No Game Balls This Week, Just Plenty of Blame

Florham Park, N.J.- Last week I decided I was going to do a column after every game where I gave out game balls to the players who were most deserving. However, yesterday’s game makes it fairly impossible to do that. Sure there were a few players who played well, LT, Shonn Greene, Jeremy Kerley and Sanchez had a good game, statistically speaking, but still had far too many mistakes.¬†But enough about who played good because obviously no one played good enough yesterday. It’s time to start spreading the blame and don’t worry, there’s plenty to go around.

Last week Antonio Cromartie was the recipient¬†of all the praise, and deservingly so, this week he will have to shoulder the brunt of the blame, also deservingly so. Cormartie was flagged for four defensive penalties, which of course came at crucial times extending Raiders drives when they should have been punting, but to be fair the first three calls were questionable at best and two of them were clear phantom calls. But really the penalties the Jets could have lived with, it’s what Cromartie did trying to make up for those penalties that essentially handed the game to the Raiders.

Huh? Wait, what happened? Can I get some time to throw a pass? Oh you want me to throw it before I get crushed? (Jetsinsider.com Photo)

In a case of simply trying too hard to force something good to happen, Cromartie inexplicably tried to field a kickoff that was bouncing at his feet on the goal line. Instead of just letting it bounce out of the end zone for a touchback, Cromartie decided to make a play and that he did, it just happens he made the play for the Raiders. The ball bounced off the ground then Cromartie’s hand and foot, sending the ball skipping directly into the hands of the Raiders setting them up in perfect position to take a 14 point lead and all but end the game.

Adding injury to insult, Cromartie had to leave the game early to be taken to the hospital for a bruised lung. He was able to rejoin the team before their flight back to New Jersey last night and more details on the severity of the injury will be coming in the next few days, but early indications are it’s a matter of pain threshold for Cromartie that will determine if he can play next week.

It’s easy to make Cromartie the scape goat for this loss, but there were far too many other failures by the Jets to pin this loss on anyone person. In fact the entire defense has to be willing to accept the majority of the blame. The Raiders are a tough, fast and talented football team, but they have only one person on offense that is deadly and it’s up to opposing defenses to key on that one guy.

That guy is Darren McFadden and the Jets failed miserably in their attempt to contain him. It would be an insult to McFadden to not mention that, when healthy, he is right up there in the discussion as one of the best backs in the league, but that’s no excuse for a defense that prides themselves on being able to stop the run. McFadden rushed for 171 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries (9.0 yards per carry), but 97 of those yards came on just two plays. 74 yards on 17 carries is what the Jets were expecting to hold McFadden too, but two big plays where the Jets were just simply beat by a combination of power and speed proved to be more than enough to put the Raiders over the edge.

The numbers say the defense played worse than they did, but reality is the defense simply didn’t play good enough and certainly didn’t play up to the level of their own expectations. Which gives their fans plenty to be legitimately upset about. Darrelle Revis did what he always does, but against a team like the Raiders all that does is essentially turn the game into 10 on 10 football and yesterday the Raiders 10 were better than the Jets 10.

The lack of a pass rush once again reared it’s ugly head at the end of the game with the Raiders trying to extend their lead and or run out the clock, but this game was lost because of the Jets inability to stop McFadden as well as that 23 yard reverse for a touchdown by Denarius Moore that caught the Jets defense completely off-guard. Jets fans everywhere just have to hope Brian Schottenheimer was taking notes on how to properly execute trick plays.

Speaking of Brian Schottenheimer, Santonio Holmes is right, but where he was being careful as to not completely throw his offensive coordinator under the bus I won’t be. By no means am I suggesting this loss is on Schottenheimer alone, this time he only shares a small portion of the blame, but it’s an important portion and a continuing problem that must get fixed somehow.

Holmes told ESPN’s Rich Cimini, “We’ve got to do a better job of adjusting on the fly as an offense. You can’t be forced to continue doing the same things when those guys are doing something different. We have to open up the game plan a little bit and have a little bit more fun.”

Cimini goes on to correctly point out how the Jets expected to see mostly man-to-man coverage from the Raiders, but when the Raiders switched it up by backing off into zone coverage the Jets failed to adjust their offensive game plan accordingly. However, a large part of the reason why the Jets couldn’t find success passing the ball after the first half (with the exception of when they went no huddle of course) was because the offensive line couldn’t give Sanchez enough time to throw the ball more than five yards down the field. That’s not an offensive coordinator problem as much as it is an offensive line problem and it’s a really big problem for the Jets that could get worse having to play the Ravens next week.

Where I really take issue with the lack of adjustment on the play calling is with the way Schottenheimer stuck with the rollouts well after the Raiders had properly adjusted for them. At half-time I thought Schottenheimer was calling an excellent game, the rollouts were the perfect answer to a struggling offensive line problem. He did a great job mixing up the passes and runs and getting Sanchez on the move so he could spread it around a bit. The second-half though, that’s where everything fell apart.

The Raiders did what the Jets normally do during half-time, they made adjustments. The Jets found success early with the rollouts so they adjusted to stop them and it worked, but instead of recognizing the adjustment Schottenheimer kept calling rollouts and Sanchez kept getting creamed. The above quote from Holmes is something that we have often heard about a Schottenheimer offense, it gets stagnate and predictable and it’s pretty hard to move the ball like that.

The other issue with the play-calling is the apparent reluctance to going to the no-huddle offense earlier in the game. Through his first two seasons and three games Sanchez has proven he performs much better in the no-huddle. The plays are simpler and he doesn’t have to over think, he just has to react and it’s clear that’s when he is at his best. So why not at least try running the no-huddle earlier in the game, it has to be better than sticking with the Wildcat.

Lastly I still don’t know what to make of the way the Jets ran the ball. They were having success running the ball to the outside with Greene, but they could never establish a rhythm because they were always throwing the ball. But what was most baffling was in the third quarter with the Jets driving, in four down territory on third-and-two from the Raiders 37 and on two straight plays where they needed only two yards, they passed both times. Yup folks, it’s safe to say the ground and pound is dead.

But as I said Schottenheimer shares only a small portion of the blame, his offensive line and his quarterback have to take most of the blame on offense. Sanchez continued to be frustratingly inconsistent, that early interception turned out to be huge because the Jets might have been able to put the Raiders away in the first-half if they just got a touchdown on that possession, or at least a field goal since they were already in range thanks to a great punt return by Jeremy Kerley.

The offensive line once again continued to allow heavy pressure on Sanchez and got him beat up to the point of a possible broken nose. Still not all of the sacks and pressures were on the line, Sanchez has to learn to get rid of the ball faster when pressure is coming. If he has to throw it away, throw it away. Just make sure it’s thrown out-of-bounds.

Prepare yourself for an all week guessing game if Nick Mangold can come back and play next week, he will do everything possible to convince the trainers he can play, but color me doubtful. There’s no doubting Mangold’s toughness, I wouldn’t be shocked if he played and played well, but the risk of further injury is too big to take that chance in my opinion, but I’m obviously not a doctor.

With the giants on the defensive line for the Ravens and Patriots coming up this Jets offensive line has a lot of work to do, with or without Mangold, to give Sanchez and the running game a chance for success. The defense is mostly at fault for this loss to the Raiders, but the more pressing worry is the consistent problems on offense.

If these problems can’t be fixed immediately we could be seeing a lot more blame columns instead of game ball columns in the near future and all the hope and promise this team had will start dwindling chunk by chunk. Jet fans after all are not ones who tend to easily overlook such glaring weaknesses.

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