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Post Game Thoughts- Jets vs Bengals

After a slow and shaky start the New York Jets, fueled by a tremendous offensive effort, finished off the Cincinnati Bengals to advance to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.

Offense

After a season where the offense was usually in front of the firing squad every week they came up with their most complete effort since the season opener against the Houston Texans. The player in front of the firing squad the most had a tremendous debut. QB Mark Sanchez showed a great command of the offense and tremendous poise in the pocket. Sanchez was throwing darts today never flinching or hesitating before delivering the passes to his receivers. Sanchez’ ability to sell the playfake and throw on the run was superb. He would have had a near perfect statline if not for two drops, one of which would have resulted in a touchdown. Two receivers really stood out for the team. WR Jerricho Cotchery caught everything that was thrown to him and his body control and sideline footwork kept drives alive that were going to result in punts. TE Dustin Keller, who had been invisible most of the season, came up with a dominating effort after dropping an early pass that seemed to foreshadow a rough game for the Jets, Keller showed off the athletic ability that made him a first round pick as he took pass after pass down the field for big gains. The one no-show for the team was WR Braylon Edwards, who again dropped a TD bomb for the third time this season. Edwards has great physical gifts but seems to have a major problem on passes that he has to turn his head on. The other big skill player was rookie RB Shonn Greene who got the bulk of the work for the Jets and was just too fast for the Bengals’ front seven. Greene looked like he was running in a different gear than anyone else on the field. Greene’s huge TD run completely changed the momentum of the game. The way he ran changed the whole complexion of the game and had the Bengals selling out on the run so badly the pass was there for Sanchez all game. Of course all the credit in the world once again has to go to the Jets offensive line, who controlled the trenches for a second straight week and allowed the Jets to dominate the time of possession in the second half as they just methodically took the game over. A group that has traditionally been taken to task for not being able to block left blew the Bengals up on that side of the field. The three pro-bowlers, C Nick Mangold, LG Alan Faneca, and LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, showed why they all belonged as they paved the way for Greene to tear the Bengals up.

The Jets offense had two drives that really put the Bengals away. Early in the game the defense forced a turnover but the offense could do nothing with it to take the crowd out of the game. After tying the game up 7-7 the Jets once again got the ball off a turnover and this time delivered what was the first knockout punch of the game. Sanchez hit Cotchery for a critical third down conversion and then Keller made his first huge reception as he took a ball 45 yards for a score on a beautiful play that saw half the Bengals team converge go short on FB Tony Richardson off a tiny pump by Sanchez. The offense then delivered the knockout punch in the fourth quarter when they put the final three points on the board, taking 5 minutes off the clock and re-taking a two possession lead. Green and the offensive line were excellent on this drive. The way they played up to that point in the game set up Keller on another huge pass play as the Benagls team all over pursued Greene on a playfake. Greene they took over for the drive that did stall at the two, but in that situation a field goal is just as valuable as a touchdown. These are the type of drives that had been missing from the Jets most of the season and it will only mean good things if they can continue playing this well.

Defense

This was a tale of two defenses. The Jets had a tremendous performance in the secondary as they made Carson Palmer look like Jordan Palmer at QB. Palmer was clearly effected by what happened last week and whatever he has seen on film of the Jets. His passes were all over the football field and he just seemed deathly afraid of making a mistake. Darrelle Revis completely took Chad Ochocinco out of the football game and Palmer did not even look his way most of the day. Revis was called for a few penalties, one of which was an awful call and an interference call that was questionable. Revis looked like he had a better connection with Palmer as to where the route should be run and made a beautiful play on his interception. Lito Sheppard again had a good game not allowing his guy to get on track. Dwight Lowery was the target of the Bengals and did ok covering Laveranues Coles. He was injured late in the game but will need him when they match up with a much deeper receiving corps. next week. The linebackers and safeties both did a good job in their zones and assignments. Bart Scott and Bryan Thomas both broke up passes and Thomas forced the early fumble. Jim Leonhard also caused a fumble from Palmer off a nicely executed blitz. Once the game entered the fourth quarter and the Jets had a two score lead it was going to be near impossible for the Bengals to win due to the play of this group.

On the flip side was the horrendous run defense that may have been the worst showing since the first Miami game this season. Unlike last weeks game, the Bengals offensive line controlled the Jets defense. The team had a terrible time bringing RB Cedric Benson down. Thomas had him stopped for a loss and Benson kept his balance and sprung up and none of the other Jets kept playing. LB Calvin Pace completely whiffed on what should have been a tackle for a loss. David Harris had problems shedding blocks when they ran towards him. DE Mike DeVito was caught diving at his ankles with basically no support from anywhere else on the field. When a team blitzes the way the Jets do the person who gets their hands on the runner has to bring him down or at least hold him up because there is going to be no help in the secondary if he breaks free. The Jets containment was just terrible especially when Benson switched directions. S Kerry Rhodes, who had a good day in coverage, got outrun twice by Benson. After last weeks non-TD by Rhodes you have to begin to wonder if maybe there is an injury associated with how slow he looking on the field. The one thing the Jets defense could not allow in the fourth quarter was a quick score to make the game a one possession game with significant time left in the game, but that was exactly when they did when Benson ran 47 yards to cap off a drive that took less than a minute off the clock. Benson embarrassed the defense and if not for the great play of the offense we may be talking about a loss this week rather than a win. Benson never touched the ball again once the offense took the time off the clock and forced the offense into the hurry up. The Jets will need to get this corrected next week especially if they match up with the San Diego Chargers who have a far more elusive runner than Benson in Darren Sproles.

Special Teams

Give a big hand to K Jay Feely today. Unlike his Bengal counterpart, Feely hit the kicks when it counted and even made two big kicks that were called back by penalty. Most importantly Feely was forced into the role of punter due to Steve Weatherford having an irregular heartbeat and did an excellent job pinning the ball inside the 20. he return game was fine again today.

The rest of the special teams guys should be ashamed and many of them should not be on the team next season. The coverage team is the worst in the playoffs and no better than 2nd worst in the NFL. They allowed a huge kickoff return to begin the game, a complete no-no when playing on the road in the playoffs. They followed it up by allowing a big punt return before settling down. The final special teams malfuntion came when they jumped offsides not once, but twice on field goal attempts on the same drive. This forced the Jets out of field goal range costing the team a crucial three points. When you play the style of game the Jets play you can not have these kind of mistakes.

Coaching

Another stellar effort by Rex Ryan and his staff. For all the talk from the media types on the radio and TV as well as in print about how last week meant nothing they looked foolish when watching the Jets offense go to work. The gameplan was completely built on what the Jets had done the previous week to the Bengals defense. It was the best offensive plan the team had used all season. They threw on first down catching the Bengals off guard. They ran bootlegs off fakes that they knew the defense would sell out on because of what happened the week before. With the Bengals cheating right all game long the Jets dialed up a rushing attack that went left that had the Bengals completely out of position to make a stop. This was all predicated on what worked the week before and simply going away from it this week. They badly out coached the Bengals staff who never adjusted to the fact that the Jets were doing things completely different than the week before. The decision to go with the speedy Greene proved to be an excellent choice and most importantly Ryan kept the team from getting down on itself after a terrible start. Ryan has really grown since that Miami loss in week 5. The coach that coached from his heart early in the year would have gone for a TD on 4th down late in the game and given the Bengals new life if they did not make it. This coach smartly trotted out his field goal unit and took the 3. He also played the final few minutes very well on defense completely eliminating the big play and mixing up when he would and would not bring pressure. Early in the year this game may have been a heartbreaking loss, but Ryan kept his cool and the team kept it with him.

Overall

The Jets got their first playoff win in 5 years and more or less controlled the game for 3 quarters on the way to the finish line. Going into the game the Jets talked the talk and then came out and made good on all the talking as they were never really in danger of losing the game. For a team with a rookie QB and rookie head coach and a roster filled with non playoff winner it would have been easy to come out tight and lose the game, but the way the game played out it sure looked as if the Jets had the veteran QB and coach managing the game. They outplayed and out coached the Bengals in almost every aspect of the game.

The one aspect that people should be most excited about was the play off the offense today. They made big plays in the passing game and easily could have put up 34 points today if not for a few mistakes. They controlled the clock and answered every time the Bengals tried to come back in the game. They proved that they don’t have to win by just having the defense pitch a shutout, and were actually the reason the team won this week. If they can get this kind of balanced effort they have as good a chance as any wildcard team of advancing into championship weekend.

That said the Jets will be moving up in class next week. The Colts and Chargers are elite teams in the NFL. The Bengals are not. The Jets have to get their special teams sorted out and determine just what went wrong with the run defense before they take the field in either San Diego or Indianapolis. The same mistakes that they made today would be very costly against those teams. They will have to play a better game if they want to defeat either of the top two seeds next week.

This is a good week to be a Jets fan. The fans were beaten down by all the talk that the Jets did not deserve to be in the playoffs and how week 16 and 17 were just a farce. The fan can pump their chest out a little bit now and pretty much tell all of those who questioned last weeks game that they were way off on the assessment. The Jets are a far better team than the “real” Bengals as they proved today. The Jets are the best team in New York and get a chance to own the town for another week.

Hopefully they get a chance to prove they can beat the Colts next week. That is the team that the Jets matchup best with and they already have a taste of what to expect from them. Most people consider the Colts the best team in the NFL and beating the Colts would really be a great confidence booster for this team and bring them to a place they have not been in since 1998. Either way they will get a chance to prove that they have the makings of something special next week to put an exclamation point on what is already a very successful season. Go Jets!