Post Game Thoughts: Jets 24 Broncos 20
When you come out and play sloppy, uninspired football, especially on the road, odds are you are going to lose the game regardless of how the game should play out on paper. Somewhere the football gods decided to let the Jets slide this time in what will likely be their most surprising win of the season.
You knew it had to happen eventually as QB Mark Sanchez has seemingly dodged bullets all year, but you would have hoped that Sanchez' interceptions of the 2010 season would not have come in a close game where they cost the team points. This was a new place for Sanchez to play and he seemed completely overcome by the environment early on. The stadium was so loud that the cameras were literally shaking on the TV and most of Sanchez' early passes were all going to the wrong team as he was staring down receivers and just missing his intended target. His interception at the end of the first half led to at least a 6 point swing as well as a complete change in momentum that carried over into the fourth quarter. To his credit, Sanchez did play better as the game wore on and hit some big passes as he tried to lead his team back to victory. He was also shown giving a pat on the back to WR Santonio Holmes after a critical fumble in a nice display of leadership, as Sanchez knew first hand from his first season here how hard those types of blunders are received in the press. This was the first game of the season where the Jets could not get their running game going and it definitely affected the offense, which had its worst game since week 1. It was not fair to expect the Jets to do what the Ravens did last week to the Broncos, as Denver has had some solid games against good players this year, but it is hard to imagine that the Jets offensive line would have been pushed around the way it was by a mediocre defensive front. RB LaDainian Tomlinson was held completely in check until a 20 yard TD run in the 4th quarter that boosted his stat line. RB Shonn Greene ran better than LT, but the Jets inability to sustain drives on offense never gave him a chance to get enough meaningful touches to make an impact. Both Fullbacks looked to play poorly and miss a few blocks in the game, though Tony Richardson was in there leading the way on the go ahead touchdown.
TE Dustin Keller and WR Braylon Edwards both had solid games and were two of just a handful of players to show up and play for 60 minutes. WR Santonio Holmes was involved in the two biggest plays of the game, though he did not make a catch on either of them. Holmes had a crucial fumble after a big run that killed a good drive by the team, but beat his coverage deep on that crucial play which resulted in a pass interference call. That was a pass that 90% of the time the QB would be killed in the press for throwing and 99% of the time would have fallen incomplete, but Holmes made a terrific adjustment on the ball that saw the defender grab his facemask as he tried to stop and turn back on Holmes. Holmes made sure the official knew right away he was interfered with and it would have been criminal to not get that call, especially since the referees were over the top with the PI calls in the game, but that is not a normal type of play you see in the NFL. Holmes is starting to get more acclimated into the offense, but the Jets are forcing the ball a little too much to him right now. WR Jerricho Cotchery looked completely from the gameplan except when the Jets tried to use him short early on to calm down Sanchez' nerves. Hopefully during the bye week the Jets can design better ways to get all 4 players involved in the offense which is looking to be very streaky this year, but is finishing drives with 7 points rather than 3, a big improvement from 2009.
Another A+ effort for CB Antonio Cromartie who has now become the top defender on the team. He stuck the NFL's leading WR Brandon Lloyd for almost the entire game and held him to no receptions in the first half and I believe 3 in the second half, one of which was a ridiculously acrobatic catch that Cromartie was all over in coverage. His other reception came on a play when he was passed over to S Jim Leonhard who is simply too small to defend these WR's. The coverage in general was very good with QB Kyle Orton barely completing 40% of his passes. CB Darrelle Revis looked better this week, but definitely is not as explosive as he was last year, which may be the result of the hamstring injury. He gave up a number of catches on the day, many of which he had solid coverage on but was unable to make a play on the ball. Last season Revis could have gotten up in the air to knock those passes down, but he is not doing that this year. He made a huge hit early in the game and did recover another fumble, but you can also see that the speed is not there yet either. How he looks off the bye week will probably go a long way towards letting us know if he has a chance to return to 2009 form by the end of the year or not. CB Drew Coleman has played well and really justified the decision to retain him this season. He made a nice strip of the football early in the game and it is clear that these strip tackles are something the Jets focus on in practice. The Jets did not get their hands on Orton often but did pressure him a few times. Orton did pick up two big first downs off runs when the Jets failed to bring him down in the pocket and lost containment when Leonhard and Brodney Pool slipped before they could make a tackle. His second run nearly cost the Jets the game. It was a similar problem that the Jets had against Ryan Fitzpatrick in Buffalo a few weeks ago. The run defense was a mixed bag with the Jets giving up a number of 10 yard type run plays to a team that never gets those types of plays, but at the same time getting a number of stops behind the line of scrimmage. LB David Harris continued the strong season with some hits that just screamed through the speaker system. His last two years in this system have been excellent. The Jets were unprepared for the QB Tim Tebow package and S James Ihedigbo got blocked out of the play where Tebow scored his first touchdown.
This is definitely not the same defense as last year, but they did a decent job of stiffening up once Denver took the lead and the Jets were playing a battle of field position. The defense got the offense the ball back in great field position two times which set up the initial 17-17 tie score. There did seem to be a number of questionable calls that went against the Jets in the game both in terms of penalties and possible missed calls. The game was called very tight in what was considered interference or defensive holding. The TD by Demaryius Thomas sure looked to be a non catch with his foot coming down out of bounds. LB Bart Scott got his first incredibly dumb penalty of the season getting an unsportsmanlike penalty on a dead play. When Scott does those things all you can do is shake your head. It does not look like the Jets are going to be able to rely on their defense to win any game this year, but they should be able to hold most teams to that 20 point mark, especially if they continue to do well in forcing fumbles.
K Nick Folk made a monster field goal which was a big lift to the team and P Steve Weatherford continues to do well. I have a hard time believing there is a better punter in the league than Weatherford right now, which is quite the turnaround from last season. That was about the only special teams highlight for the Jets. They gave up a big return to Eddie Royal in the game and were completely unaware of the fact that Denver tried an onside kick. LB Kenwinn Cummings was the only Jet who seemed cognizant of the kick. The return game did little this week. Luckily for the Jets, the Broncos special teams were worse as they botched a FG snap and misses a 49 yard attempt after nailing a 58 yarder. Those points that Denver left on the field are why the Jets won the game.
Not a great game for the staff. Josh McDaniel pulled out every trick he had--- using Tebow, throwing at an injured Revis, letting his wideouts run with the ball, using 4 man defensive fronts, and the onsides kick attempt---and he was pretty much successful the whole game. It seemed as if the staff had a hard time finding a flow on either side of the ball. You would get a good play and then an awful play. There was just no consistency. They tried to set up longer throws early and that went nowhere. They were not plugging the run lanes consistently on defense. The Jets only had one timeout at the end of the game losing one on what was probably a iffy challenge as it seems relatively subjective as to what is considered the “process” of catching the football. They then failed to challenge the TD to Thomas, which was a far bigger play, likely because they wanted the timeout to remain in their pocket. That was the play that probably had the better chance of being reversed. Ryan did keep the team focused when they could have just packed it in at the half and that is a big accomplishment.
Regardless of how the team got to 5-1, the reality is that this is one of the best starts in the history of the franchise and they could not have hoped for a much better start to the year than this one. They have the best record in the AFC and look to be entering a very winnable stretch of games beginning with the disappointing Packers in two weeks and ending on Thanksgiving against the equally disappointing Bengals. There is no reason to think that the Jets can not go 5-1 in these next 6 games before they head to Foxboro for what looks to be the game that will decide the AFC East.
Was the game pretty? No. Were the Jets lucky? Yes. But that should not take away from the fact that the Jets went out West into a very hostile environment on a short week and found a way to win the game. One of the things that makes a champion a champion are those intangibles that seem to lead a team to victory even on a bad day. Good teams often find ways to win games they have no business winning and that is what the Jets did in Denver. It is a fact that is going to separate the regular season performance of the 2010 Jets from the 2009 version. The 2009 team was a team that did not understand how to close out games and accordingly they ended up with a pretty mediocre record before making some noise in the playoffs. This years group has now won three games that last years club would have lost.
The next test for this team will come during the bye week. Last year Rex Ryan gave the team off and allowed them to just get away from football for the week. By the time they came back they were neither physically nor mentally prepared to play football, getting pushed around by the terrible Jacksonville Jaguars resulting in a 24-22 loss against a team they should have beaten by 10 points. It was a game that nearly derailed the entire season. Ryan needs to have learned from that and make sure the same letdown does not happen again in 2010.
There are clearly big areas of improvement for the team. Offensively the team needs to be more consistent and they have to work with Sanchez on his accuracy. These below 60% days need to stop. The potential is there as he throws some incredible passes in the middle of the field, but the team will not be consistent on offense until his starts completing more passes. The defense is thin and when the offense goes in these 3 and out funks it really wears down the defense. Defensively the Jets have to figure out what to do with the pass defense. They absolutely need better play from the Safety position and they have to come up with more ways to get to the QB. They need to really figure out where Revis is and what he can do on the field by seasons end. He was not a liability this week, but the Jets can not afford to just assume “Revis Island” can contain the opposition anymore.
If the Jets can find some consistency on offense and stop those big pass plays on defense the Jets should cement themselves as the best team in the NFL. Even with these problems that are going to be considered the second best team in the conference and will be given the opportunity to prove themselves the best. The pieces are finally in place for the franchise and a little hard work can help the Jets win their first division title in 8 years.