez push off Wilson to try to make a catch. If one if PI the other has to be. You have to call that both ways. If Wilson was too physical than so was Hernandez.

That being said give credit to the Jets pass defense. They have not missed Darrelle Revis one bit and its showing how good Antonio Cromartie can be in a man defense. Cromartie missed a gimme interception but was superb other than that. He stripped the ball from Hernandez that was a call that could have gone either way. Unfortunately for two years running the Jets have come up short on critical fumbles. Isaiah Trufant, who was benched after week 1, got the Wes Welker assignment and did well. Other than a big catch Welker made on 3rd and 8 when the Jets backed off and New England had the perfect play call on he never made a big impact on the game. The Patriots tried the same play later on and the Jets caught it in the backfield to the point where the announcers were questioning what New England was even attempting on offense. I cant call the pass defense as crumbling late. New England dinked and dunked their way to field goals and they got the benefit of that PI call. The only thing you can get on the pass defense for was allowing Brandon Lloyd open a few times only to watch him drop the football.

I noted it last week, but I think its now apparent that the Jets are transitioning to DeMario Davis over Bart Scott at linebacker. Last week you could make a case that it was a blowout, but this week it ws just getting fresh legs in there. Scott was in on critical plays, but Davis is getting more and more snaps. When Jon Vilma replaced Sam Cowart this is how it began before Cowarts injury ended his tenure. Vilma gave his spot to David Harris under similar circumstances. Scott is handing it to Davis now and the Jets defense will be better for it. Scott did make a big goalline stop, but it was actually Harris opening up the lane for him to make the play. It used to be the other way around. Scott and Calvin Pace then got caught in coverage that led to a touchdown for the Patriots. Both seemed to blame the other but would it have made a difference either way? Probably not.

The run defense showed improvement again and I am starting to think that the decision to pull Sione Pouha due to injury has allowed them to gel much better. I think the players are responding to the challenge of not having the guy in there that anchored the run defense last season. The Jets really should have put Pouha on the ďdesignated for returnĒ list in week 1, but they tried to run him out there and he was ineffective and further injured his back. Maybe itís the worst of hindsight Gmíing but from what I understood it was clear he was unable to do much and the Jets probably should have erred on the side of caution. That said the pass rush from up front is still awful. It was nice to see the Jets rush Harris early but they got nothing on Brady today and those guys needed to get there more than they did.

Special Teams

The kick return for a TD really killed the team. Without it the Jets may have won. I donít know what happened there. Looking at the coverage I thought Folk was supposed to center the ball and instead kicked it right where the Jets only had 4 guys to cover the kick. Devin McCourty never even got challenged it was so open for the return. He made one move to hit a hole and was off to the races. Someone pointed out to me, and it did look like it on the replay, that Davis had contain and just lost it which was also true. I think Folk also outran the play. A kicker should usually hang back if only to slow a guy down to let the fast secondary guys get there and try to get an angle. If you are running up you cant get in the way as well as you would hanging back and just trying to impede progress. Thatís a scheme issue because Jay Feely used to always be right around those upfield tackles as well.

Antonio Allen got called for a facemask flag that gave New England a first down on a punt. I donít think the facemask was before the punt, but that was what the referees called. Allen did redeem himself by recovering the fumble late that could have won the game. Kerley had a bad game fielding punts and itís a recurring theme. The Jets do not seem to work on defining when to allow a punt hit the ground and when to fair catch it. At least two and I believe three times the Jets may have gotten a touchback but Kerley fielding a punt inside the 10. One was clearly going to be a touchback as it was a line drive.

Folk made some huge field goals even when his offense was doing everything they could to make it more difficult. There was a lot of wind and a lot of pressure and he pulled it off. Joe McKnight was also a trooper out there. Im not sure what the Jets put into his foot to make him not feel the pain but he ran as if there was no issue at all. If anyone reading this has ever had any type of ankle sprain they are incredibly painful and very easy to reinjure when you come back too early. He looked like nothing was wrong with him and had a few nice returns.

Coaching

The Jets were huge underdogs and they came to play and should have won. Give Rex Ryan all the credit in the world for that. He made some risky decisions on his player usage, specifically with Trufant, and it paid off. Great job. All week long he said the Jets were going to win and the team, for the most part, responded. All that being said the in game stuff just needs to change.

I still do not understand how you fire Brian Schottenheimer and replace him with Tony Sparano. Schottenheimer wasnít good, but when you make that switch, which was one the team had to make, you either bring in a coordinator with a proven track record or take a chance on a young guy with upside. Sparano is neither. He is a guy that ran one offense in Dallas, was credited with a Wildcat in Miami, and generally had an awful offense as head coach. But he beat the Jets and has connections to Parcells so I guess that upped his profile.

I think Sparano is one of those guys that may bounce back if given a 2nd head coaching chance 3 or 4 years down the line, but he is not a good offensive coordinator. 3rd and 1 and going shotgun at the goal is insane. The Patriots, with far better personnel, went tight to use playaction and hit a score to a wide open TE. It makes no sense and is no different than the garbage the Jets did these last few years. The time management is horrific. Take a penalty and then end up being forced to take a timeout or delay on the next play? Thatís not major league. Call a run on 3rd and 1 with 2 timeouts in hand and then watch 10- seconds run off while you get your receivers back on the field and a call in? Unreal. If not for an injury to Jerrod Mayo forcing the Patriots to call time out, it would have been Dallas Cowboy bad.

It was all game long. Greene catches a pass that was marked for a first and the Jets were again unprepared so they had to call time out and now the play is reviewed and they lost the first. On the last drives they seemed confused between going for the kill or trying to bleed clock and letting the defense keep them from getting a field goal. It was as if they said run, run, and then realized New England was going to be get the ball back with time and then needed to throw. The play to throw is 2nd down there when playaction is still valid. If you call on third it has to be a gimme throw that has the QB able to run forward if its covered not run 10 yards back and take a sack. Its just disappointing to watch. Even if the results were ok at times, you cant expect that to happen all the time. Nick Folk is not always going to kick 54 yard field goals. You donít turn a FG from just over 30 to over 40 and expect the same odds of success.

Overall

The question now is how do you bounce back. At 3-4 the Jets absolutely can not lose next week and fall to 3-5 and into 3rd place in the division. But this is crushing. Rex was defeated in his post game. The vibe from the players was that they played their hearts out and cant figure out how they didnít win. This wasnít like Houston where the score was far closer than the play indicated. This was a game where the Jets were the better team but found a way to lose in heartbreaking fashion. In my lifetime as a fan I can only think of a few this bad. The Blair Thomas fumble against the Bears on a Monday night. The Dan Marino fake spike game. The Herman Edwards play to not win the game strategy against the Steelers. The Mark Gastineau sackdance on Bernie Kosarís head versus the Browns in 86. Those last two were playoff games and you donít get a second chance but that is the feeling of emptiness that you have now losing to a hated rival.

The Jets fell apart following the fake spike, Doug Brien miss, and the Gastineau penalty, but they did respond against the Dolphins after the Thomas fumble. Hopefully they can do the same here. It will say a lot about the team if they can do it. Human nature says to keep looking back. Bad calls. Dropped passes. Stupid mistakes by players and coaches. It takes a lot out of you to lose like that and then have to come back the next week and beat an opponent. Hopefully they take the positives out of the game and look forward to the rematch against a very vulnerable Patriot team in a few weeks in their own building. For me that would be difficult, but hopefully they can do it.

Next week is so critical. 3-5 is such a bad place to be, even in a mediocre conference and division where 8 wins might get you in the dance. With a bye week all a loss does is give you more time to focus on the negative rather than the positive. 4-4 and I think the team will be in pretty good shape. This was the hard part of the schedule and clearly the defense is showing signs of being a force again. Of the games after the bye week only the Seahawks and Patriots are games where the Jets will likely be underdogs. That doesnít mean you pencil in wins everywhere, especially given the Jets track record, but it does give a legit chance at 10-6 if you can get out of the first half at 0.500. If one of those 10 wins is against New England you have a chance at the division. But football is such a momentum game that I think 3-5 doesnít mean a good chance at 9-7. I think that actually brings the record down to 8-8. That might be enough to get in, but its far more difficult to get there at such a record.

Still, I do think that this was the first real ďpromiseĒ game of the season for the team. I donít want to call this a moral victory, because there is no such thing, but it was a building block if you take the sting out of the loss. Sanchez played a bad defense and put up quality numbers, a major contrast from last season. The defense played great and they donít really miss their superstar cornerback. They made plays late when they needed to in the 4th quarter. It seemed that every call went against the Jets and there they were ready to win the game. Those are all positives that they can build on from here on out if this game does not drag their spirits down. Im sure all our spirits are down, but hopefully this group puts it behind them and lifts us all up next week.

Go Jets!

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