Final Score (OT):
Reading all of the analysis in today’s papers and on the web, it would be easy to lose sight of the fact that nobody – NOBODY – gave the Jets even a remote chance of winning. The fact that we are even talking about how close they came to winning this game, needs to be reflected upon for a moment.
Okay, enough reflection. The reality is that the Jets blew a golden opportunity to pull off a major upset, and take sole possession of first place. They had every opportunity to win this game at the end of regulation, but instead played very conservatively on both sides of the ball, and it burned them. So much for Rex’s proclamation that you always “play to win the game.” Last night at the end of the game, they played not to lose, or to tie at best. It was a valiant effort, but there are no moral victories. And at the end of the season, it still goes down as a loss.
Looking back on the game, there were I think a few critical decisions & plays that came back to haunt them:
- On 3rd and 1 at the 2 yard line, they decided to throw a quick slant to Chaz Schillens, instead of running it up the gut. This was an absolutely perplexing call. For starters, your workhorse back, Shonn Greene, has been nearly perfect on 3rd and 1 situations all year long, including a previous conversion in that game. Secondly, you have Tim Tebow – one of the best in the game in these situations. This is why you traded 2 draft picks for him – for this very situation. Finally, if you are Rex/Tony and you really think it calls for a pass, why in the name of Leon Hess are you passing to your no. 3 receiver, and a guy who has about 10 catches all year at this point? Somebody please answer these questions.
- The final drive of the game – obviously there was the drop by Stephen Hill. That was an absolute killer. Santonio Holmes makes that catch. But even so, the Jets were very conservative on much of that drive, which started at the Pats’ 20 yard line. The Jets clearly felt that a 3 point lead with only 1 timeout for New England was a lower risk scenario vs. going for the 7 points, not getting it, and then leaving more time and timeouts for the Pats. What happened next? Tom Brady marched down the field in 90 seconds and set up a game-tying FG.
- Employing a 3-man rush – On the last two drives, the Jets went heavy in pass coverage, and light on their pass rush. Big mistake. Brady carved up the Jets all day when they rushed 3 passers. When they rushed 4 or more, his completion percentage really dropped. How did the coaches not know this by the 4th quarter and make the appropriate adjustments?
- Sanchez’ turnovers – all 3 were killers. The 1st quarter fumble & safety was only partially his fault, and they survived it. The INT in the 2nd quarter was one of those throws that just leaves you shouting at the television (apparently there were Boston area beat writers in the press box who were publicly saying that he was the “worst QB” in the league right after that), and then of course, the fumble in OT. That was his 3rd turnover in OT since 2009 – 2 more than any other player in the league in that timeframe. That’s called “not clutch.”
A quick recap on the performances:
QB: As I wrote earlier, you live with Sanchez and you die with Sanchez. His performance is so inconsistent, it’s maddening. Get this: he went 16 for 20 with 190 yards and a TD after halftime, including that beautiful game-tying 92 yard drive in the 4th quarter. Those are insanely good numbers on the road against New England. But then of course there were the killer turnovers, including the game-ender. How do you coach for this? How do you know which Sanchez you can rely on in a given drive, let alone an entire game? Some will say these are growing pains. Many, like me, increasingly believe that he’s no longer the answer.
And the Tim Tebow experiment continues to fail miserably. Just when you thought the Jets figured out to use him last week, they regress. He was on the filed for less than 10 snaps and he wasn’t used on that key 3rd down situation at the 2 yard line. Wasn’t this the reason you brought him here? And while I love the 3 and 4 yard pick-ups he gets, can we please let the guy throw the ball? Just once, to keep the defense honest. I know I’m no expert here, but doesn’t everyone in the building know he’s going to run?
RBs: A solid showing against a very tough run D. Give credit to the Jets – they found a way to pick up tough yards when they needed it. At the end of the game they were down to one healthy RB – rookie & former practice squad player, Jonathan Grimes. Not exactly ideal. Greene and McKnight put in gritty performances and I’m liking Lex Hilliard more and more. It’s no surprise that with the return of a respectable run game, the Jets offense has looked better the past 2 weeks.
Receivers: Hello Jeremy Kerley! I think we’ve found ourselves a starting WR for years to come. He was everywhere yesterday, making big play after big play including many key 1st downs. I like his game. And welcome back Dustin Keller. 7 receptions for 93 yards and a TD – yesterday showed how much we missed him. As for Stephen Hill…we knew there would be days like this. He’s going to mature into a big-time receiver in this league, but there will be growing pains along the way.
Defense: Despite the last two drives, you have to give these guys a lot of credit. Everyone thought that this unit would get torched by the Pats, but they hung in there. It was a frenetic pace, and the Pats did everything they could to keep them off balance. Wilkerson and Coples had another solid game – these two will get better and better. I loved rookie LB Demario Davis’ game (did we see the end of the Bart Scott era last night?) – he’s fast and a solid tackler. And the secondary had a really solid game – no major blown coverages and they kept Welker (Isaiah Trufant?!) and Lloyd in check. It was inevitable that Gronkowski would get his catches (the man is just unreal – a person that big should not be that fast with the ability to make diving catches in the end zone), but they did a decent job containing him and Hernandez. Cro dropped a game-changing INT and Wilson was flagged for a questionable pass INT call in the 4th quarter, but overall solid performance.
Special Teams: I really thought Mike Westhoff was going to destroy someone on the sideline. The kickoff return for a TD took away any momentum the Jets had after their first TD. That team did atone for that mistake with the fumble they recovered at the end of the game. And while he had a great game receiving, I’m not sure what Kerley is thinking when he fair catches the ball inside the 5 yard line – isn’t the golden rule that you let it go if it’s inside the 10? Nick Folk was money – someone remarked he’s the most consistent player on the team. Sad, but true.
Coaching: First off – credit to Rex and co. for a great game plan and phenomenal preparation. This team was not intimidated, and they had a plan to attack the defense and stop Brady. And that plan, despite some shoddy execution by Sanchez and others, worked well for 3 1/2 quarters. They Jets were aggressive on offensive and selectively aggressive on defense. But then they got scared. Scared of turnovers, and scared to get burned by Brady. So they went conservative on offense and defense. And they paid for it.
I know it’s easy to second guess – everyone is an expert on Monday. But as a Jet fan, you’ve seen this happen so many times. The team fights and claws its way back into the game, only to get conservative when victory is so close. Rex has to know that while he has a very good defense, it is not a great defense. It’s not a shutdown defense. And asking any defense to limit Tom Brady – the master of the 2 minute drill and an offense built around that very scenario – to just 3 points when the game is on the line, is frankly asking too much. Rex should have known better.
So, where does that leave us. 3-4, which is where I thought we’d be after the post-Revis predictions. All in all, not terrible, especially when you consider that there are just three – yes, three – teams who are over .500 in the AFC right now. That’s crazy.
It does make a victory next week pretty darn important. Division game, at home, against the Dolphins. A sweep of the season series would give them a huge advantage and would put them at .500 going into their bye week. The Jets then hit the road for two tough road games against Seattle and St. Louis, before returning home to see the Pats on Thanksgiving evening. That is going to be a fun one.
Who are these Jets? Are they the “same old Jets” that we often cite and refer to? Or are they a team of fighters who are just starting to come into their own, as Rex would have you think? While, I still don’t think we can answer that, I think it’s safe to say that they still have a lot of work to do if they have any serious hope of making a real Super Bowl run. Still too many mistakes, especially by their “franchise” QB, and too many holes on the roster. But at least they are making it interesting and fun to watch on Sundays. Because hey, it could be worse – you could be a Cleveland Browns fan.