Post Game Thoughts: Jets 28 Patriots 21
I doubt any words can capture the feelings of Jets fans or players right now. They went into the stadium of the team that loves to rub it in against them every season and completely stuck it to them, dominating the Patriots in almost every aspect of the football game.
The real heroes on offense were the offensive linemen. With the exception of one hiccup by RT Wayne Hunter they never let QB Mark Sanchez feel any kind of significant pressure and completely dominated the line of scrimmage. C Nick Mangold had a fantastic game and has really closed the season strongly solidifying his standing as best center in the NFL. It was no secret that the Jets were going to run and the only way it would be successful was going to be if the line played well and they responded to the challenge. The Jets ran on 16 of 21 1st downs and averaged nearly 4.5 yards a carry on that down. It was very important to the entire gameplan as it was putting the Jets in a position to pick up first downs, maintain good field position, and take time off the clock. Even though the overall production from the offense was not very efficient, they carried out the gameplan to force the Patriots to play a long field with limited possessions. Of the Jets 11 possessions only two resulted in a 3 and out, one of which was a missed FG, and in a game like this that is huge. The really paved the way for RB Shonn Greene and RB LaDainian Tomlinson who both had solid games. Greene put the final dagger in the coffin for the Patriots with his 20 yard score at the end of the game.
QB Mark Sanchez was efficient. Things started off very shaky for Sanchez and the team with him. Again he was overthrowing receivers and missed three passes that would have been huge gains for the team. The drive that the team ran after the interception was so poor that you wondered if there was some fear again about utilizing Sanchez. Luckily it seemed to be more early game jitters than anything else and once he settled in he played very well. The play that changed everything for him was the 37 yard pass to WR Braylon Edwards to set up the first score for the Jets. It was a broken play that Sanchez completely directed from the backfield when he signaled to his wideout to go deep and he hit him with a beautiful throw. Before that throw Sanchez was 4 of 8 for 26 yards. From the Edwards throw onward he was 12 of 17 for 169 yards and 3 touchdowns, a tremendous day for the youngster. He worked the middle of the field as well as anyone and he just seems to play so well when he is in a controlled environment like that. His touchdown throws to Tomlinson and WR Santonio Holmes were fantastic. In a league where so much credit is given for being the QB of a good team, Sanchez has to grade very highly from this point forward.
WR Jerricho Cotchery saved it up for this game and continued to be a thorn in the side of New England. He seems to always have a big play against this team and his 58 yard catch and run was really something to see. It was a throwback to what Cotchery looked like in the past which has somehow slipped away from him this year. He grabbed the ball and just took off, hurdling would be tacklers and setting up the answering score when the Patriots were trying to regain the momentum and bring their home crowd, which had been dead silent, back into the game. It was the biggest play of the game and perhaps the biggest of Jerricho's career. The Jets seemed to be well aware of Cotchery today and seemed to target him often while the Patriots over focused on the other two. Cotchery made them pay for the coverage decisions and was the star of the show for the Jets. Edwards had the big haul and just a spectacular touchdown score. He just willed his way into the end zone on a 15 yard play that 90% of the players in the league would have fallen 5 yards short of the end zone on. He really has been leading by example on the field and is making a very strong case to get his new contract next season. He is valuable to this team in more ways than just being a wide receiver. Holmes has become somewhat maddening to watch. He continues to drop some easy passes and made Sanchez look bad on a play where the two just were not on the same page. But, after all the problems, he goes out and makes the type of reception in the end zone that nobody can believe someone could make. It required such concentration and body control to make that grab and come down in the field of play that it is hard to believe he could make it. He is a big play/big game player and the Jets brought him in for moments just like this one.
There is certainly room for improvement for next weeks game. Too often the offense wasted good field position and had drives stall in the no man land around the opponents 38. It was another game of terrible play in the first quarter and that is so hard to bounce back from each and every week, especially on the road. They still make too many little mistakes like dropping passes, overthrowing receivers, or wild play calls with 2 receivers basically running the same route within 5 yards of each other that need to be corrected. But these are things the Jets will try to work on during the week and hopefully get fixed for the Steelers game.
Just an amazing effort today. I am still speechless about what we saw on the field. It started so badly. New England, with WR Wes Welker sitting on the bench, just gashed the defense on the first drive of the game. It was like a remake of the 45-3 start. RB Danny Woodhead made LB David Harris look silly off a screen. They gained big yards off an end around. The Tight End was killing the team. Then Harris picked off Brady on a play that was probably created by a pressure by LB Calvin Pace and the Jets were saved. There were problems on the next drive as well, but again the Jets stopped them, holding them to a field goal, and it seemed like it just lit a fire in the defense that could not be put out. It seemed like this was the confidence booster they needed and the whole game turned from that point forward. They just set the tone in the second quarter by forcing the Pats into 3 and outs on almost every possession and it carried into the rest of the game.
The secondary played out of their mind. They executed a brilliant gameplan perfectly. Don't be fooled by the garbage stats put up by QB Tom Brady at the end of the game. When the game mattered there was nobody open and it wasn't just because of CB Darrelle Revis. CB Antonio Cromartie talked a big game and backed it up. You never really heard his name mentioned all day except on one deep ball that fell incomplete. CB Drew Coleman played admirably. He's been burned in the past on numerous occasions and you knew he would be targeted, but he played terrific. The Safeties all played well and S Eric Smith laid some big hits on the guys at the end of the game which had to make the coach smile. Smith has looked like a different player these last two weeks. The Jets players plugged up every passing lane on the day and gave Brady nowhere to go with the football. It was amazing to witness. He could have had 30 seconds in the pocket and he was unable to find a receiver. He was so confused and his passes were off target more often than not because of the defense. When they were on target his receivers were dropping them, and often that is a result of the receiver thinking a defender is somewhere looking to lay a hit when he isn't even there. Nothing was better than watching WR Deion Branch drop a 4th down pass right in his gut after he spent a good deal of time after making a big catch after being invisible most of the game.
Up front there was a special effort from DE Shaun Ellis. Ellis wanted this game more than anyone one the team, which is really saying something. He just dialed it up like he was 10 years younger and went after Brady and company with an intensity that New England could not match. The Jets were not bringing any exotic blitzes on the day and were just relying on their guys to win matchups while the secondary did they job, and the guys made sure that Brady knew he was going to get hit. Ellis sacked him twice. Pace caused an interception and caused a fumble on a sack where he looked like he could have thrown Bradys arm out of the socket. NT Sione Pouha pressured the QB. LB Jason Taylor was very active and nearly stripped the ball on one play. DE Mike DeVito played great. He has had such a good year but the only people who notice him are those who watch him every week. I don't know if DeVito even recorded a tackle, but he blows up so many plays in the backfield that he makes an impact even when his name does not get on the stat sheet.
The ultimate sign of respect for the defense came late in the third quarter when Bill Belichick decided to go for a two point conversion off his teams first touchdown of the game. The announcers played it up as Belichick thinking outside of conventional wisdom and feeling a momentum shift, but it had nothing to do with that. That play was called because he had no faith that his offense with 15 minutes left in the game could come down the field a second time and score a touchdown. At least in a 3 point game they had an opportunity to tie and then take their chances in overtime. They did not even trust their base package to convert, relying on a direct snap to the running back. By the end of the game the Jets had the offense so confused and tied up that they were going to a running offense and moving so slowly because they actually had to read the defense and determine what to do. Normally that does not happen with New England. New England dictates to the defense the pace of the game, but on this day the Jets dictated it to the Patriots. The amount of time the Patriots had to waste when they still had a glimmer of hope to get the proper play calls in for the personnel groupings the Jets put on the field told the story about how the defense dominated the game.
From hero to goat is the life of a kicker and K Nick Folk was almost there this week. He blew the first field goal of the game and he would have gotten the brunt of the blame had the Jets not won. Kickoffs continued to be something of an issue for him as well. P Steve Weatherford continued his bad streak in New England. Weatherford has been so great all year at the short punts and the Jets called on him so many times in the game to do it and on almost every possession he could not pin the Patriots down. The punt coverage was terrible on a 40 yard return where the Jets just looked like they forgot to cover the kick.
That's not to say it was all bad though. The Patriots tried a fake punt and even if the snap was not botched the Jets had it covered. Eric Smith was going to blow that play up before it began anyway. That was the play that turned the whole game for good. The team had great coverage of the two onside kick attempts late#44; including Antonio Cromarites scoop and run.
What a gameplan put in by Rex Ryan and his staff. This wasn't outsmarting Norv Turner or Marvin Lewis, this was outsmarting the greatest coach in today's NFL. Bill Belichick had no answer for what the Jets were doing defensively. I think everyone assumed the Patriots were going to go into the locker room at the half and devise a new gameplan to attack the Jets and come away and win the game. It never happened. New England's start to the third quarter was no different than what they had done previously. It was not until midway through the 4th quarter when they finally made the choice to try running the ball against the pass defense, but by then it was too late.
The Jets were so calm this time around. It was a complete turnaround from the last game in this stadium. In the last game it was chaotic. The team was lost on the field. Rex was lost on the sidelines. It was just totally different. Ryan possibly could have challenged the Folk field goal miss, but did not get too excited and waste a challenge on a call that was by no means a lock to be overturned. He never hesitated to send his punter out on 4th down situations in Patriot territory. They had great control of the sidelines and did not try to rush in substitutions and get caught with guys running on and off the field. The players were more focused than ever and never committed dumb penalties or got caught napping on the field. It was about as perfect a coaching job as you can have in the NFL.
Ryan has clearly validated the Jets decision to hire him with these playoff runs. Maybe he does have his faults in the regular season, especially when he seems to underestimate certain opponents such as the Dolphins, but has anyone else in the NFL begun their head coaching career with back to back Championship appearances with all the games coming on the road? I doubt it. Even if Rex loses next week this is no worse than what the guy who many wanted the Jets to hire, Bill Cowher, did every single year in Pittsburgh. Rex has built something special in New York.
This was just such a great win for everyone. The fans have waited for this type of moment for ages. This was the team that the Jets could never dethrone. Even this season, when the Jets thought the division was theirs the Patriots kicked them down and forced them to go the wildcard route. Everyone wrote the Jets off because of that this week, and the Jets smacked their rivals around to render everything that happened in the regular season moot. This was the really important one and the Jets were the far better team in every aspect. It has to be really sweet for these players who have been around long enough to really know the sting of losing big game after big game to the Patriots through the years.
The one thing you have to wonder is what carryover there is to next week. This feels like the Super Bowl, but the Jets still have two more games before they can be considered champions. Yes it is great to knock off the Patriots, but starting tomorrow they have to put the game behind them and start focusing on their rematch with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets cant afford to be like the Yankees team who beat the Red Sox and then kind of slept through a World Series against the Marlins. The Jets have to be that Red Sox team who overcame the Yankees and went on to win the World Series. The journey is not over for the Jets, but its probably very easy to have a comedown game next week if they bask in the glory of this win too much.
No matter what happens next week the 2010 campaign is going to be a success, but it is so rare to get these chances that you hate to see the team not fulfill every fans dream of getting to the Super Bowl. The playoffs are all about getting hot at the right time and the Jets are hot right now. This is somewhat different than last years run in that regard. The Jets were certainly hot last season, but they were basically playing exactly how the played all season except the QB was protecting the football, which he had not done most of the season. By the time they got to Indianapolis Peyton Manning had 18 games of footage to study and he knew if he could beat the defense he could win the game.
This year the Jets are not playing up to their norms. They are playing better. Offensively the team is running the ball better than they have at any point in the season and giving some different looks in their selection with Tomlinson and Greene. The defense is playing far better than they did in the regular season and giving completely different looks than they have this year. It makes preparation for the Jets far harder than it was last season. Unlike the Ravens, who gave the Steelers the same looks they have the last three years, the Jets will be showing them something totally different than they did a few weeks ago.
The Jets are so close right now that it would be a letdown to not come out of Pittsburgh with the win next week. It has been so many years of frustration for the franchise and here they are knocking on the door yet again. It is time for the Jets to kick that door down and finally advance to the next level. They just beat the team that was the big favorite in the playoffs and are matching up with a team that not only has a bad recent history of home playoff games but one that they already beat this year. They are the hottest team in the AFC and have a great mix of young and veteran talent to go along with a good head coach. There is no reason for the Jets to not do it now. Bring on the Steelers.