Archive for December, 2009

JETS-BENGALS PREVIEW: Win and they’re in

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

It’s do or die.

After watching their once promising season slip away with every Mark Sanchez interception and special teams breakdown, the New York Jets, on their ninth live, get a chance to salvage their tumultuous 2009 season.

An ever-important ninth win Sunday night against the Cincinnati Bengals would secure a playoff berth for Gang Green, something that appeared out of the question two weeks ago and yet almost a certainty following a 3-0 start, back in September.

It's do or die for Braylon Edwards and the New York Jets who just need a win Sunday night to secure a trip to the postseason (JetsInsider.com Photo)

The Jets look to give a proper sendoff to Giants Stadium, the building the team has called home since 1984.  They look to have a polar opposite performance of their co-tenants, the New York Giants, who were eliminated from playoff contention in their final game at the stadium a week ago, falling to the Carolina Panthers, 41-9.

Their opponent is surely a formidable one.  Led by the re-emergence of running back Cedric Benson and one of the AFC’s stingiest defensive units, the 10-5 Cincinnati Bengals once again find themselves approaching a possible playoff run.

It has been an emotional season for Marvin Lewis’s group, who have enjoyed their most successful season in five years, despite tragic distractions.   Back in October, the team mourned for loss of Vikki Zimmer, the wife of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.    Zimmer passed away of natural causes.

Then, two weeks ago, WR Chris Henry tragically died following an auto accident in Charlotte, North Carolina.  News of Henry’s passing resonated throughout the country and the league.   Henry was seen as one of the polarizing figures of the Bengals’ locker room, a man who was on his way to turning his life around following a number of legal transgressions back in 2008.

Cincinnatti receiver Chad Ochocinco was hit hard by the loss of Henry.   “For one, I’m feeling the most pain besides his family dealing with Chris’ situation,” he said.  “(He) was one of my best friends on the team.  (He was) one of those people I took under my wing and I’ve seen him through the bad, the good and I’ve seen all the positives that he’s done up until that point before we lost him.  It hurt.  Everything from this point on after losing Chris is dedicated to him, including this run at the Super Bowl.  It’s been hard.”

“Everybody grieves and mourns differently so I’m not sure how the rest of my teammates are taking it.  Being able to focus and be a professional which is one of the things that Coach (Marvin) Lewis continues to reiterate in this time of our loss has been a real big help.  I’m doing the best I can.”

“Doing the best they can” is something the Bengals vow to do on Sunday, as they have the chance to take on the role of spoiler for the New York Jets.   With their playoff position all but locked up, it is believed that head coach Marvin Lewis will indeed give his starters for Sunday’s game, alleviating the risk of injury in preparation for the playoffs.

That shouldn’t alter the gameplan of Rex Ryan’s group, who must come out and do what they’ve done all season; run the football and defend.   New York should look to mirror what they did last week against Indianapolis.   QB Mark Sanchez should be limited to check-downs and short passes, while grinding it out with the running backs.   The Jets can absolutely not afford Sanchez to be airing out deep-balls into double coverage, trying to beating Cincinnati all by himself.

Safe may not be sexy, but it will get the job done.   If the Jets are safe and smart with their offensive gameplan on Sunday, they’ll live to face Cincinnati again next week, in the postseason.

If not, they’ll only have themselves to blame.   Over the past two weeks, the Jets have gotten a wealth of assistance from other teams, giving a pulse to a season that should be over by now.   Now it’s finally time for them to take care of their own business.

Prediction

History points to a Jets loss, as do the majority of the Gang Green faithful.   Theoretically, Sunday night has all the ingredients for a major letdown: a home game, national television, a must-win game, an opponent that doesn’t need the game nearly as much as the Jets do.  But these aren’t your grandfather’s Jets…or even your older brother’s.

Darrelle Revis locks up Ochocinco for the few series he plays.  Marvin Lewis rests his starters in the second half.   Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene ground and pound just enough yardage against the stout Cincy defense.   The Jets weird, unprecedented and unpredictable 2009 campaign continues with a victory Sunday night against Cincy, propelling Gang Green into the postseason:  Jets 20 – Bengals 7

INSIDER TIDBITS

Matchup history

The Jets have had a great amount of success against the Bengals, throughout the years.   The two teams meet for the 21st time on Sunday, with Gang Green leading the all-time series, 13-7.

If the Jets do pull out a victory on Sunday, they would most likely meet Cincy again, in the first round of the playoffs.  New York also leads the all-time playoff series, 1-0.   The only postseason meeting between the two teams came in the first round of the 1982 AFC Playoffs.   The Jets went into Riverfront Stadium and blew out the Bengals, 44-17, eventually reaching the AFC title game, where they would fall to the Miami Dolphins.

Last time they met…

Gang Green, despite three turnovers from QB Brett Favre, rolled to a 26-14 victory over Cincinnati at the Meadowlands, last October.   That afternoon, the Jets defense limited the Bengals’ receiving tandem of Chad Ochocinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to a paltry 106 yards and no touchdowns.   RB Thomas Jones led the Jets with two touchdowns on the ground, and one receiving TD.

Numbers game

Jets offense:  20.7 points per game (17th in NFL), 321.1 yards of total offense (21st), 154.5 passing yards per game (30th), 166.6 rushing yards per game (1st).

Bengals defense:  16.9 points allowed per game (5th), 300.1 yards allowed per game (4th), 212.4 passing yards allowed per game (14th), 87.7 rushing yards per game (2nd).

Bengals offense: 20.3 points per game (18th), 324.9 yards of total offense per game (20th), 192.7 passing yards per game (22nd), 132.3 rushing yards per game (6th).

Jets defense:  15.7 points allowed per game (1st), 264.3 yards allowed per game (1st), 163.9 passing yards allowed per game (1st), 100.4 rushing yards allowed per game (9th).

Injury report

Through Wednesday, corners Donald Strickland (quad) and Darrelle Revis (illness) have missed practice time this week for New York.  Strickland will most likely be listed as questionable for Sunday, while Revis is all but certain to be ready.

Cincinnati will be without rookie LB Rey Maualuga, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a broken ankle.  S Chris Crocker (ankle), DE Robert Geathers (knee), and DT Tank Johnson (foot) have missed practice time this week.   Their status for Sunday remains up in the air at this time.

INSIDER WEDNESDAY TEAM REPORT

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco may have a career in fight promoting once his playing days are over.  But for now, he’s doing a fine job of hyping up Sunday night’s primetime battle in the Meadowlands against Darrelle Revis and the New York Jets.

“Me and Revis is better than (Manny) Pacquiao and (Floyd) Mayweather, said the bombastic Ochocinco in his entertaining conference call with the New York media Wednesday.  “Period, case closed.  I don’t care what anybody is doing Sunday night.  If you’re not turning to the game Sunday, you have no life.”

Bart Scott refuses to get into a war of words with Bengals' receiver Chad Ochocinco as the Jets focus on getting to the playoffs (JetsInsider.com Photo)

Almost trumping the obvious playoff implications of Sunday night’s game is the matchup between Ochocinco, one of the NFL’s most dynamic and eccentric receivers and Revis, arguably the league’s most dominant corner and a serious candidate for Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Revis has been “lights out” this season, in every sense of the term.   In 2009, the third-year corner has shut down the likes of Andre Johnson, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Marques Colston, Steve Smith, and Reggie Wayne while registering 71 tackles and posting a league-leading 34 passes defensed.  Revis also leads the Jets with six interceptions, including one for a touchdown.

“You (have) never seen a matchup like this ever before, from my understanding, said Ochocinco.  My friend Darrelle, Master Lock, I call him Master Lock.  Master Lock Revis has put a lot of great receivers on him this season.”

“That will not happen this upcoming (week),” boasted the bumptious receiver.  “Darrelle Revis couldn’t cover me in a brown paper bag on a corner of a Manhattan street in a phone booth.  It’s impossible.”

Ochocinco has enjoyed a successful rebound season after only posting 53 catches for 540 yards in 2008.  Through Week 16, the five-time Pro Bowler has 72 receptions for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns.

The Bengals’ potent downfield threat attributes his success to a newly adapted training regime, which includes boxing twice a week.

“My cardio and conditioning is ridiculous,” he gloated.  “I could probably go to the Tour de France with Lance Armstrong and be able to last, based on the shape I am in now.”

Jets head coach Rex Ryan is very familiar with Ochocinco, having faced him several times as defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.  Ryan joked about his history facing the star receiver.

“I’m glad we’re not playing Chad Johnson again,” said Ryan.  “You can go back and look.  We never, never covered Chad Johnson.   He destroyed us.   But Chad Ochocinco, he can’t be as good as the other guy.”

“Him and Randy Moss, in my opinion, are the two best vertical receivers in the game, said Ryan.  “Where he kills you is the go routes, the bang-eight routes, post routes, comebacks, deep-outs.  That’s where this guy kills you.  He has unbelievable body control.   He’s a big guy.  I’ve always been a fan of his.”

“If we’re going to go man this week, it’s only because we have Darrelle Revis,” said Ryan.  “Because nobody in this league is going to cover Chad one-on-one.”

Ochocinco believes that Revis’s innate ability to succeed in man-to-man coverage is what separates him from other defensive backs around the league.

“This is how you rate a great corner,” said two-time, All-Pro selection.   “Rex Ryan is extremely comfortable leaving Darrelle Revis on an island by himself.  That makes Darrelle Revis one of the best in the game.   It’s all about how you make your coordinator feel.  If your coordinator’s comfortable like that, that’s how you rate people as great corners.”

Even when sending praise his opponent’s way, the always candid Ochocinco managed to fire a missile towards Revis Island.

“He’s definitely one of the best, but I can’t wait to bless him.  They play games on Sundays so I can bless corners like him.”

Unfortunately, Darrelle Revis was unavailable to offer a rebuttal to Ochocinco’s comments.   Revis was sent home from the facility this morning by Ryan with an undisclosed illness and did not practice.   Ryan indicated however that it wasn’t serious and that his Pro Bowl corner should be ready, come Sunday night.

The braggadocio receiver also offered a sneak preview of the touchdown celebration he has in store for Sunday night’s nationally televised affair.  The always creative Ochocinco plans to take a shot at Fireman Ed for this one.

“I have my own fireman hat made,” he said.  “But it doesn’t say Jets.   It’s a Bengals fireman hat.   When I score, I’m going to sit on top of the goal post and then I’m going to quiet the stadium like he does…If I don’t use the goal post, I’ll get on top of one of my linemen’s shoulders.”

“I want everybody to say Ocho; O-C-H-O….That’s the celebration of all celebrations.   I’m going out with a bang.”

If Ochocinco is indeed trying to get a reaction out of the Jets and throw them off their game, he won’t get one.   At least not from Bart Scott, who the receiver said he’d hit “in the mouth, helmet on or off.”

“I’ve had a lot of experience with Chad,” said the veteran linebacker.  “War of words, back and forth.  I’m not gonna give him what he wants this time.  He wants for us to entertain the country for a week.”

“This week’s about business, not about jokes or funny clips…this is the most important game in my Jet career and also Rex Ryan’s.   If we can pull this thing off and get into the playoffs, we’ve got something stand on, something to measure ourselves against.”

INSIDER TIDBITS

Who’s in for Cincy?

For the second straight week, the Jets face an opponent that has already secured their playoff position, with the opportunity to possibly rest their starters.

While the Jets speculate who exactly they’ll be facing off against on the other side of the ball, Ochocinco noted that he’s been wondering the same thing all week.

“I called Coach Lewis from after Sunday’s game to this point at least 20 times.  I asked him the same question, ‘Coach, please don’t get me excited.  How much are we playing?’  He gave me that little giggle and then  he said, ‘We’re playing the whole game.  We’re playing to win.’  I said, ‘OK. Now if you get me excited and you try to pull me out of the game, I’m not coming out.  I will force you to use every time out just to get me off the field.’  That’s what I plan to do.  I’m not coming off the field.  Period.  If Revis is in there, I’m in the game.  I’m not coming out.”

Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis was less candid when asked about his plans for Sunday.   “Everybody is going to play,” he said.  “The 45 guys that we suit up are all going to play… All those things I’m going to decide what to do and I’m really not going to discuss with anybody any further than that.  We’re coming in to play the New York Jets and we know they’re a great football team.  We have to play and win and that’s the big thing for us.”

Pro Bowl trio speaks out

As reported yesterday by Jets Insider, Jets’ C Nick Mangold, G Alan Faneca and CB Darrelle Revis have all been selected as starters for the 2010 Pro Bowl in Miami on January 31.

Together, Mangold and Faneca have been instrumental in powering the Jets’ league-leading ground attack.   Through Week 16, the Jets are leading the league with 166.6 rushing yards per game.   The offensive line has also done a great job of protecting their quarterback, as the unit has only allowed 52 quarterback hits in 15 games, tied for fourth-fewest in the league.

“It’s an amazing thing,” said Mangold, who is making his second consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl.  “I’m just amazed that the fans, coaches and players put me in there over some amazing centers in the AFC.  It’s quite the humbling experience and to see the people on the roster that I’m there with is a crazy thing.  I don’t think it has sunk in yet that I have the opportunity to be the starter for that team.”

Alan Faneca has grown accustomed to playing in the mid-winter classic.  Faneca will be making his ninth consecutive Pro Bowl start.   Still, the veteran guard considers it an honor and privilege.

“It’s a great honor and it never gets old, Faneca said.  “It’s something special to be asked to go to, especially when you get there and look at the room and look at the guys that are around you.  (I also) think about the guys that were in that room, especially my first year when I was lucky enough to make it. There have been a lot of great guys.  It’s a big honor.”

Mangold and Faneca will join Miami’s Jake Long, Denver’s Jake Clady, and New England’s Logan Mankins as the starting offensive line for the AFC.

Darrelle Revis will be making his second straight Pro Bowl appearance on January 31, his first as a starter.   Revis, who was voted the 2009 Curtis Martin Team MVP by his teammates, has anchored a Jets’ defense which leads the league in pass defense, total defense, and points allowed.

“Making it is great, Revis said last night.  “It was one of my personal goals, trying to get back to be one of those caliber players, a Pro Bowl player.  I worked hard this offseason and it’s carrying over on the field.  This time I am a starter and it is the next step.  It’s another step for me.  I’m just trying to be the best that I can be.”

Revis is joined by Oakland’s Nnamdi Asomugha and Denver’s Champ Bailey as the AFC’s corners.

Despite the selection and all the accolades Revis has received throughout this season from the media and fans, the third-year veteran believes that staying humble has helped his cause immensely.

“It validates a lot,” said Revis.  “You just never know.  You have to be humble about these situations. People tweet and fans (say), ‘You’re going to make it, you’re going to make it.’  It’s been a crazy season, but I think you have to be humble about it until your name shows up on the roster.”

“I know the type of season I’ve had. You just have to keep focused on that path of trying to win games and trying to get to the playoffs.”

Smith earns honors too

The NFL announced today that Jets’ WR Brad Smith has been named AFC’s special teams player of the week.   In Sunday’s 29-15 victory over the Colts in Indianapolis, Smith returned the opening kickoff of the second half 106 yards for a touchdown, the longest play of any kind in Jets’ franchise history.

Smith, now in his fourth year in the league, has been given an expanded role under Rex Ryan and appears to finally be fulfilling the high expectations placed on his shoulders following his selection out of Missouri in 2006.

For the quiet receiver, it’s strictly business as usual.

“I’ve always been about doing whatever’s asked of me”, said Smith.  “I’m trying to take advantage of the opportunities that are placed in front of me.  It’s the same approach since I’ve been here, so I’m trying to stay consistent with that.  Now, getting more opportunities and more chances, I’m trying to take advantage of it.”

Injury Update

RB Thomas Jones and FB Tony Richardson were held out of practice today by Rex Ryan, as they were for part of last week.

Also sitting out for Gang Green were CB Donald Strickland (quad) and Revis (illness).  DE Shaun Ellis (knee) was limited.   QB Mark Sanchez (knee), G Robert Turner (knee) and RB Shonn Greene (shoulder) are participated in the full practice.

Playoff fever in East Rutherford

The Jets are encouraging fans to get the Meadowlands early on Sunday.  The first 70,000 fans to enter the stadium will receive a white rally towel that says “Win and we’re in.”  Kickoff is scheduled for 8:20 p.m.

“I understand that there’s going to be a butt in every seat,” said Rex Ryan.  “I hope they’re all Jet fans and ready to go.   Our fans are eager for this football team to make the playoffs.   We’re doing everything we can not to disspoint them.

JETS 29 – COLTS 15

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

Jets get help and get win in Indy, take control of playoff destiny. Face the Bengals on Sunday Night Football next week for a playoff berth.

Call it a Christmas miracle.

Going into Sunday afternoon’s game in Indianapolis, the New York Jets had already gotten help from the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Houston Texans, keeping their playoff hopes alive.

Then, late in the third quarter of their own game against the previously undefeated Colts, the Jets got some help from Indianapolis head coach, Jim Caldwell.

Leading 15-10, Caldwell lifted QB Peyton Manning for rookie backup Curtis Painter, deciding to rest his starters with his team having already locked up home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Jets (8-7) proceeded to outscore the Colts (14-1), 19-0 following Manning’s exit en route to a 29-15 victory Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, ending the Colts’ bid to be the second 16-0 team in NFL history.

The win, combined with Sunday losses by the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars puts New York in full-control of their own destiny heading into their season finale next week at home against the Cincinnati Bengals.  With a win next Sunday, the Jets will earn a wildcard spot as the five seed in the AFC.

Jets DL Marques Douglas celebrates after recovering a fumble and scoring a TD during the Jets 29-15 win vs. the Colts.

Jets DL Marques Douglas celebrates after recovering a fumble and scoring a TD during the Jets 29-15 win vs. the Colts.

It is a stunning turn of events for the Jets, whose own coach, Rex Ryan, mistakenly deemed his team “out of the playoffs” following a home loss to Atlanta, one week ago.  Ryan had a noticeably more positive tone this week.

“We’re excited about the opportunity in front of us,” said Ryan.  “We’re just happy as heck we got a win.  Our guys competed great.”

“Indianapolis earned the right to do whatever they want.  That’s a heck of a football team.  We were just going to line up and play, one way or the other.  Whoever was in a Colts uniform was who we were going to play against.”

Manning, who exited the game with 5:36 remaining in the third, completed 14 of 21 passes for 192 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.  Painter, who was booed mightily by the Colts faithful, finished an underwhelming 4 for 11 for 44 yards with an interception and a fumble.

“Until any player in here is the head coach, you follow orders and you follow them with all of your heart,” said Manning. “That’s what we’ve done as players.  We follow orders.  Our orders were not to give up a turnover, not to give up a kick return for a touchdown.  There’s not many games, under any circumstances, that you win when you have turnovers and give up a kick return for a touchdown.”

The Jets relied once again on their ground attack to lead them to victory.   RB Thomas Jones led New York with 23 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown.  Rookie Shonn Greene turned in 95 yards on 16 carries.

Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez played one of his more impressive games of his young career, finishing 12-19 for 106 yards with no turnovers, making a number of strong throws throughout the course of the game.

From the onset, the Jets’ defense appeared to be up to the challenge of halting the Colt’s high-powered offensive attack.

The game’s first possession saw a six-play drive by the Colts end with a Pat McAfee punt.

After the Jet defense held strong on fourth down for the second straight possession, a tripping penalty on linebacker Bart Scott gave Indianapolis an automatic first down at the Jets 21-yard line.

Two plays later, Indy took advantage as RB Joseph Addai burst up the middle for a 21-yard TD run.   However, the extra point attempt by Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri was blocked by Jets LB Bryan Thomas, making the Indy lead 6-0, with seven minutes remaining in the first quarter.

The Jets appeared to be building off the momentum of the blocked extra-point on the ensuing possession.

The Jets caught a break as a Sanchez interception was negated by an illegal contact penalty on Colts’ cornerback Kelvin Hayden and a ten-yard rush on second down by Thomas Jones gave New York possession inside the Indianapolis 50.

Gang Green’s luck ran out on the very next play as offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called for a reverse.   The cute playcalling ended up costing New York as WR David Clowney was dropped for a 14-yard loss, stalling the drive and forcing a punt.

Manning went to work, leading Indianapolis on a 10-play, 86 yard drive which was encapsulated by a 22-yard field goal by Vinatieri, to extend the Colts lead to 9-0 with 11:50 remaining in the second quarter.

Two possessions later, the Jets’ offense finally got going.  Starting from their own 20, Sanchez completed short passes to receivers Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery to put the Jets in Indianapolis territory.

On first-and-10 from the Colts’ 42, RB Shonn Greene hit a hole and took off down the right side for 21 yards.  Two plays later, Sanchez was laid out by an unblocked Dwight Freeney, sacking the rookie for a loss of eight yards.

On the very next play, on third down, Sanchez completed a short pass on the right side to WR David Clowney, setting up a 35-yard attempt for kicker Jay Feely.   Feely connected, capping off the 11-play, 63-yard drive, and cutting the Colts’ lead to six points.

Getting the ball back with just under two minutes remaining in the half, the Jets’ defense stood strong against the Colts’ attack.   Manning overthrew passes to Clark and Wayne on second and third down, forcing a punt and bringing the half to a close with Indianapolis holding onto a 9-3 lead.

Gang Green came sprinting out of the gates to begin the second half.  Literally.

Brad Smith took the second half kickoff 106 yards, down the right sideline and to the house, to give the Jets the lead, 10-9 to begin the second half.   Smith’s return was the longest play New York Jets franchise history, and tied the record for the second longest in NFL history.

But as fast as Brad Smith sprinted up field to give New York the lead, Manning and the Colts took it right back.

Manning orchestrated a nine play, 81-yard drive, highlighted by deep passes to Austin Collie and Dallas Clark, and ending with a 1-yard touchdown dash by RB Donald Brown.  Manning was razor-sharp on the drive, going 4-4 for 69 yards.  Indianapolis’s two-point attempt failed, making it a 15-10 ballgame with 10:13 remaining in the third.

The Jets offense responded once again, as Sanchez led the Jets inside Indianapolis territory, completing key third down passes to Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery.  But on third-and-3 from the Indy 39-yard line, the Jets offensive line failed to block Dwight Freeney again, as Sanchez was sacked for the second time on the day, ending the drive.

With just six minutes in the game, Colts head coach Jim Caldwell handed the keys over to his backup quarterback, rookie Curtis Painter.   With the five point lead, the timing of Caldwell’s decision was definitely questionable and would end up costing Indianapolis.   Painter, who had not thrown a pass all season heading into the game, completed his first pass to WR Hank Baskett, but was unable to convert a first down.

From that point onward, the Colts appeared like a flat, deflated team that just had all of their air and momentum sucked out of them.

The Jets took over with strong field position at their own 40, following a 14-yard punt return by Jerricho Cotchery.   Three straight runs by Shonn Greene brought the Jets inside the Indy 40, but Sanchez and company could not take advantage.   Not yet.

After a Steve Weatherford punt pinned the Colts back at their own 20-yard line, QB Curtis Painter was sacked on first down by Jets’ linebacker Calvin Pace.  Pace hit Painter as he was starting his throwing motion and the ball popped loose.

Jets DE Marques Douglas pounced on the ball in the end zone, giving the Jets an 18-15 lead, following a successful two-point conversion.

Painter trotted out once again on the next possession with a group of other backups.   With the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd booing heavily, Painter and the backups followed suit with an uninspired, three and out as the third quarter came to a close.

A 43-yard boot by Feely on the ensuing drive, extended New York’s lead to 21-15 with 13:23 to go in the game.

The Jets used an 11-play, 79-yard drive to eat up six minutes and fourteen seconds of the fourth quarter, ending with a 1-yard TD run by Thomas Jones.  The key play of the drive; a 29-yard dash down the right side by Jones on second-and-2.

A second-successful two-point conversion put the Jets on top, 29-15, with the game all but decided with just less than six minutes remaining.

INSIDER TIDBITS

Bryan Thomas’s first quarter blocked extra-point was the second of his career and the Jets’ first PAT block since 2002…Indianapolis was held to under 10 points in the first half for only the fourth time this season…With a third quarter completion, Peyton Manning became only the fourth quarterback in NFL history to eclipse the 50,000 yard mark…Sunday’s game was QB Mark Sanchez’s sixth game without an interception this season.  The Jets are 4-2 in these games…Brad Smith’s 104-yard kickoff return marked the 12th kickoff return for a touchdown under special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff, in his nine seasons at the helm.

JETS FINISH IN PRIME TIME

The NFL announced tonight that the Jets- Bengals matchup next Sunday at the Meadowlands has been flexed to NBC Sunday Night Football.  Game time is 8:30 PM.

 

INSIDER WEDNESDAY TEAM REPORT

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - To sit or not to sit?  That is the question.

The Indianapolis Colts, sitting pretty at 14-0 with homefield advantage throughout the playoffs already locked up, find themselves in a curious situation on Sunday.

Does head coach Jim Caldwell rest his starters, allowing his team time for repair and avoiding any chance for an injury, in preparation for a Super Bowl run?   Or do the Colts, trot out Peyton Manning and Dwight Freeney, in an attempt to finish their quest to become only the second 16-0 team in league history, while simultaneously putting the kibosh on the Jets’ playoff hopes?

Fullback Tony Richardson says the Jets just want to get a win on Sunday in Indy, regardless of whos lining up on the other side of the ball for the Colts (JetsInsider.com Photo)

Fullback Tony Richardson says the Jets just want to get a win on Sunday in Indy, regardless of who's lining up on the other side of the ball for the Colts (JetsInsider.com Photo)

Faced with the prospect of a must-win game to save their season, Gang Green will be hoping for the latter.   The Jets, one of the AFC’s six 7-7 teams, need victories in their final two games to have any shot at a playoff berth.   While putting the clamps on the high-powered Colts offense at full strength would be a huge moral and psychological victory for the Jets, the prospect of that actually materializing is low.

Indy’s unflappable offensive attack has put up 28 points, over 380 yards of total offense and 297 passing yards per contest.   Their banged up defensive unit has been just as stellar, yielding only 17.7 points per game.

“This is an outstanding football team,” gushed Jets head coach Rex Ryan, in regards to his opponent.  “They’re well-coached.  They kind of have a little machine going there on offense.  Their defense I don’t think gets as much credit as they deserve.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that the Jet’s best shot at a season-saving victory against Indianapolis hinges on the prospect of facing the Colt’s backups.   And according to Colts DE Dwight Freeney, that very well may be the case Sunday.

“I think winning is somewhat important,” said the four-time Pro Bowler.  “You don’t want to lose a game.  As a competitor, as an athlete, you want to go out every single game and win.  That being said, we’re going out there and playing hard every game no matter who is out there.  Maybe the starters may not be out there the whole game, but that’s no excuse.  We still have to try to get it done regardless.”

Colts head coach Jim Caldwell, was noncommittal when addressing the issue of who will play Sunday.  “The plan is to attack it just like we do every week,” said Caldwell.  “We’re going to prepare to go in and play hard and we haven’t made any declaration on who’s playing how long or anything of that nature, much like we did last week.  We did the same thing last week and focused in on the ball game and adjusted as the flow of the game went on.”

“The competitor in you absolutely wants to see that,” said Jets head coach Rex Ryan in regards to facing the Colts’ starters.  “But I’d just as soon not see it.   I just want to win.  It’s obviously going to be a challenge, whoever’s out there.   But you know, obviously these are some of the premiere players in this game.”

Two of those “premiere players” are Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne.   Together they have formed one of the most unstoppable quarterback-receiver duos in NFL history.  Manning, a future Hall of Famer, has once again proven to be the league’s top signal-caller, passing for 33 touchdowns and over eclippsing 4,000 yards in 14 games, while closing in on the 50,000-yard mark for his career.  Wayne, who has hauled in 92 receptions for over 1,200 yards in ‘09,  is the Robin to Manning’s Batman.

Jets corner Darrelle Revis came up with his own sports analogy for Manning and Wayne.  “This game right here, said Revis.   “It’s going to be Michael Jordan and Pippen versus me.  It’s going to be something crazy.”

FB Tony Richardson isn’t buying into the idea that the Colts may rest their starters against the Jets.  Regardless of who does play for Indianapolis on Sunday, the veteran believes it shouldn’t alter the team’s mindset.

“We just want to go in there and win the ballgame,” says Richardson.  “Just get the win, by any means necessary.  I don’t think they’re going to rest their starters.  I just think there’s something to be said about going undefeated in this league.  If they do, that would be a big surprise.”

Richardson recalled a game the end of the 2005 season, as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.   The Chiefs went into San Diego, who had already had clinched a playoff spot and rested QB Drew Brees, RB LaDainian Tomlinson, and TE Antonio Gates.   Kansas City ended up falling to the Chargers, 24-17.

“They pretty much rested their starters…and their backups beat the brakes off us,” said Richardson.

“If you start even thinking about ‘Oh they’re gonna play their backups, we’ll just cruise on’, you’ll get beat.  So I never think about anything like that.”

It could be conceived that Rex Ryan is playing up the idea of the Jets being the one’s to deal Indy their first loss season, in attempt to further motivate his team.  According to Rex, that is definitely not the case.

“I don’t think it’s about, ‘Well, let’s try to ruin their perfect season’,” said Ryan.  “I think it’s more of the fact that you get to compete against that quality of a football team.”

“That’s not it at all.   We’re just trying to keep our playoff hopes alive.”

INSIDER TIDBITS

Clearing up the playoff picture

If the Jets can somehow come out of Lucas Oil Stadium with a win, they’ll still need some help.  In order for Rex Ryan’s group to be in a position to control their own destiny heading into the final week of the regular season, the following will also need to occur on Sunday:

A) The New England Patriots do their hated rival a solid, defeating the Jaguars in Foxboro

B) The Miami Dolphins lose at home to the Houston Texans

C) The Baltimore Ravens lose in Pittsburgh OR Denver loses to the Eagles at Lincoln Financial

Yet another roster move

The revolving door in Florham spun once again today as the Jets signed DL Ty Steinkuhler to the practice squad, and released LB Josh Mauga.  Steinkuhler, a 6-foot-3, 280 pound rookie out of Nebraska, was with the team through training camp before being released in early September.   The Lincoln native was a 2008 Honorable-Mention All-Big 12 coaches choice after registering 88 tackles, three sacks, and 17 tackles-for-loss in his college career.

Injury Update

WR Braylon Edwards, FB Tony Richardson and RB Thomas Jones all did not practice today, which Ryan labeled as a “coach’s decision.”  None of their injuries appear serious as Ryan stated it was just a case of him wanting to get them “fresh and ready to roll.”

DE Shaun Ellis (knee) was limited.  S Jim Leonhard (thumb), CB Dwight Lowery (ankle), QB Mark Sanchez (knee), CB Marquice Cole (knee) and G Robert Turner (knee) all participated in the full practice.

Facing Goliath

Sunday in Indy, the Jets will go up against an undefeated team in December for the second time in three seasons.   Back on December 16, 2007, New York traveled up to Foxboro to take on the 13-0 Patriots.   While the Jets were defeated 20-10, they held New England QB Tom Brady without a touchdown pass and limited the Pats to their lowest point total of the season.

Back in 1972, Gang Green faced off against the undefeated Dolphins twice, losing 27-17 in Week 4 and 28-24 in Week 10.

Stat of the day

Up until the Falcon’s game-winning, 73-yard drive on Sunday which concluded with a Matt Ryan touchdown pass to TE Tony Gonzalez, the Jets’ defense had not allowed a touchdown on their opponent’s last 33 drives.

According to Elias, this was the team’s longest streak since Mo Lewis and Kyle Clifton’s unit back in 1993.

INSIDER WEDNESDAY TEAM REPORT

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – The Mark Sanchez comeback tour is gaining steam and could consummate at the Meadowlands on Sunday.   If his coach allows it.

Taking a page out of the book of his predecessor, Eric Mangini, Jets head coach Rex Ryan declined to name his starting quarterback for this weekend’s tilt against the Atlanta Falcons at the Meadowlands.

Ryan told reporters Wednesday that he will speak with the team’s medical staff following tomorrow’s practice before making any decision.  However, all indications point to Sanchez getting the green light Sunday, barring a major setback.

QB Mark Sanchez returned to practice Wednesday and (JetsInsider.com Photo)

QB Mark Sanchez returned to practice Wednesday and appears to be on the verge of returning on Sunday against Atlanta (JetsInsider.com Photo)

“You look at different things,” said Ryan.  “You want to make sure there’s no swelling or anything else and that he feels good….make sure the knee is not shifting or anything like that.”

Sanchez split the first-team repetitions with Kellen Clemens at this morning’s practice, moving fluidly and appearing pain-free.

“It felt good today,” said Sanchez.  “I felt pretty accurate.  It just felt good to be back on the field, it felt like forever.”

“If you’re just watching him, you wouldn’t know if he had an issue or not,” said Ryan.  “He’s not favoring his leg or anything else.   I think he’s way further along than he was last week.”

Sanchez’s receivers agreed with their head coaches assessment, complimenting their quarterback on a fine practice.

“He looked pretty good,” said WR Braylon Edwards.  “He was in a rhythm, he looked okay.   It looked like he was moving well on the knee.   He made some good passes, he looked impressive today.”

“I think he looked pretty sharp,” said WR Jerricho Cotchery.  “I think for the first day back, he did very well.”

Sanchez was also seen working out the right knee in the weight room following practice.   If he is cleared to play on Sunday, the rookie will do so with braces on both knees.

“I look like Forrest Gump out there,” joked Sanchez.  “Whatever, if I gotta wear roller blades, I’ll wear roller blades…if it means wearing two braces, I’ll wear two braces.”

“Whatever it takes.  I really want to get on the field and I think the guys understand that.   They saw me out there today.”

In Sunday’s win in Tampa,  Kellen Clemens was by no means spectacular but was able to get the job done.  Clemens, who hadn’t started since 2007, appeared much like a quarterback making his first start in two years.   Clemens was off target on a number of passes, including a would-have-been touchdown to WR Jerricho Cotchery, and finished 12 for 23 for 111 yards without a TD or interception.

“He really did a great job managing the game,” said Ryan.  “We have great confidence in Kellen.”

Whether it’s Clemens or Sanchez on Sunday, the Jets’ offense is confident they can get the job done.   “We’re going to do what we do regardless,” says OT Damien Woody.  “We know our identity as an offense.  We’re a power football team running the ball, that’s first and foremost.  We try to make plays in the passing game when they’re there for us, but our bread and butter is running the football.”

“Obviously, Mark is the quarterback and if he’s available then that’s great.  But if he’s not, then Kellen will come in and run the offense and we can still have the same results.”

INSIDER TIDBITS

Injuries: The worst part of the game

Falcons head coach Mike Smith told reporters Wednesday that QB Matt Ryan (toe) and RB Michael Turner (ankle) both did not practice today, but that the team hopes to get them on the practice field before the end of the week.  This does not bode well for their status for Sunday, but is definitely good news for the New York Jets.

Atlanta, which has dropped two straight without Ryan and Turner, has been riddled by injuries all year.   The team has already shelved WR Brian Finneran, DT Peria Jerry, S William Moore, and CB Brian Williams for the season.  Now a team coming off an eleven-win season that was expected to challenge New Orleans for the NFC South crown, has found themselves fighting to save their season at 6-7, with their playoff dreams on life support.

Despite all the injuries, veteran TE Tony Gonzalez says the Falcons aren’t feeling sorry for themselves.  “I think the morale is great,” said Gonzalez.  “I’ve never been a part of a situation like this with all these players going down especially key players.  The offensive line was just decimated.  Especially at this time of year, it was unfortunate for us the way things turned out because I thought we were on a good roll there.  I though for sure we’d be able to make the playoffs.  That’s how that goes.  Players go down.  It’s the NFL.  You’re going to get hurt.  You try to limit that, but unfortunately it didn’t go that way for us this year.  The morale is still there.”

As for the New York Jets, who have had their own fair share of season-ending injuries this season, OT Robert Turner (knee) was today’s only scratch from practice.

DE Shaun Ellis (knee) and CB Dwight Lowery (ankle) were limited.  CB Marquice Cole (knee) and S Jim Leonhard (thumb) both participated in the full practice.

Jets add another body to practice squad

The Jets made yet another roster move this afternoon, signing OT Dan Gay to the practice squad.  Gay, a 6-foot-4, undrafted rookie out of Baylor, was signed by the San Diego Chargers in May.

Gay started 34 games on the offensive line at Baylor, where he helped the Bears rush for 2,349 yards and 29 TD in his senior season.

It’s been a while…

Sunday will mark the first time the Jets have hosted the Falcons in 11 seasons.   The last time Atlanta traveled to the Meadowlands was October 25, 1998.   Led by 101 rushing yards from Curtis Martin and two touchdowns from Vinny Testaverde, New York rolled to an emphatic, 28-3 victory.

Hunter may be the future at right tackle

Is the replacement for Damien Woody already on the Jets roster?  It’s quite possible according to Tony Pauline of SI.com/TFYDraftInsiders.com.  Sources close to the situation told Pauline the Jets coaching staff really likes offensive tackle Wayne Hunter and feel he could be a competent replacement for Damien Woody in the near future.  Hunter has seen extensive action this season in short yardage situations and the team feels he’s able to handle the fulltime duties of a starter.  The organization is unlikely to cut Woody after the season but word is the eleven year vet, who has one year remaining on his contract, may hang up his cleats after the season.

Stat of the day

Thomas Jones scored both of the Jets’ touchdowns in their 26-3 win Sunday in Tampa. The 31-year old has scored at least 10 rushing TD in each of the last two seasons, a feat he never accomplished while in his 20s.  According to Elias, only two other players in league history have had more than one season of 10 or more rushing touchdowns in their 30s after not having any prior to that: John Riggins and Otis Anderson.

Jets to bundle up for charity on Sunday

The Jets, in conjunction with A-1 First Class Moving and Storage, are holding their annual coat drive Sunday to benefit Jersey Cares.   Fans are encouraged to bring new or gently used coats that will be collected at all gates upon entering the stadium Sunday.

Sanchez returns to practice, status for Sunday still uncertain

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – The blistering wind chill and thirty-five degree temperature wasn’t enough to keep Mark Sanchez off the practice field Wednesday.

Mark Sanchez returned to practice today, splitting reps with Kellen Clemens (JetsInsider.com Photo)

Mark Sanchez returned to practice today, splitting reps with Kellen Clemens (JetsInsider.com Photo)

The rookie quarterback was indeed out on the gridiron, partaking in drills as the media looked on during the open portion of this morning’s practice.  Sanchez, splitting first-team reps with Kellen Clemens, moved fluidly through passing drills, exhibiting no apparent limp or grimace, in respect to his injured right knee.

The weather didn’t seem to be an issue either to the former USC Trojan, as he was seen sporting a short sleeve shirt.

We’ll know more about Sanchez’s status later on following Rex Ryan’s press conference.   Check  back at 5, for the entire Insider Wednesday Report…

Jets add running back to roster

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Less than a week after losing one of their own practice players, DT Antonio Garay, to the San Diego Chargers, the Jets did the same to the Dallas Cowboys.   The Jets sent out the following press release, less than an hour ago.

Dec. 15, 2009 — The New York Jets have signed RB Chauncey Washington from the Dallas Cowboys practice squad. The announcement was made by Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum.
Washington (5-11/222/Southern California/Torrance, CA), has spent time on the Dallas Cowboys active roster and practice squad in 2009.  He was originally drafted by the Jaguars in the seventh round of the 2008 draft (213 overall), before being waived on Sept. 5, 2009.  In six games with Jacksonville, Washington had nine rushes for nine yards, one reception for nine yards and three special teams tackles.

Jets waive offensive tackle Ryan McKee

Monday, December 14th, 2009

The New York Jets have waived OT Ryan McKee.  The announcement was made by Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum.

McKee was signed to the active roster from the practice squad on Dec. 12 after being signed to the practice squad on Sept. 7, 2009.  He originally signed with the Jets on May 1, 2009 as an undrafted free agent and was waived on Sept. 5. McKee was inactive for one game at Tampa Bay. He was a three-year starter at right tackle at Southern Mississippi where the team set a school record for total offense in each of those three seasons.

JETS 26 – BUCS 3

Sunday, December 13th, 2009
Jets backup QB Kellen Clemens didnt wow anyone against the Bucs but also didnt make any major mistakes in NYs 26-3 win.

Jets backup QB Kellen Clemens didn't wow anyone against the Bucs but also didn't make any major mistakes in NY's 26-3 win.

The Jets defense made sure it didn’t matter who was playing quarterback for Gang Green on Sunday.

Forced to start backup Kellen Clemens at quarterback with starter Mark Sanchez sidelined with a knee injury, the Jets (7-6) turned in a dominating defensive performance en route to an emphatic 26-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-12) on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

With the win, the Jets have now won three-straight and find themselves right back in the thick of the AFC playoff race.

“It’s going great,” said Jets corner Darrelle Revis, who finished with three tackles and a key interception on the day.  “It started out three weeks ago.  We got that one win and no we’re just racking up wins.  I think our confidence is high and our level of play is high.”

Tampa Bay rookie QB Josh Freeman, coming off a five-interception performance a week ago, struggled against Rex Ryan’s defensive group all day.   Freeman was unable to get comfortable and establish any rhythm against the Jets’ blitz packages, as the rookie was faced with non-stop pressure all afternoon.  He finished a horrid, 14 of 33 for only 93 yards with three interceptions and a fumble.

The Jets defensive unit, which yielded only 124 yards of total offense and six first downs to the Bucs, made it clear from the get-go, that Tampa Bay was in for a long day.

On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Freeman was intercepted by Jets linebacker Davis Harris.  The pick was Harris’s second of the season, and set Kellen Clemens and company up with strong field position at the Tampa Bay 31-yard line.

Three plays later, Tampa-native Jay Feely, split the uprights on a 40-yard field goal attempt, giving New York an early 3-0 lead.

After forcing a three and out on their second defensive possession of the game, the Jets took over at their own 36-yard line.

Faced with fourth down after failed check down attempts, the Jets once again turned to some special teams trickery, a common theme throughout the 2009 season.

In the punt formation, Mike Westhoff’s unit executed a direct snap to WR Brad Smith who lofted a pass right over the Tampa Bay defense to a wide open Eric Smith.   The safety made the grab and sprinted into the open field for 27 yards and a first down, improving the Jets special teams unit to an impressive 3-for-3 on fake punt attempts this season.

After a direct snap run by Brad Smith put the Jets inside the 10-yard line, Clemens was unable to get Gang Green into the end zone.

Smith saw an expanded role against Tampa Bay, finishing with five carries for 16 yards and 27 passing yards on the day.

“Brad’s an explosive athlete,” said Jets head coach Rex Ryan.  “It was great to get him more involved in our offense.”

On second-and-6 off a play action, Clemens misfired on a pass to a wide-open Jerricho Cotchery in the back of the end zone.  After another incompletion on third down, the Jets were forced to settle for another field goal.   Feely’s second field goal of the day extended the New York lead to 6-0 with 4:47 to go in the first quarter.

Three drives later, after Clemens’ pass to Woodhead in the flat went astray, Feely was called on again to bail the Jets out after a wasted possession.   Once again, the 33-year old veteran was absolute money, this time connecting from 49 yards out to extend the Jets lead to 9-0, with just under seven minutes remaining in the first half.

While Clemens looked shaky at times, he did just enough to get the job done and played mistake free football, exactly what Ryan had asked of him.   Clemens finished the day completing 12 of 23 passes for 111 yards.

After forcing the Buccaneers to punt for the fourth time, the Jets offense took the field again with 5:10 remaining in the half at their own 42.   Led by Thomas Jones, the New York offense executed their most successful drive of the first half.

On first down, Jones burst up the middle for 16 yards.  Two plays later, Jones hit a hole and took off down the right side for a 33-yard TD score, his tenth of the season, to give the Jets a commanding 16-0 lead.

But the Jets weren’t done.   The Jets defense forced a sixth three-and-out from Tampa Bay and regained possession with 1:23 remaining in the half.   This time the Jets went with the air game to get themselves in scoring position, as Clemens completed several short passes to Braylon Edwards and Danny Woodhead.   Jay Feely’s second 49-yarder of the day extended the Jets lead to 19-0, heading into the intermission.

Raheem Morris’s group went into the locker room with only 15 yards of total offense, 6 punts and not a single first down.

On third-and-5 from the New York 25, Shonn Greene broke a tackle and darted up the middle of the field for a 25 yard gain but fumbled the ball as he fell to the ground.   The fumble was recovered by Tampa Bay corner Aqib Talib, keeping Tampa Bay alive.

Josh Freeman was dropped behind the line of scrimmage on third-and-9 by Donald Strickland, but Bart Scott was flagged for unnecessary roughness.   The penalty gave Tampa Bay a first down for the first time on the day, coming with 9:04 remaining in the third.

A 43-yard field goal by Connor Barth got the Buccaneers on the scoreboard, cutting the Jets lead to 19-3 with 4:50 remaining in the third quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Tampa Bay recovered the onside kick to start off at their own 42-yard line.  But once again, the Jets defense stepped up.

On third-and-short, Freeman’s pass intended for TE Kellen Winslow was broken up David Harris, who made a great play on the ball, thrashing Tampa Bay’s momentum.

Clemens turned in one of his more encouraging possessions of the afternoon on the ensuing drive but couldn’t close it out.   The 12-play, 66 yard drive was marked by a 19-yard strike from Clemens to Edwards on third down and a 26-yard completion to Cotchery.

However, after misfiring on third down, the Jets were force to trot out Feely for another long attempt.  Clemens struggled to get the hold down after a high snap from James Dearth and Feely misfired for the first time on the day.

After Jay Feely’s 48-yard attempt sailed wide right, Tampa Bay took over at their own 31 with 11:23 remaining.

Six plays later, the Jets defense delivered the haymaker.   On third-and-10, Freeman was picked off by Darrelle Revis, who returned the interception 54-yards before being pushed out of bounds at the Tampa Bay 7 yard line.  Revis’s interception was the corner’s sixth of the season, which leads the team.

Thomas Jones took it into the end zone on the very next play, giving the Jets a 23-point cushion and effectively ending any hope for a comeback from the Buccaneers.

 

Izzo done for year, Jets sign two to practice squad

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

The Jets special teams unit took a big blow today as LB Larry Izzo was placed on IR.  Izzo, who totaled 18 special teams tackles in his first season with Gang Green, had missed some time this week with a neck injury which appears to be more serious than once thought.  There is no further word on the extent of the injury at this time.

The team also announced that they have signed LB Josh Mauga and C Michael Parenton to the practice squad.  Mauga, a four-year starter at Nevada, was originally signed by the Jets in August but was cut in September.  Parenton started 46 games for Tulane at various offensive line positions, and was cut by the Jets at the end of training camp in August.