Waking Point

Foxboro flogging could serve as must needed wake-up call for sleepy Jets

They couldn’t do diddly-pooh offensively. They couldn’t make a first down.

They couldn’t run the ball; they didn’t try to run the ball.

They couldn’t complete a pass – they stunk. Whichever way you cut it and dissect it,(in this case, parpaphrasing former Saints head coach Jim Mora’s infamous rant) the Jets couldn’t do much of anything right, Monday night in Foxboro.

It is time for Rex's Jets to finally start living up to expectations (JetsInsider.com Photo)

Call it the Mora Bowl. Or call it a much needed wake up call for Rex Ryan’s unit.

After weeks of consistent glass-walking and narrow escapes to such prominent world-beaters as the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, and Houston Texans, New York’s month-long game of Russian Roulette concluded in the oppositional graveyard that is Gillette Stadium. It ended with Tom Brady as the executioner.

With every blown coverage and secondary mishap by Gang Green, the five-time Pro Bowl quarterback calmly sat back in the stonewall pocket fortified by his offensive line, loading bullets into the chamber. Firing round after round into the heart of the Jet defense.

25 yards on a quick slant to Deion Branch. Bang.

Reload.

Danny Woodhead up the seam for 35 yards. Boom.

Reload.

35 yards up the middle to Aaron Hernandez. Pow.

By the third shot, the Jets were dead. Lying mercilessly, leaving Rex Ryan and his staff to pick up the pierces after a 45-3 thrashing, the franchise’s worst beat-down in nearly a quarter century. And likely their most necessary.

The Jets haven’t been this good in a long while, at least on paper. With the talent that Mike Tannenbaum and Woody Johnson assembled on both sides of the ball this off-season, it’s no surprise that New York stands at 9-3 through Week 13. The route in which they’ve taken to reach 9 wins however, is more than a bit perplexing and concerning.

An offense which features a future hall-of-fame running back in the backfield, a former Super Bowl MVP and former Pro Bowler in the receiver core, and a young talented quarterback under center, shouldn’t struggle to score points. Through 12 games, Brian Schottenheimer’s unit has been less than a powerhouse, averaging just over 22 points a game (14th in the NFL).

The colossally-hyped passing game has struggled especially, with Mark Sanchez and company yielding only 208 yards per game though the air (21st in the NFL). To put things into perspective, the Buffalo Bills (21), Detroit Lions (21), and Kansas City Chiefs (23) have all thrown more passing touchdowns this season than the Jets (17). All three of these teams have about half the talent and offensive firepower of Schottenheimer’s unit.

Instead of attacking opponents with the big play threats of Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller, too often Schottenheimer has gotten cute and conservative with the playcalling. No brainer fly and post routes have been replaced with reverses, bubble screens and short-yardage passing plays. In other cases, as seen last night, the ground and pound running game which has been executed to much success has been completely abandoned and forgotten late in games.

More times than not, the offense has come out of the gate flat, relying heavily on the defense to keep them in games until they locate their mojo. While the Jet defense has been solid for the majority of the season, getting key stops when needed, they have certainly had their moments. Last night was one of those moments, giving up a total of 405 yards to the Patriots’ offense, 304 coming through the air. It is unlikely that Mike Pettine’s defense will turn in another performance like that this season, but there are some definite issues that need to get corrected.
If anything, the brash beating in New England definitely served as more of a severe exploitation of the Jet’s defensive holes than a fluke or aberration. The unit’s two-biggest weaknesses, lack of a consistent pass rush and a severe susceptibility to the interior passing game, were brought to light by Belichick and his staff. Brady had all day to sit back in the pocket and pick apart the Jets secondary. Jet defensive backs and linebackers were a step-slow in coverage all night, looking just as flat and uninspired as their offensive counterparts.

The pass defense which was once seen as the ultimate strength of the unit, leading the league in nearly every statistical category a season ago, has developed into the Achilles hell of the defense. With the additions of Antonio Cromartie, Kyle Wilson, and Brodney Pool this past offseason, the secondary has taken a definite step back, instead of the expected mammoth leap towards invincibility.

The unit which surrendered all of 8 passing touchdowns in 2009, has already given up 19 this season. Another problem has been an inability to create turnovers, as the Jets have only intercepted 7 passes in 2010, tied for second-worst in the NFL. They are also allowing nearly 65 more yards through the air per game in 2010 (218.4) than 2009 (153.7).

Part of the problem has been injuries (Darrelle Revis and now Jim Leonhard). Most of the problem stems from simple inconsistency. Cromartie, who has shown flashes of brilliance at times, has looked as clueless as rookie Kyle Wilson in other instances. With Leonhard, the signal-caller and veteran brain of the secondary now likely shelved for the rest of the season, the secondary must somehow find a way to schematically and emotionally overcome that void.

The sleepwalking has lasted long enough, on both sides of the ball for the New York Jets. If their Monday Night embarrassment isn’t enough to wake them up, nothing will. They’ve seemingly waited three quarters of a season to play truly motivated, inspired football for 60 minutes and it certainly won’t get much easier for this team, from this point forward.

New York closes the regular season with road stops in Chicago and Pittsburgh sandwiched between home division tilts against Miami and Buffalo, respectively. While two wins probably guarantees a playoff berth, the Jets would like to secure themselves at least one home playoff game at the New Meadowlands Stadium. Such a feat would likely require three wins or even a highly improbable clean sweep of their final four games.

If there was ever a time to start playing your best ball of the season, it is now for these Jets. It’s either wake up now or be resigned to winter hibernation.

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