Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Drive for Five (JETS 24 - Broncos 20)

Winning ugly is still winning. The Jets extended their winning streak to five in a row heading into the bye week leaving them with a 5-1 record, making them the only five win team in the NFL. As a Jet fan, the bye week is the worst week of the year, but as a knowledgeable football fan, I understand how important this week off is to the team. Darrelle Revis has not been himself this season, and his sore hamstring is definitely a contributing factor. His long holdout left him out of game shape and without any real game experience going into the season. Revis plans to spend the entire bye week rehabbing that hamstring. Hopefully this helps him get his act together so he can continue stranding the league's top receivers on his island.

LaDainian Tomlinson did not have the type of game he's been having all season (3.4 YPC), but came up big when he needed to. LT tied the game on a 20-yard run with 8:36 left in the game, and scored the game winning 2-yard touchdown run with barely more than a minute left. Tomlinson, probably the best signing the Jets have made in a long time, has been the leader in the offense that the Jets needed him to be this season and his experience brings more than stats to the team. Second year halfback Shonn Greene had his third straight impressive game Sunday, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. The Jets are fortunate to have a tandem like these two. Although Greene was demoted to the backup role a few weeks ago, his effort has not lessened and he is starting to show that he is the same player we saw in last year's postseason. We should definitely expect the Jets rushing offense to be near the top of the league for a second straight season with these two carrying the load.

We knew Mark Sanchez could not stay perfect for the entire season and we definitely saw a game like this coming from the sophomore quarterback. Sanchez threw 2 interceptions early in the game trying to force the ball to players when no one was open. What impressed me was his composure throughout the rest of the game. He never panicked like he would have last year. Yes, he did force some throws and made some bad decisions, but we also saw some flashes of brilliance like he has been showing off all season long. Sanchez is one of the best throwers on the run in the entire league and he made many timely throws while scrambling out of the pocket. It's easy to see in his on field actions that the Sanchize's confidence has greatly increased from last season. Being able to shake off two interceptions and lead the team to two scores late in the game shows his maturity and his ability to learn from and forget his mistakes. Sanchez finished the game 17/30 for 198 yards and a touchdown pass. His season rating is down to 86.4 after the game, which is still much improved from last season’s 63. His 9/2 touchdown to interception ratio is 2nd in the league behind Peyton Manning’s 13/2. Six games into the season, we are able to place Mark Sanchez’s name among the top players in the league. In Sunday’s game, we saw Sanchez struggle to find open receivers. This will not be the case every week with the wide receivers they have on that roster. I’d like to see his completion percentage (55.4%) improve as we go deeper into the season, but so far he is looking like a very promising player and leader for the Jets offense.

Sanchez and Braylon Edwards continued to play in sync this week. Sanchez connected to Edwards on a 32-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter to put the Jets up 7-0. Edwards is continuing to impress by making big catches and breaking free from some of the top corners in the league, including Champ Bailey this week. Ignoring his legal troubles, Edwards has been a very important part of this team this season and the Jets would not be where they are without him. Braylon knows he is also fighting for a contract at the end of the season, but the addition of Santonio Holmes will make it difficult for him to get that money from the Jets.

The addition of Santonio Holmes hasn't added the big numbers we expected...yet. Holmes caught 4 passes for 47 yards this week, and drew a crucial pass interference on Sanchez's fourth down heave in the final minutes of the game. He also fumbled the ball in Broncos territory after a 14-yard gain on an end around. He was having trouble holding onto the ball in the preseason, so this was not unexpected. I suspect that Holmes, like Revis, is now out of game shape after having to sit for four weeks for his suspension. His contributions will continue to increase every week and he will impress us enough to earn that new contract after the season. 

The pass defense this week was very impressive, holding Kyle Orton, who was second in the league in passing yards going into the game, and had three straight 300 yard passing games, to 14/34 for 209 yards. I am extremely proud of how Antonio Cromartie has been playing this season. Many Jets fans continue to criticize his play because receivers are actually able to catch some balls on him, but we aren't easily impressed anymore after the play of Darrelle Revis last season. He has been the best part of the Jets’ secondary this season, especially while having to take on a greater responsibility with the league's most talented cornerback being limited. Drew Coleman has also played a lot better than he has in recent years. He was not great is Sunday's game, but he did force an important fumble when he stripped Knowshon Moreno in the first quarter and has done much more than Jets fans would expect of him this season. He voluntarily took a pay cut to make sure he would make the roster this year, and we should definitely be glad he did. The Jets are still slacking in the pass rush, even with the return of the team's sack leader the past two seasons, Calvin Pace. Pace is definitely not 100% yet, but expect him to start getting his sacks and more pressure on the quarterback in the coming weeks. This bye week will give him more time to get his injured foot healed.

Jim Leonhard was flagged in the 3rd quarter for unnecessary roughness on Brandon Lloyd. Leonhard lowered his shoulder, not his head, and hit Lloyd hard in the chest as he caught the ball with two feet in bounds. Lloyd lost control of the ball as he hit the ground, but was still credited with the catch after the play was challenged. One can only imagine what was going through the head umpire’s mind when he was reviewing the play and saw that Leonhard did not hit Lloyd with his helmet. The officiating in this game was beyond questionable. Antonio Cromartie was flagged for defensive pass interference early in the 3rd quarter after what looked like a perfectly executed play. No contact was made until Cromartie went after, and knocked down the ball. The referees were able to make one very good call, on the 4th and 6 defensive pass interference at the 2-yard line that set up the Jets winning touchdown, although this call has also come under some scrutiny because it could have been called a 15 yard facemask instead of a spot foul. We’ll just let that one go.

Wins like this one let you know how special of a season we are in for. Does anyone actually believe the Jets would have won this game had it occurred last season? Probably not. Being able to overcome struggles on both sides of the ball, along with some questionable officiating, is a sign of good things to come. This team is maturing and showing the league that they are for real. This team is going places and I, for one, am very excited to see where this goes. It has never been easy being a Jets fan, and maybe the years of heartbreak and torture are finally paying off. All we can do is wait, watch, hope, and cheer. J! E! T! S! JETS JETS JETS! 

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