Game Balls All Around

Florham Park, N.J.- Just two weeks ago the Jets season seemed to be spiraling out of control. Fans were sending out their ‘the sky is falling’ warning signals and many members of the media were gloating about how Rex Ryan had ‘lost’ his team and his ‘big mouth’ was going to be the end of the Jets 2011 season. But a funny thing happened in these last two weeks, the Jets did what they always seem to do when Ryan is their coach, they bounced back when their backs were against the wall and everyone had counted them out and they now head into the bye week coming off two straight victories and just barely on the outside looking in on the playoff race with a record of 4-3 (Buffalo would be the final wildcard team if playoffs started today with a 4-2 record and the Raiders currently hold the tiebreaker over the Jets at 4-3 would be the seventh placed team).

4-3 is not exactly the record Ryan and his players, nor their fans, had expected at this point in the season, but it’s what they have to work with and they seem determined to make it enough. A loss to the Chargers wouldn’t have been the end to the Jets season, but it certainly would have put them on the doorstep of failure.

Plaxico Burress has to be fired up to have broken out of his slump with a three touchdown game as the Jets head into the bye week at 4-3. (Jetsinsider.com Photo)

Sensing this the Jets roared back from a 21-10 halftime deficit by scoring 17 second half points while shutting the Chargers out the rest of the game, earning the Jets a 27-21 victory. With the team now entering their bye week, we take a look at who deserves a game ball from yesterday’s big win over the Chargers.

O-Line – Sure we could start with Plaxico Burress or Shonn Greene, but I’d rather start with the big guys up front since it’s because of the line that Burress and Greene were able to do what they did.

During the Jets loss to the Raiders and Ravens the offensive line was an abysmal mess and it’s certainly no coincidence that the offense has found success again with the return of Nick Mangold. Since Mangold’s return the line has been blowing open holes for Greene to tear through and have been giving Sanchez all the time he needs to hit his receivers down field and then some. Santonio Holmes created a controversy with what he said about the o-line a few weeks back, but the controversy was about whether he should have said it out loud in the media, not about whether he was right or not because at this point it’s fairly obvious he was right.

It absolutely starts with the guys upfront. Don’t create holes and give your quarterback time and you’re in for a long day, do those things and you give your quarterback and team a great chance to win the game and that’s exactly what the line did yesterday and exactly the reason they emerged victorious.

Plaxico Burress – Burress’ performance yesterday was exactly the type of performance Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum envisioned they’d get from the talented receiver when they signed him. The Jets don’t need 100 plus yards a game from Burress, no they brought him in to be a factor in the red zone and that all came to fruition yesterday. Targeted eight times on the day Burress hauled in four catches for a measly 25 yards, but three of those catches came in the end zone leading to 21 points for the Jets. Last season the Jets struggled mightily in the red zone so they brought in Burress to fix that problem, which wasn’t working out so well for them until yesterday. Fresh out of prison it was always going to take Burress some time to get his legs back and find an acceptable comfort level between him and Sanchez, but the game yesterday showed just what this offense is capable of with him and Sanchez starting to find a rhythm.

Early in the game it appeared that Sanchez was forcing the ball to Burress, but after re-watching the game it’s clear that Sanchez simply identified that the Chargers weren’t doubling Burress and decided to target him for that reason. Still something was off between the two in the beginning, but by the end of the game Sanchez had found Burress in the end zone three separate times. This won’t happen every week, but it’s a great sign for the potential this offense holds going into the bye week.

Shonn Greene – I’ve been reading/listening to all the criticism Greene has been facing and still have been unable to figure out exactly what games people are watching to arrive at such a conclusion. When you go back and watch the film of the games it’s clear that if the line opens up some cracks for Greene he will hit them. If there’s a hole for Greene to hit, he will hit it and he will find a way to fight for those extra few yards and wear out the defense. Yesterday was a perfect example of just how dangerous of a weapon Greene can be for the Jets if the line is doing their job.

112 yards on 20 carries (5.6 yards per carry) is what the ‘bell-cow’ gave the Jets yesterday and it was exactly enough to keep the Chargers off balance and forced them to worry about defending both the run and the pass which naturally set up Sanchez with some opportunities in the passing game. As you can tell from watching the game yesterday, Greene got stronger as they game grew older and the Jets were able to lean on him heavily to milk the clock and extend their lead. Assuming the line stays healthy and continues to play like they have the last few weeks those people who were patient enough to hold onto Greene on their fantasy teams will be properly rewarded the rest of the season.

Aaron Maybin – In just four games this season, Maybin has three sacks and is tied for the league lead in forced fumbles with Detroit’s Kyle Vanden Bosch with three. Bills fans gave Maybin the nickname ‘Maybe’ for his failure to produce in Buffalo, but it’s time to scrap the maybe and say yes, clearly this kid has found himself a role on this Jets squad. No more ‘Maybe’ it’s now officially Aaron ‘Mayhem’ as Jets fans have anointed him.

The speed and pressuring ability this kid has is exactly what this Jets defense was missing (besides a safety who can cover big tight ends) and Maybin is proving himself to be a hell of a signing by the Jets. The only question is why did they let him go at the beginning of the season?Maybin isn’t alone though, Calvin Pace also continued to play great as he has all season. This is the healthiest Pace has been since he’s been with the Jets and it’s showing as each in every week he turns in another stellar performance.

Kyle Wilson – Last season feels like forever ago when we are talking about the play of Wilson. It was apparent that Wilson was a bit overwhelmed by NFL offenses last season, but after spending the offseason with his tutor Darrelle Revis, he is playing with much more confidence and determination. Wilson provided solid coverage all game (along with the rest of the secondary with the exception of Eric Smith covering Gates), but it was the interception in the fourth quarter after the Jets had just taken the lead that earned Wilson a game ball. Almost half way through his second season Wilson is light years ahead of where he was last season and it ought to be fun to see where he ends up by the time the season is done.

Darrelle Revis – Save the best for last. For the third time this season the Jets have essentially won a game on a Revis interception. This one wasn’t quite the nail-in-the-coffin as the last two, but the end result was just the same. But even more important than that, Revis and company combined to hold Philip Rivers to 179 yards (16-32) one touchdown and two picks for a QBR of 51.4 and held the Chargers star receiver Vincent Jackson to just one catch for 15 yards. To steal something I saw on Twitter yesterday (but sorry can’t remember who I saw say it first) Vincent Jackson; one catch 15 yards, Darrelle Revis: one catch 64 yards.

Yesterday was the most complete game the Jets have played all season (with the exception of the Jaguars game, but I’m not counting that because it was the rookie Blaine Gabbert’s first start) and it came at the perfect time. With the bye week now upon us the Jets needed a confidence boost heading into their mini vacation. While it would be nice for the Jets to be able to just continue rolling without a break now that they seem to have found a groove, this bye week becomes a perfect opportunity for the Jets to get healthy. Mangold should be able to return to practice full time after using this week to rest. Today Ryan said he expects Mike DeVito to be ready for Buffalo, but he wouldn’t be able to play if they had a game this week and David Harris and Kenrick Ellis are both nursing minor ankle sprains and could use this time to get healthy.

Considering the fragile mind state of the average Jet fan, heading into the bye week at 4-3 after posting the 2-3 record a few weeks back has to feel absolutely glorious for the Jets and their fans. These last two weeks felt like games the Jets needed to win and they most certainly did enough to get them, contrary to what Chargers tight end Randy McMichael says the Jets did in fact beat the Chargers yesterday and all the complaining from teammates like Quentin Jammer about the refs won’t change that.

So let those Chargers players stew, at least we know LT and Antonio Cromartie will take great satisfaction in knowing how those Chargers really feel (they mad). But what could be a more fitting response to the Chargers complaints, than what Rex Ryan said quoting the great American hero Ron Burgundy.

“Stay Classy, San Diego.”

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