In an up and down season filled with scandals and drama, it’s fitting that the Jets would find an out of the ordinary way to grab a playoff spot. The Jets lost a very entertaining game Sunday to the Chicago Bears 38-34, but the lining was silver as the Jets clinched a playoff berth thanks to the Washington Redskins knocking off the Jacksonville Jaguars in overtime. Graham Gano’s game winning field goal to knock off the Jaguars came just minutes after the Jets’ loss to the Bears while Rex Ryan was starting his post game press conference. Naturally, he was relieved and full of joy.
In a losing effort, Mark Sanchez silenced critics that said he could not play in the cold. Sanchez completed 65 percent of his passes for 269 yards. Sore shoulder and all, he was able to zip the ball to his receivers with plenty of gusto. His spirals were tight even when the snow was falling and the wind was blowing. These are the kind of throws Sanchez needs to continue making as the Jets head into the playoffs.
Shonn Greene was having a monster game on Sunday. He had a touchdown in the second quarter and averaged 5.8 yards per carry. This being said, the Jets only gave Greene the ball twice in the fourth quarter and chose to let LaDainian Tomlinson (2.2 ypc) carry the load at the end of the game. Tomlinson failed to make any contribution to the offense in the last frame and may have cost them some much-needed yards. Going into the season, Rex Ryan said the Jets would play the hot hand when it comes to the ground game. That plan went completely out the door in this game and the Jets’ coaching staff is to blame.
The Jets and the Bears are two of the best defensive teams in the league. Who could have seen a 38-34 final score in this one? On the notoriously terribly conditioned Soldier Field, the Jets defenders fell down on many occasions and lost their footing trying to make cuts and turns. The Jets have been one of worst tackling team in the league this season, and the field in Chicago did not do them any favors. Though this may be part of the blame, its no excuse for giving up 38 points to the 30th ranked offense in the league. Matt Forte became the first running back to rush for over 100 yards on the Jets’ defense in 22 games (Mendenhall was deducted one yard last week, giving him only 99). Jay Cutler was able to complete three deep touchdown passes in the third quarter, including one where the Jets only put 10 men on the field. The defense will need to fix its mistakes if it plans to play a positive role for the Jets’ playoff run
The special teams also killed the Jets’ momentum in the game. In the third quarter, the Jets tried a fake punt in their own territory and failed to convert the first down. This led to a Cutler touchdown pass on the very next play. Later, the Jets punted to Devin Hester who returned it 38 yards, leading to another Cutler touchdown pass. After tying the game at 31, the Jets kicked off to Hester who returned it to the Jets 49 yard line, leading to yet another Cutler touchdown pass. The Bears were forced to punt to the Jets with a little more than one minute to go in the game. On this punt, the ball hit Marquice Cole in the leg and forced him to chase down the ball and cover up before the Bears could recover. This cost the Jets about 20 yards of field position before their final drive.
The Jets have had some crazy season. They have had their thrilling wins and their crushing defeats. They now turn their attention toward the postseason, as their Week 17 matchup with the Buffalo Bills means virtually nothing. Likely the sixth seed, the Jets are looking at a matchup in Kansas City with the AFC West champion Chiefs.