EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - For four years the defensive genius named Rex Ryan relied upon his secondary to do the heavy lifting while fans cried out for any semblance of a pass rush, today that trend was reversed as the pressure from the front four covered up for some inefficiencies in the secondary.
Jets DT Mo Wilkerson celebrates after sacking Bucs QB Josh Freeman. (JetsInsider.com Photos)
Darrelle Revis was on the opposing team (and looked very much like the Revis of old, just in different/weird jersey), first-round draft pick Dee Milliner looked like a rookie corner and Antonio Cromartie had his worst day as a Jet in quite some time. Fortunately for the Jets, Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Antwan Barnes came to play and did just enough to cover up for the sins of the secondary to pull off the win.
Let’s just get this out of the way now, sure the Jets won and a win is a win is a win and it doesn’t matter how you get it, but the Jets blew this game. They had the game won, then they blew it. They handed the game to the Bucs on a silver platter and Lavonte David handed right back.
“We will take it and that was not pretty at the end.” Said a stunned Ryan, “I’m responsible for it, we were playing pretty decent all day defensively and then on that third-down I thought we had them where we wanted them, (but) I wasn’t clear on my communication of the call and that one mistake almost cost us the game.”
Of course Ryan is talking about the third-down pass to Vincent Jackson who was lined up uncovered in the slot. The Jets were planning on showing Jackson uncovered and then flashing a defender to cover him after the snap, but someone blew that assignment and Ryan, beaming from squeaking out a win, was more than happy to fall on that sword and claim responsibility.
This exact strategy burned the Jets earlier in the game, also on a third down, but it also led to a sack and an interception so Ryan wanted to roll the dice again and he got burnt and almost cost the Jets the game.
If David doesn’t commit the penalty the Jets almost certainly lose the game and we are talking about the porous play of the secondary and the blown assignment/bad play-call as we pile dirt on the Jets season even though it’s only one game old. Instead the focus turns more positive and instead of dwelling on the breakdowns in the secondary we can concentrate our energy on the play on the defensive front.
Overall the secondary had a solid game, after all it’s hard to crush a secondary that held the opposing offense to less than 50 percent completion percentage (15-31) and only 185 passing yards, but Cromartie and Milliner both gave up big plays in the secondary to go along with the blown assignment on the Bucs last drive.
The secondary may have had a decent day overall, but it would’t have been enough to win the game, with or without the David penalty, if it wasn’t for the pressure the defensive line was constantly putting on Josh Freeman.
“The front seven, you know, Coach Ryan he called a great game. We got a lot of pressure with the front seven, anytime you get disruption like that in the front seven, limit a guy like that, it’s big for us.” Dawan Landry said, “They were able to hunt the whole game and make it easy for us on the back end.”
Landry had an interception on an overthrown pass from Freeman, but even he wasn’t looking to take credit for it as he passed the praise on to the big boys lining up in front of him.
“He (Freeman) was looking at Vincent Jackson, anytime Vincent Jackson is out of place they’re trying to give him the ball and I seen that.” Landry said, “You know he kind of overthrew him, the front four got pressure on him, forced him to make a high throw and I was right there.”
Earlier in the week Wilkerson said Freeman was susceptible to getting rattled and today he and his teammates proved it. Wilkerson was a constant force of pressure who continually caused disruption in the Bucs line and toyed with Freeman’s emotions. As Wilkerson and Richardson did their damage on the inside, Barnes inflicted his by flying around the edge and attacking Freeman with a ferocity that never allowed Freeman to get comfortable, including a sack on the safety as Freeman had to kick the football out of the back of the end zone after a high snap.
Jet fans have been excited by Richardson all summer, but today he let the Bucs know he’s legit as he sure didn’t look like he was playing in his first real NFL game.
“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, simple as that.” Richardson said, “There’s no need to put too much pressure on yourself when you’ve been playing football since you were five-years-old. It’s just that simple.”
Richardson is clearly wise beyond his years and today he showed he is capable of playing beyond his years and he even got his first mark down in the sack column.
“I mean, Cal (Calvin Pace) got there first, you know, he got there first, but I also got there too and I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt.” Richardson said, “You know, we got there together, but he just, for some reason, he want to take it all. I mean he wants the whole sack, I mean he got half a sack, so it is what it is, competitive fun. Just glad that we pulled this out.”
As great a job as the defensive line did creating pressure, they did an even better job bottling up Doug Martin and the run game. Martin, aka the muscle hamster, is one of the best backs in the league and the Jets held him to only 65 yards on 24 carries (2.7 yards per carry).
When Richardson was told they held Martin to just 65 yards rushing the rookie lineman said, ”That’s all he had? That’s too much (half-joking). No, but he’s a great guy, they had a great plan, but we executed. We had a game plan for him and we executed, simple as that.”
In a crazy game, filled with its ups-and-downs the Jets somehow managed to escape with the victory. Geno Smith and the offense had their hiccups but also played their part in the success of this game, but the game ball for this win has to go to the defensive line as a whole. The most exciting part for the fans and most terrifying for opponents is that Wilkerson says they can play even better.
“We can definitely play better ball, but we definitely had a good game today, overall as a defense and an offense. So collectively we played well, but we can definitely play better ball.” Wilkerson said, ”I can play better as well, there’s always room for improvement. So, I’m going to look at the film and try and get better on the things I messed up on.”