Jets-Falcons Live Blog, Direct from the Meadowlands

Greetings, Jets Faithful:

The swamps of Jersey are frozen on this Sunday afternoon, having fallen victim to the severe snow storm that plowed its way through the East Coast yesterday.  But not even Mother Nature herself can keep us here at JetsInsider from getting out here to the Meadowlands to provide our loyal readers with up-to-the-minute analysis of Gang Green’s week 15 clash with the Atlanta Falcons.

I’ll be blogging the action live throughout the day from snow-filled Giants Stadium, providing my thoughts on the action.  We’re just 15 minutes from kickoff, and even though the snow has stopped, the storm is still wreaking havoc on today’s matchup.

I’ve never seen Giants Stadium this empty, this close to kickoff.  It appears as though the weather has made it impossible for the majority of ticket holders to make their way out to East Rutherford, and “the majority” may even be an understatement.  I’d be surprised if there’s even 15,000 people in the stadium as we speak, with Gang Green set to be introduced.  Hopefully more fans will be able to make it in, because what would have been a home field advantage for the Jets in this must-win contest has now been cancelled out by Jack Frost.  I’ve been coming to this building my entire life as a fan, and I must say, the stadium has an eerie feel to it with this few people in the building on game day.  The Falcons won’t have to deal with a raucous sellout crowd today, and it will be interesting to see how that changes the dynamic of this game.

As for the players on the field, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, and running back Michael Turner have both been activated for the game, and will both start for Atlanta.  Ryan won’t be 100%, his toe injury almost certainly making him less mobile against a Jets defense that loves to bring pressure on the quarterback.  Turner is closer to fully healthy, so in the cold temperatures it will be important to see how both players hold up.

There’s no major changes for the Jets on the injury front, so we’re set to go for kickoff.  The Jets captains will be Mark Sanchez, Tony Richardson, Bart Scott, Ben Hartsock and Shaun Ellis.  Sanchez is ready to go after missing last week’s game with a knee injury, so let’s see how he fares in his first December game in Giants Stadium.

1:02: The Jets have won the toss and have elected to defer.  Seems like they want to see just how healthy the Falcons’ backfield is right from the start.

1:05: The Falcons try to test Darrelle Revis early, tossing up a fade down the right sideline on the second play from scrimmage.  And, like clockwork, Revis provides blanket coverage on Roddy White, forcing him into an offensive pass interference call.  Ryan converts the third down, though, on a 20-yard completion to Michael Jenkins.  If the Jets are going to come out on top in this one, Lito Sheppard must have a solid day against Jenkins.

1:08: The Jets get some pressure on Matt Ryan, forcing an incompletion on third down.  We’re about to get our first glimpse of Sanchez today, let’s see how well the California kid adapts to the frigid temperatures in the Meadowlands.

1:13: Mark Sanchez tries to thread the needle down the field on the first series for the offense, and has his throw picked off by Thomas DeCoud and returned to the Jets 35 yard line.  The Jets defense matches up well against the Falcon offense, but Sanchez cannot put the unit in compromising positions throughout this game.  It’s a recipe for disaster.

1:15: Outstanding playcall by the Falcons.  The Jets overloaded the right side on third down, so Atlanta simply ran a pitch to Jason Snelling to the left, the side of the field that was left wide open, allowing them to pick up the first down.  The Falcons are now in field goal range, and driving.

1:21: Huge goal line stand for the defense, stuffing the Falcons at the one yard line on third down.  A Delay of Game penalty forces the falcons back five more yards on the field goal try, making Matt Bryant’s field goal good from 24 yards, putting Atlanta on top 3-0.  It’s clear early on that this Jets defense will bend, but most likely not break, against this Falcons offense.  If the offense can limit mistakes, they should have an excellent shot to come out of this game with a victory.

1:35: Mark Sanchez certainly isn’t short on confidence.  The rookie heaved up another bomb on the first play of the Jets’ third drive, connecting on a perfectly-thrown ball to Braylon Edwards in stride, the 65-yarder going for a touchdown to give Gang Green a 7-3 lead.  The play marks the longest pass play, and longest touchdown pass of Sanchez’ career.  It’s clear the cold weather won’t have any affect on the rookie – he simply could not have thrown a better ball to Edwards on that touchdown throw.  With the Jets defense now staked to a four-point lead, let’s see how the unit responds.

1:41: I’m not sure why people even bother throwing at Darrelle Revis anymore.  #24 makes another outstanding defensive play, thwarting another Falcons drive and giving the offense the ball back.  With the Falcons offense rendered virtually nonexistent, the Jets can put the Birds in a serious hole here with another touchdown.

1:45: We’re through one quarter of play, with the Jets on top 7-3.  I think it’s worth noting that, normally, frigid temperatures make for more running of the football, and teams running the football more effectively.  That’s not the case today, with both teams’ successes coming through the air.  Let’s see if that holds up throughout the game.

1:46: Matt Ryan, you still haven’t learned your lesson? Revis nearly picks off Ryan’s pass on first down, notching his second pass defense of the day.  Is there any player playing better defense right now than #24, anywhere in the NFL?

1:49: Kerry Rhodes is off to a nice start, notching his second pass defense of the afternoon.  It’s important for Rhodes to get more involved – and feel more involved – in the defense.  He’s an extremely talented, young player, who could be a major factor in Rex Ryan’s defense. The Jets have outstanding field position, starting this drive from their own 43.  If the offense can put six on the board here, the Falcons could be in serious trouble not even halfway through this one.

1:54: Huge third down conversion on a pass to Jerricho Cotchery, the 18′yard gain bringing the Jets into Falcons territory.  Sanchez avoided the rush extremely well, showing no ill effects from his knee injury, and made an outstanding throw on the run to hit Cotchery.  The running game is also starting to take shape, with both Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene having nice gains on this drive.  Everything appears to be coming together for the Jets.

1:57: Another big third down conversion keeps the drive alive, this time on a pass to Braylon Edwards.  The Jets have already chewed a ton of clock off on this drive, but they need to come away with six points.  That will really put the Falcons behind the eight ball, forcing them to take chances against a defense that loves to force the issue.

2:01: The drive stalls on the two yard line, as Thomas Jones is stuffed on third and goal.  Inexplicably, the Jets attempt a fake field goal, and the Falcons snub it out to send the Jets away with no points.  Terrible decision by the coaching staff.  You’ve got the chance to put the Falcons down a touchdown, and your defense is playing lights out.  Have to take the points right there.

2:09: A shot of life for the Falcons as Sanchez makes another ill-advised throw and has it picked off by Brent Grimes.  That’s the second time today Sanchez has thrown into double coverage, and both times it’s burned him.  He needs to be smarter with the football – that’s twice he’s thrown in to situations where the Falcons have had a safety over the top of the receiver he was throwing to.  More importantly, it gives the Falcons a jolt they weren’t going to get otherwise.

2:12: Even flee-flickers don’t work against Darrelle Revis.  The drive stalls one play later, forcing a Falcons punt.

2:23: Sanchez is orchestrating a great drive here in the two-minute drill, putting the Jets at the Falcons 12 with precision passing and more importantly sound decision making.

2:24: And right on que, he takes a sack he simply cannot take.  Forcing the Jets to call their final timeout of the half with three seconds to play, setting Jay Feely up for a 38-yard field goal try, which sails wide left.  The Jets still lead 7-3, as we head into half time.

2:26:  At halftime, the taste that’s left in my mouth is the missed opportunities for the Jets to put points on the board.  They left six points on the table, points that would have put a Falcons offense unable to move the ball at all in a serious hole.  Hopefully these miscues don’t come back to haunt Gang Green.

Sanchez has had his share of good moments, and his fare share of bad ones over his first half back as the team’s quarterback.  He’s made two poor decisions, throwing into double coverage twice.  But other then that, he’s been solid, showing pretty good decision-making and hitting a variety of receivers.

Heading into the second half, Sanchez has to limit his mistakes, and the defense needs to keep doing what they’re doing.  Another touchdown by the Jets could make the deficit too much to over come for Atlanta, but the Jets must capitalize when the opportunities are presented.

2:38: We’re set to go for the second half, with the Jets ready to receive.  A quick strike here could really put the pressure on Atlanta.

2:40:  Great return by Brad Smith to get things started.  Since Leon Washington went down for the season, Smith has done a multitude of different things for this team, from the return game to the offense.  He’s been a much unheralded player this season, but he’s done a great job in whatever role he’s been asked to take on.

2:43: Gutsy call here as the offense decides to go for it on fourth and inches from the Falcons from the Falcons 43 yard line.  Sanchez keeps it for a two-yard gain, picking up the first down.   It’s clear the Jets feel their defense can stop Atlanta at any point on the field, so they’re going to be taking chances on offense to try and put this one away.

2:47: It’s never the guy that starts it that gets caught.  A completion to Braylon Edwards that secured a first down was followed by some extra curricular activities between the two clubs, with Thomas Jones getting pegged for a personal foul.  The scuffle was clearly started by a member of the Falcons, who went after the facemask of center Nick Mangold, igniting the incident.  The penalty puts the Jets out of field goal range, facing another huge third down.

2:55: The Falcons offense is powerless against this Jets defense.  Another three and out for Atlanta.  If the Jets can get any points at all on the board, the Birds will be in serious trouble.  But the longer Gang Green lets this team hang around, the longer they leave the opportunity for one blown play to get Atlanta back in the game, maybe even put them in front.

3:06: Kerry Rhodes has been all over the field today.  He’s made his presence known again, stuffing a running play in the backfield on second down.  It’s nice to see #25 get into the act – there’s no doubt he has the talent to be one of the premier safeties in the game.  Today’s an example of that.

3:08: If the Jets hold on to win this one, the entire defense deserves a game ball for their performance.  The Falcons offense is no slouch, but how many times have you heard Tony Gonzalez’ name today?  What about Roddy White’s?  A loss would overshadow the utterly dominant performance this unit is putting on today, so now it’s time for the offense to get a score and put the pressure on Atlanta’s offense.

3:16: We’re through three quarters, with the score still Jets 7, Falcons 3.  It appears as though one big play by either side could decide this game, and with the way the Jets defense has played, it would be heartbreaking if the Falcons were the team that pulled it off.  One more score for the Jets will all but ice this one, so it’s time for the offense to step up.

3:22: The Falcons catch the Jets in an overload blitz again, as Ryan hits Jerious Norwood for a gain of 38 yards.  The play puts the Falcons in field goal range, leaving the Jets defense in need a big-time stop.

3:24: They get their stop, as Ryan’s throw to the end zone is broken up by Rhodes.  The play sets up a 48-yard field goal try by Matt Bryant, that just sails wide to the left, preserving the four-point advantage.  Gang Green dodged a major bullet right there, and now it’s time to knock the Falcons out.  This team must develop a killer instinct if it’s going to find its way into the playoffs, and now’s a good time to start.

3:29: Huge third-down catch by Dustin Keller after getting rocked by Christopher Owens on the play.  The conversion’s followed by a 13-yard gain by Thomas Jones, and suddenly the Jets are in business at the Falcons 33 yard line.

3:33: Does anyone actually want to win this game?  The Jets’ drive stalls at the Falcons 19, setting up Feely for a 37-yard field goal…which is blocked by Chauncey Davis of Atlanta.  That makes two misses on the day for Feely, and leaves the Jets still up four with 4:27 remaining.

It looks like, much as it’s been on season, this game will be on the defense to pull out the victory.

3:41: I’m starting to get that sinking feeling in my stomach.  The Falcons are driving, and a costly facemask penalty, followed by a big run by Snelling has put Atlanta at the Jets’ six yard line at the two minute warning.   Someone on this defense is going to need to make a big play to keep the Falcons out of the end zone.

3:47: Another monster play by Revis sets up fourth and goal for the Falcons.  Revis had an opportunity to make the interception to seal the win, but had it go off his hands as he dove out near the sideline.

3:50: Ryan hits his favorite target, Tony Gonzalez, for the go-ahead touchdown from six yards out, putting the Falcons up 10-7 with 1:38 to play.  There’s still plenty of time to get into field goal range, but Feely’s already missed two opportunities today.  It’s time for Sanchez to pull some magic.

3:54: Terrible penalty on Brad Smith, an unnecessary roughness penalty pushing the Jets back 15 yards.  This drive is beginning to unravel quickly, forcing them to call their second timeout before their third-down play.

3:56: Sanchez’ third pick of the day ices the win for Atlanta, preserving the 10-7 Falcons victory.

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