Monday, November 8, 2010

Sanchez Shines as Jets Drive Late: JETS 23 – Lions 20 (OT)

The Jets pulled off a miraculous comeback on Sunday, scoring twice in the last 3 minutes of regulation, and again on the first drive of overtime to defeat the Detroit Lions. Should it have been that difficult? Probably not. Did they win the game? They sure did. 

There were plenty of things that went wrong in this game. It was quite the opposite of a clean game for the Jets. The Jets committed 11 penalties for 99 yards, had 5 fumbles (1 lost), and 5 dropped passes in Sunday’s victory. The offensive play calling was again, questionable. The defense looked undisciplined and confused for most of the game. All of this, and they still managed to escape Detroit with a win.

We see how the Lions use Matthew Stafford and we see how the Buccaneers use Josh Freeman. Both are the clear-cut leaders of their teams. Both are expected to be the driving force behind every victory their team earns. And then we look at that other quarterback drafted in first round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Mark Sanchez. Sanchez is limited for most, if not, all of every Jets game he has participated in since being drafted. When Sanchez is allowed to air it out and take chances, we have seen many good things. In this game, he hit Braylon Edwards perfectly in stride for a 74-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter. He hit Dustin Keller with a bullet 25 yards down the middle of the field, which led to the Sanchez touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. He hit Santonio Holmes going full speed across the field, which led to a 52-yard play that set up Nick Folk’s game winning field goal. Mark Sanchez is the reason the Jets won this football game. His composure and effectiveness in the final minutes of the game show his maturation and give the Jets and their fans a reason to be confident in him and the offense.

The ground game was not at its best, again, in Sunday’s overtime victory. The Jets totaled 110 yards on 30 carries (3.7 yards/carry) against another low ranked rush defense. For the third consecutive game, the Jets have rushed below their season average and have fallen to 4th in the NFL in rush yards per game. The good news about the Jets’ running backs is that LaDainian Tomlinson continues to be a huge threat as a receiver out of the backfield. He caught 6 passes for 47 yards on Sunday, including 3 important catches on the final drive of the fourth quarter. Although his rushing numbers have gone down a bit in the last few games, Tomlinson has recently been one of the most effective all-around players for the Jets offense. He catches a ton of passes and picks up blitzes like no other halfback in the league. His experience and intelligence has been a great addition to the Jets offense this season as he manages to help create big plays even when his personal production is down. Shonn Greene continues to be effective with his touches, averaging 4.5 yards per carry this season. He only had 10 carries against the Lions and is yet to see significant time on the field since the week 4 matchups in Buffalo. It seems the Jets are happy with his production and want to save him for later in the season and for a postseason run. After seeing his production late in the season and in the playoffs last year, this is definitely the right move for the Jets.

The defense looked shaky at times in this game. The rush defense was fantastic as usual, but the pass defense was very erratic. Nate Burleson managed to receive for 113 yards on 7 catches while being covered by Drew Coleman or Antonio Cromartie. Coleman was eaten alive on a 3rd and 10 pass to Burleson for 25 yards in the game’s opening drive, and again on a Burleson touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Coleman, who had played much better than his recent years while Darrelle Revis was out and limited, is starting to look like the player Jets fans hated seeing on the field for the past few years. Darrelle Revis was back to his 2009 form, holding Calvin Johnson, one of the league’s most dangerous receivers, to 1 reception for 13 yards. Revis had two passes defensed and forced Stafford to look elsewhere to make plays for the majority of the game. The defense was forced to waste two timeouts at the goal line prior to Burleson’s touchdown because both times they had 12 men lined up on the field. The defense was very unorganized at times, but late in the game they managed to come up with a few stops to give the offense a chance to tie, and eventually, win the game. I am starting to wonder when the defense will come up with a turnover, something they have not forced in 8 quarters now.

Another noteworthy stat from this game is that Santonio Holmes had 114 receiving yards on 5 catches, including his 52 yard catch and run that set up the game winning field goal in overtime. Holmes finally had the breakout game the Jets have been waiting for and finally seems comfortable and like a reliable option for Mark Sanchez and the offense. Braylon Edwards was targeted 8 times after only getting 4 balls thrown to him last week. Sanchez’s favorite target in the first few games of the season, and his biggest deep threat, Edwards now has 453 receiving yards and is the Jets leading receiver. The Jets receivers did have 5 drops in this game though, a number that needs to improve, as we get deeper into the regular season.

There were definitely more negatives that came out of Sunday’s victory than positives, but the one thing that matters most is that the Jets got the win. Now at 6-2, the Jets are back in first place in the AFC East and travel to Cleveland next week. Although on paper the Browns do not seem like a threat, they are coming off back-to-back victories against defending Super Bowl champs, the New Orleans Saints, and the New England Patriots. Rookie quarterback Colt McCoy has had 3 solid starts in a row to start his career and has a 2-1 record, only losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers, against whom he put up 281 passing yards. Peyton Hillis produced 220 total yards from scrimmage on Sunday against the Patriots and has had a spectacular season in the Browns backfield. The Jets superior rush defense has the ability to stop the surging Hillis, but the last time they saw him in 2008 while he was a member of the Denver Broncos, he rushed for 129 yard and a touchdown. There is certainly plenty to worry about in the next game, but if the Jets offense can fix some of its recent flaws, they will certainly have the upper hand.

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