Post Game Thoughts: Jets 26 Browns 20
Maybe the “Same Old Jets” mantra is really dead. The Jets did everything in their power to lose the game against the Cleveland Browns, but somehow found a way to pull things out again on the final play of the football game.
I think there were some real signs of how good the offense could be as they played efficient football for most of the day putting together time consuming drives on a day when the defense needed to be off the field if the Jets were to win the game. The Jets used a very balanced offensive attack mixing in the run, pass, and Tigercat formations. They seemed to make an effort to spread the touches around to keep the Cleveland Browns defense off balance and it worked very well. QB Mark Sanchez may have had his finest game as a pro. His work in the pocket was nothing short of phenomenal. He got away from so many pass rushes it was unreal. He sat in the pocket and directed traffic and he seemed to always make some excellent decisions with how he spread the ball around. Sanchez ended up hitting 8 different receivers on the day with 6 having multi reception games. That is something a veteran QB does. He took a real beating on one play and may have been playing part of the fourth quarter on a bad leg as he looked like he was limping out there on a few plays, but he gutted through everything and lifted the Jets to another win. Sanchez also had to be the calming influence early in the game when WR Braylon Edwards starting going wild on his former teammates after a catch and hit. WR Santonio Holmes once again sealed the game for the team and people are finally seeing what a real weapon on offense looks like. It has been so many years since the Jets had a dangerous player like this that you forget what a game breaker really looks like, but Holmes is just that. Holmes, on the final play of the game, looked like he was going to be pancaked between two defenders somehow came out unscathed and scampered some 30 yards into the end zone. Holmes also helped break up an interception as well. WR Jerricho Cotchery made an outstanding catch where he laid out his whole body to grab the ball. It was the kind of play that Cotchery was missing this year. WR Braylon Edwards had a few big grabs on the day but was probably disappointed he did not do more in his Cleveland return. He never made that impact play he was hoping for, though he may have been open in the end zone in overtime and was the victim of an under thrown ball.
The Jets finally began using more of RB Shonn Greene this week which helped the run game be a bit more efficient. Neither he nor RB LaDainian Tomlinson had a great running day, but both were steady and most importantly both contributed in the passing game. Tomlinson had a tremendous day as a receiver and the Jets even used a designed screen or two to him. Greene had a few nice grabs, which he will need to keep defenses off balances and keep his touches high. The offensive line did not have a good day. They looked confused by some of the things the Browns were doing and were often getting overpowered, The running game has been grounded these past few week and when you have two backs doing poorly against some bad run defenses you have to start to put the blame on the offensive line. They also gave up two sacks, but Sanchez probably saved them from another three. They also allowed Mark to be hit twice on pass attempts causing the ball to flutter away. It was their first poor pass play in some time so its probably not much to be concerned with just yet, but the run blocking definitely needs some work.
The Jets defense should be thankful that the offense held the ball for almost the entire game. They just looked like they went a week reading press clippings and decided to take the week off. Cleveland smashed them in the mouth to start the game with 10 points in two drives and if not for a Peyton Hillis fumble it may have been even worse. This reminded me entirely of the Jets/Jaguars game last season. The Jets defense came out and stunk up the field before they made all kinds of adjustments at the half and seemed to wake up and shut the team out the rest of the game until the final crucial drive of the game. To allow a rookie in only his fourth NFL start to drive 59 yards for a score is pathetic. The lack of a pass rush was once again evident this week as QB Colt McCoy looked to have months to scan the field at times. The Jets had major problems covering TE Ben Watson and got mixed up on a few big plays, but the main two corners of Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis once again had good games. S Eric Smith was out there too often again this week and simply does not belong. Luckily for the Jets WR Chansi Stuckey tried to do way too much with the football and fumbled away what was going to lead to a game winning field goal attempt. Give the defense credit for going after the football and always being opportunistic when the bal hit's the ground, but they can not be happy with the overall effort on the day.
That said, there were good signs. The run defense was stout and more or less made Hillis a non factor after the first drive of the game. They also did a good job of eliminating him from the passing game. Both ILB's, David Harris and Bart Scott, should get a lot of the credit for the job on Hillis. DE Mike DeVito had a very strong game and had a major tackle for a loss. Other than the final drive of the fourth quarter the defense did its job perfectly after the halftime and then played very well in the overtime. The job they did on the final Browns drive was tremendous. They did not allow Hillis to get them out of the danger zone and then had great coverage and collapsed the pocket on the final defensive play. This forced the Browns into a terrible punting situation that ended up being a major contributing factor in the win.
From hero to goat. So goes the life of a kicker. K Nick Folk was beyond horrible missing almost every attempt he had and would have been solely responsible had the Jets lost or tied the game. Missing a 24 yard attempt is completely unacceptable. Some of the snaps on the day looked poor, and give P Steve Weatherford credit for getting the holds down, but they were not the cause of the misses. Folk was just awful and it makes you worry about what happens in the outdoors in crucial games. The Jets punt return game was solid as they were well aware of the fact that Browns P Reggie Hodges gives you plenty of room to operate. Kyle Wilson had a big return and Jim Leonhards 18 yard return in the fourth quarter set up the winning play.
This was the finest coached offensive effort in some time. The Jets completely broke from tendencies in a lot of their pass routes and they utilized a strong balance of pass and run. They made very strong use of the Brad Smith packages. They played a team that understood everything they would do offensively and they had to do things different to win and that is exactly what happened on Sunday. Credit to Brian Schottenheimer for all of that.
Rex Ryan made changes at the half that clearly worked and seemed to keep his team relatively calm during some tough times late in the game. It was a bit surprising that he was going to play for another field goal attempt at the end of the game and had Folk missed again he would be second guessed for that had Holmes not broken free and taken Folk out of the equation. This was definitely a more crisp game than last weeks sloppy effort.
It really is amazing that the Jets are 7-2. When you watch the Jets for as many years as most of us have you do not expect the team to constantly win games like this. The Jets almost gift wrapped the game for the Browns at the end but somehow ended up winning in another miracle like fashion. In almost every other season the Jets would be 4-5 and the fans and media would be calling for the head of the coaching staff, but this year they are 7-2 and look to have a great chance to be one of the top two seeds in the conference. It's like a dream world for a Jets fan.
Unlike the last two miracle games though, this is a game where the Jets clearly outplayed the opposition. They dominated the offensive side of the ball and did well enough defensively to win. The problem was their kicker was kicking his way out of the NFL bad and its hard to blame anyone for that. Everyone knows the Browns have a stingy defense deep inside their own territory and you have to have good special teams play to pull away. You cant blame anyone for that failure besides Folk, who may have been looking for a job if the team lost. If he even makes one of those kicks the final score of the game is probably 23-16 and the game never reaches overtime.
Now the Jets go back home where they will face the high powered Texans whose season is slipping away. Houston lost a crushing game off a hail mary on the final play of the game and will be desperate for a win. New York has not played well at home and they have to be ready for a war next weekend. With back to back overtime road games and the Jets having to play 2 games in the span of 5 days in the upcoming two weeks it is going to be tough to have the team physically ready for these games. It will be interesting to see how Ryan handles this week and if he gives the players far less physical practices to allow them to heal up.
There are probably a lot of fans who are negative on the team again off this game, but the Jets have yet to play great football and are 7-2. The difference between this type of start and say the paper tiger season of 2006 is that you know this team is capable of great things. These 7 wins have put the Jets in a great position to tap that greatness and be ready for the playoffs. Can the Jets rely forever on miracles? No they can not, but this team should not need to rely on it to win more games. This was also a completely different win than the Broncos and Lions wins and a deserved win, with nowhere near as many negative aspects to it.
People also should realize that many teams who make deep runs into the playoffs, except the Patriots and Colts, usually go through periods of bad football. It is hard to get the intensity level up to the levels of those playoff games during the regular season. Just look at the Saints. The Saints have played far worse football than the Jets yet the press clippings on them are that they are a good team that is one of the best in the NFL. People, such as Mike Francesa of WFAN, have made excuses all season long for the Minnesota Vikings about how they are a great team that had some bad luck. The Jets should be treated the same exact way and are better than both those teams. A win like this should not make someone treat them as worse than any other team in the NFL that wins ugly against bad teams. The Jets can only go up from here and to already be at 7 wins despite playing mediocre football is a pretty hopeful sign for the club.