Post Game Thoughts: Jets 23 Lions 20
With about 5 minutes left in the game the Jets were about to head deep into a midseason funk for the second time in the last two years, when QB Mark Sanchez calmed down and maybe found that offensive spark that has been missing since the first half of the Minnesota Vikings game.
There were two offenses to talk about today. There was the dreadful offense that took the field for the first 55 minutes and the one that played for the final 6 minutes of play. The final 3 drives of the game showed everything the offense could be when the QB is decisive and doesn't have so many things to think about. QB Mark Sanchez had the finest game of his career finally surpassing that magical 300 yard total for the first time in his young career. It was a bizarre game for Sanchez, who looked lost for most of the first 55 minutes. Other than a picture perfect pass to WR Braylon Edwards, Sanchez looked indecisive and was not throwing the ball well, at one point going 7 incompletions in a row when the Jets were desperate for even a blip of offensive hope. Then something happened for Mark and he finished the game 10 for his last 13 leading his team to an improbable 13 points at a time when there was no margin for error. Sanchez seemed much more at ease running a hurry up offense where he no longer had to think. He made every throw he had to regardless of whether it was a 5 yard pass to RB LaDainian Tomlinson or a 25 yard bullet to TE Dustin Keller with no hesitation and the offense moved because of it. The offense had more or less stalled since the return of WR Santonio Holmes and you have to wonder after watching the way the team worked those last few minutes if Sanchez is feeling too much pressure to find ways to make all his big weapons happy. Sometimes people say “you can have too much of a good thing” and maybe that is what is plaguing the Jets offense. In these last 3 or 4 games Sanchez has regressed into a sandlot football player holding onto the football way too long and waiting for something to happen, but when the situation totally changed at the end of the game so did his type of play. Hopefully it opened his eyes and the coaches eyes. Sanchez fumbled the ball 3 times on the day and threw another interception inside the opponents territory. The blame on that pass may not have been completely on Sanchez as Holmes looked to clearly have had the inside and chose to go out, which might have led to an under throw on the ball. it's a lack of familiarity between the two players which is indicative of a bigger problem the Jets are having in practice. WR Jerricho Cotchery really needs to see his snaps lowered in the offense. He had another two drops on the day and took a catch that would have gone for a first and spun it backwards. Something is wrong with him, but the Jets can not afford to wait until he figures it out. Edwards had his usual huge reception but had a terrible fumble on a play that was going nowhere. That was the type of play that marred the game for the team.
The running game has been ground to a halt after a few nice games early in the year. RB LaDainian Tomlinson has definitely lost that early season bounce in his step as he is no longer turning the corner the way he did in those first few weeks. Where he made his biggest contributions were at the end of the game n the pass game where he made some big plays and did a great job getting out of bounds to stop the clock. RB Shonn Greene did not fare much better in his limited carries, but does do a bit better job of gaining yards after contact. The team is in a position where they will ride the hot hand in the run game, but Greene isn't doing enough yet to get that chance. With the exception of a few bad penalties the offensive line did very well protecting the passer today. Other than the strip caused when RT Damien Woody simply got out of his stance too slow, the line neutralized the Lions big pass rushers. They did not do as good a job in the run blocking game, as they are not creating the inside holes they did last season to let some of the draws go for bigger yards, but when you dominate a very good pass rushing team like the Lions you get a pass for that.
Well we finally saw the return of Revis Island, as CB Darrelle Revis finally had the breakout game that everyone has waited for. He dominated standout WR Calvin Johnson, who had all of 1 catch for 13 yards. Revis had that athletic look he had been missing all season right from the first snap of the game. The Lions tested him long, he broke up the pass, and they pretty much never looked there again. Unfortunately for the Jets Coleman Island was like a resort that WR Nate Burleson won a 7 day vacation on. CD Drew Coleman, who has played well most of the year, was picked on for the second straight week and seemed to give up a play almost every time they threw at him. Burleson has to get some credit as well as he was making catches even when Coleman's coverage was good, but the Jets should have considered finding a way to get CB Antonio Cromartie lined up on him more. The Safety play was again a problem. The Jets seemed to go with a significant amount of Eric Smith in coverage and he just is no good. He had to interfere with TE Brandon Pettigrew to keep him from a touchdown while S Jim Leonhard did give up a score to Pettigrew. QB Matt Stafford looked very good against this Jets defense and did a great job of spreading the ball around. With no running game to lean on and his best player taken out of the game he found a way to play mistake free football and put points up on the board. He is a real gutsy player, but is never going to survive in the NFL as every time he gets hit a few times he gets hurt. The Jets got a major break when he was forced to leave the game late and the Lions entrusted backup Drew Stanton to try a 3rd down throw which stopped the clock at a crucial time when the Jets were out of timeouts.
The people who threw the “great” label on the defense after last weeks game have probably pulled it back as the Jets made far too many mistakes to be a great defense. They gave up some big plays at the worst times and had far too many penalties to extend drives, though a call on DE Shaun Ellis was a terrible call. Detroit outsmarted the defense a few times. They used RB Jahvid Best in a tremendous way in the passing game. He made LB David Harris have his worst game of the year while LB Bart Scott nearly got lit up by Best when the Best ran right by him into the open field but then missed the reception. LB Bryan Thomas made one of the best plays of the day reading the play and stuffing Best on a screen around the goal. The team also ran a great play for a score that fooled everyone on the Jets when Best faked that he had the ball and Stafford walked into the end zone. For the Jets to sell out that badly against a team that can not run the ball was terrible. The pass rush was a bit better this week and they should have been credited with 3 sacks on Stafford if not for a mistake on a penalty call. Im sure in Detroit they feel if Stafford remained in the game they would have won the game and its certainly possible. This was not a great effort by the Jets defense. Not terrible, but certainly not great.
K Nick Folk made up for his mishap last week with some clutch kicking that won the game for the Jets. You can't expect anything more from your kicker than that and Folk gave it to them. KR Brad Smith did a good job on his kick returns and also made a big stop on a return. Detroit's return game was strong going into the game and the Jets did nothing to stop it, especially on punt returns. P Steve Weatherford did not have a great day, but did make a great punt at the end of the game to keep the Jets hopes alive by pinning the Lions inside the 10. It is a key play that nobody will talk about, but it was huge for the team.
I was stunned to see CB Kyle Wilson inserted at punt returner at the end of the game. He had a nice return early but fumbled the ball away. I guess the Jets felt they needed a miracle and he was their best chance, but it would not be stunning if RB Joe McKnight is active on punts next week while Wilson is inactive. Dumbest play of the day goes to DE Trevor Pryce who inexplicably roughed K Jason Hanson costing the team an extra 3 points. He injured Hanson on the play and there was no reason for him to be anywhere near him on that play. If he was a no name player he would be cut on Tuesday for that play.
Are the Jets a well coached team? At this point you have to say no. The just make so many mistakes on the field that it is impossible to say they are prepared for these games. To have to waste two timeouts on the same series because you have 12 defenders on the field is unheard of. That is the sloppy play the Jets had last year. They had to wasted another timeout early because they could not get the personnel on the field because they were more interested in watching a skirmish on the sideline between a player not even in the game and a Lion defender. These mistakes kill you at games end. There are a number of plays where guys just seem to be on a different page than everyone else. We saw Sanchez and Mangold botch two snaps in the same game. We saw Holmes running routes that Sanchez had no idea were being run. We saw a T Wayne Hunter forget to report back to his original position in as a Tight End. They did not seem to argue for 10 seconds to be put back on the clock when the officials failed to signal a TD, though the officiating was awful all day and it may have been a pointless effort. The Jets are penalized as much as anyone in the NFL. This is all due to lack of preparation on the Jets staff.
On the positive side they did a smart job in realizing they were going to run out of time with no timeouts so they started the hurry up offense earlier than a lot of other coaches would have and they made the decision in overtime to keep Sanchez in the same type of offense he was running at the end of the game rather than resetting things as if it were a new game as the terrible announcing team was suggesting. They saw something was working and stuck with it, a decision that maybe they don't always make.
The good thing in all of this is that the Jets have won two of these mistake filled games where they are playing bad football. The season is only halfway over so there is plenty of time to correct the mistakes and unlike last year they do not have to fight from behind while fixing things to make the playoffs. That is a real positive.
The thing is the Jets have to learn from these mistakes and not just think things will fix themselves or that they can play this way every week and win a game. I always think back to an interview former Jets DE John Abraham gave in 2003 after the Jets started the year a terrible 1-4. In it he stated how they were just as bad the year before and things worked out fine and that was the attitude the team had. When QB Chad Pennington came back from injury and the team did not immediately win they looked lost the rest of the year en route to finishing 6-10 a year after winning the division.
That team saw no urgency in the situation and it showed on the field and the Jets can not afford the same mistakes in 2010. However you have to wonder just how many times the Jets have to play poorly before they start to change some things. They finished poor against the Vikings and then looked awful against Denver, but won the game. They then laid a total egg against the Packers that you figured was a wakeup call. Then they pretty much got run over in Detroit for 55 minutes but found a way to win. When do the Jets start to say “maybe we are not as good as we think we are”. The team needs that slap in the face right now. Maybe this serves as it and maybe it does not.
The Jets caught a break as the Patriots got walloped by the Browns off the usual Eric Mangini bye week miracle game. Now they have to go into Cleveland to take on the former coach and if they take them too lightly you can bet the Browns will beat them too. There are a lot of Jets castoffs on that team that are going to want to stick it to the organization that gave up on them and their coach. If they come out this flat again its going to be hard to imagine the team ever figuring it out by seasons end.
But right now the Jets are back atop the AFC East with a 6-2 record at the halfway point and all signs point to a major showdown in Foxboro in a few weeks that will determine who wins the division. The Jets have to be happy with that position, but hopefully not too happy with how they got there. If they fix the things wrong with the team there is no reason for them to not to receive a first round bye and host a playoff game for the first time in 8 years.