Archive for January, 2010

Friday Insider Report: The Season of Revis?

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Should the Jets achieve a dream previously thought impossible this season, the fallout would be ecstatic, yet somewhat predictable. Bring on the parade and plaudits and bandwagon acclaim. All would be absolutely deserved, hallmark tenants of a proper championship celebration.

More interesting would be the question of whether a singular player eventually defines this entire fascinating team.

These Jets had an interesting composition right from the start. The head coach and quarterback were both rookies, a recipe for rebuilding mitigated by an elite level defense, offensive line, and running game, in addition to some brilliant motivation provided by the aforementioned neophyte ringleader.

Instead of following a predictable route, the Jets cooked a volatile brew, alternately swaying between a dominating force and inconsistent mess.

Through superfluous controversy that seemed constantly swirling, and a myriad of incomplete patterns failing to adequately trace a truly unpredictable ride; cornerback Darrelle Revis was a constant.

Indeed, the quarterback will always be a focal point in any seasonal analysis. And bravado will certainly be long associated with this Jets edition. But after these initial reactions subside, it’s very probable, no matter what this team ultimately provides for a final act, that Darrelle Revis will be recognized as the no-doubt number one reason why they were even had a realistic shot to capture a title.

Revis sports a jovial, though business-like disposition when fielding questions in the locker room.  “It’s always a process,” Revis said, when asked if it took time for the defense to fully synchronize. “It’s about getting comfortable with your teammates… we wanted to be the number one defense. Now we just got to win.” Revis draws another tough assignment this week, matching up with shifty Reggie Wayne. “He brings a lot,” said a complimentary Revis. “He’s quick, he’s a route-runner.” Though he remained good-natured, Revis quickly jumped to defend his secondary mates when responding to a question concerning their current high level of performance. “We’ve been playing well in the secondary all year, that’s first of all,” said Revis. “We’ve only given up eight [passing] td’s, that’s pretty good.”

No matter what happens, this Jets season could be remembered for one player.

To ponder this unit without Revis is most likely a nightmarish notion for Rex Ryan and staff. When a player is this skilled, entire game plans can be predicated on his individual talents. Having a shutdown corner affords coaching staffs certain luxuries  unavailable otherwise. But to simply label Revis a shutdown corner, tossing him in a league-wide fray for comparison’s sake, would represent a mischaracterization of his unique impact.

In a league now totally tilted toward the pass, Revis wreaked havoc on a scale unseen since the salad days of Deion Sanders. It was a different world in the mid-nineties, when Prime Time was at his peak. Quarterbacks were protected, but not with fanatic zeal. Referees were far more lenient, allowing physicality between defensive backs and wide receivers.

Corners and safeties lost much of their latitude for tough play following the alteration of pass interference rules. [after the ’04 season] The game has changed dramatically, even in comparison with recent years. For instance, with today’s rules in place, could the Patriots really have derailed the greatest show on turf in the 2002 Super Bowl? Before a late Rams rally, ferocious but ultimately for naught, the dynamic offense of St. Louis was nullified by the Patriots’ physical play.  Pop those two teams in a time machine, stage a rematch under contemporary guidelines, and are flags flying all over the place?

It’s within these most unfavorable conditions, where quarterback ratings over 100 are more prevalent than ever, and writers can make an excellent case that the ground and pound Jets are a throwback instead of a model, that Revis has thrived. His performance is equivalent to a baseball player chalking up a .400 batting average in 1968.

The slate of receivers stranded on Revis Island reads like a lineup of perennial Pro Bowl participants. Andre Johnson was first. Four catches, thirty-five yards. Future Hall of Famer Randy Moss was next: Four receptions for 24 yards. After an anomalous letdown against the Dolphins on Monday Night Football, surrendered by the entire defense really, Revis rebounded with a vengeance. Marques Colston? Two grabs. Terrell Owens? Three. Steve Smith? Two. For two yards. Round two with T.O yielded a meager allowance of thirty-one yards and a vicious downfield block.  And on, and on, culminating with the humbling of the artist formerly known as Chad Johnson and a clutch effort against Vincent Jackson.

Revis combines speed, athleticism, and intelligence, not to mention superb ball skills.  It is not outlandish to associate his play with greatness. Considering Revis’ developing track record, it is very probable to continue.

He’s been there through it all.  And that’s why he may be remembered most.    

…………………………………………..

Mark Sanchez met with the media one final time before the AFC Championship. The first year passer should be commended for cutting down on the turnovers marring portions of his regular season. Clearly, if Sanchez can manage the game ably, the Jets can win on any Sunday.

Add in his rediscovered skill at rolling out, and the patience he displayed waiting for Dustin Keller to break open in the end zone last Sunday in San Diego, before firing the pivotal go-ahead touchdown, and there’s plenty for Jets fans to be excited about as it concerns Sanchez.

Rightly viewed as a potential impediment to the team’s success through his midseason slide, Sanchez is now making positive, arguably vital, contributions.   

After the painful loss against Atlanta, which appeared to finish the Jets at the time, Sanchez had an illuminating series of talks with Tony Richardson and Thomas Jones about the importance of protecting the ball and displaying responsibility. “Absolutely,’ Sanchez said as he began discussing the talks, “and they just put it to me in a way that, you know, this could be our last shot at it this year type of thing. You know, ‘we love the way you play, we obviously love your instincts.’ But at the same time there’s a point where you have to say, like Coach Schottenheimer says, “You have to say Uncle.”

Sanchez considered this an essential step in his development. He outlined how this type of free flowing discussion could be of benefit in certain game situations. “I think the best part was the exchange we had, it wasn’t them just hammering something to me and not letting me talk about it, but after that, I said, hey, look, keep talking to me like that, keep that going, and you know, coming into the huddle and, all right, hey, third down, or during a time-out, okay, fourth quarter, two minutes left, those are the things I’m saying to myself, but now I have T-Rich and now I have Thomas Jones even helping me with it; on this one I have a drag, on this one I’m running a balloon and going to be checking down over the ball if there’s nothing and that’s the last thing I hear from T.J. , if somebody falls down and we get pressure, I know where T.J. is going to be because he reminded me. Stuff like that just opened the door of communication and it’s been awesome.”

Helpful communication with teammates.

………………………………….

Rex Ryan shared his parting thoughts before leading his team to Indianapolis:

On team merchandise featuring an AFC Champions logo: “All right, I got nothing to say much, really. I will say this. I understand we are selling the championship, AFC Championship merchandise, bags and all that kind of stuff… so I like that thinking. But the other team in the league are doing it,  you have Indy, New Orleans, Minnesota, just so everybody is clear on that. But I’ll be honest, I was like ‘What? But I like it, I like it.”

On all things Shaun Ellis:

 Restricted in practice? “He’s not restricted. You know, I know his hand is in a cast and all that stuff but there’s no limitations whatsoever from him.”

Using a different cast? “We tried to put a different one on and it was just like, you know, it’s going to be natural, but he would rather have it like this. So we looked at doing different things, but he feels good this way.” [meaning the original cast will be used]

Will he play a normal amount? “Yes.”

On Jim Leonhard: “I knew about Jim Leonhard when he came out of Wisconsin, I really wanted him. He ended up going to the bills, I don’t know it that was money or what it was but he made a mistake and went to the Bills. When his name came up, George Dukanis said, remember this kid that you really liked, he just got released on by the Bills, so we [the Ravens] jumped at him.

On Leonhard signing with the Jets: “Trust me, we were not the only team that knew how good Jim Leonhard was. There was a team that basically offered him a million dollars more in his package to go somewhere else, but he chose to come here.”

JETS 17 – CHARGERS 14

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Jets back up brash talk and shock the heavily favored Chargers to advance to the AFC Championship for the first time in 11 years.

SAN DIEGO, CA - When the San Diego Chargers were really rolling this season, their kinetic pass happy offense in perfect rhythm, they were capable of conjuring refined metaphorical comparisons outside the realms usually associated with professional football.

Sure, a downright nasty offensive line was on constant guard, but the enduring images of this dynamic attack most definitely struck an artistic nerve. There was Phil Rivers, fluttering pinpoint spirals downfield, unorthodox throwing motion producing an astounding level of accuracy.

Here were his weapons, tremendously gifted athletes plucking flying footballs from the sky with grace transcending simple highlight reel fodder. The Chargers were a finesse team so talented and deep that their weaknesses appeared a mirage, worthless stat sheet bookkeeping bearing little weight on an inevitable date with destiny. Many of their fans believed them invincible.

Vincent Jackson defying the laws of gravity with outrageous downfield leaps. Darren Sproles exploding from the backfield on a screen, leaving vapor trails in his wake. These were the Chargers, a sun splashed thrill ride, the coach cast perfectly, cerebral Norv Turner conducting an orchestra.

So naturally, as Rivers faded back to throw on the second play of San Diego’s final drive of the third quarter, perilously drifting into his own end zone, a foreboding pall had already spread among the denizens of Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers may have been ahead, but their scoring output of a mere seven points, far removed from the twenty-point marker that had become customary, represented a very pressing source of concern.  San Diego’s surprising struggle, manifested by a tenacious Jets defense, was painted vividly within their defining characteristic: Image. Despite Rivers’ satisfactory statistical performance, the Chargers simply looked… off. Fighting for every yard. Unable to summon a game-changing moment at will. Were different players suddenly residing inside those super stylish jerseys? Where were the theatrics? Rivers and company showed signs, even been denied points by a disintegrating kicker. But it was a clear which team was dictating tempo, despite the scoreboard’s 7-3 verdict favoring the home team.

Those numbers were about to change.

S Kerry Rhodes with a blind side sack and ball strip on Chargers QB Philip Rivers during the Jets 17-14 win over San Diego. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

For Rivers, appearing rushed in his mechanics, unleashed a throw resembling a wounded duck. The floater was directed toward Antonio Gates, who never even turned around to find the wayward pass. Instead, resourceful Jets safety Jim Leonhard scored an interception, corralling the pigskin with care, protecting a gift. A contest that had been pointing in New York’s direction for nearly the entirety of the afternoon, based on basic feel and an inexcusable parade of mental blunders by the favorite, was about to tilt completely to the underdog.

The grand orchestra had arrived out of tune. That much was certain. Now their instruments were about to be splintered.

When it was all over, the final tally 17-14 for the Jets, many questions lingered, most concerning the Chargers. How had this exquisite machine been so thoroughly dismantled? A scapegoat could be cast, explaining away all the intricate details producing this decade’s first true playoff shocker. Nate Kaeding’s inexplicable meltdown does indeed provide plenty of fuel for that argument. The real explanation is multifaceted, however.

“We looked ugly there for awhile, we took their best shot though,” said Jets coach Rex Ryan afterward. “We say that fourth quarter is like championship rounds, and our guys really stood up, we needed that first down by our offense, great job man, came down to it, that’s a heck of a football team over there, we knew it was going to be an all day event, that’s for sure.” 

 The Jets live and die with their defense. In a game testing this unit’s ability unlike any other, with a trip to the Conference Championship at stake, against an aerial attack verging on unstoppable, this group defense dug deep and delivered.

David Harris chalked up ten tackles, nine of the solo variety. He was a constant presence, patrolling the underneath lane with incredible range, curtailing a potential weakness in the Jets’ aggressive, attacking game plan. Considering the remarkable receiving talents of San Diego’s running backs, and Norv Tuner’s slick motion formations creating free space for receivers just beyond scrimmage, the importance of Harris, smack in the middle of all the chaos, could not be understated. While Darrelle Revis is finally receiving due appreciation for his incredible play at cornerback, David Harris continues establishing his credentials among the upper echelon in relative anonymity.

As for Revis, his incredible, sprawling, third quarter interception of a pass intended for Vincent Jackson just may have changed the outcome. Revis somehow managed to snag the football after it deflected off Jackson’s leg, as the acrobatic receiver fell to the turf. The Chargers had started this particular drive with favorable field position, planted at the Jets thirty-eight after a Mark Sanchez interception. They faced a third and eight, the impact of a big Jackson catch and sprint on first down limited due to an illegal block in the back by Malcolm Floyd.

Rivers faced pressure from the Jets defensive line, fully asserting themselves. Rivers scrambled out of the pocket to avoid a certain sack, taking quick, panicked steps before heaving a prayer toward Jackson. Jackson, in single coverage against Revis at the Jets seventeen, leapt for the pass, and managed to outbox Revis for position. The catch belonged to Jackson, Revis left batting at his hands, which, for one precious second, possessed the football. But Jackson could not complete the play, the pigskin slipping through his fingers and bouncing off his legs, still up for grabs. Incredibly, as Revis laid flat on his back, he managed to catch the still live football. The All World Defensive Back returned the interception for six yards, stunning the Chargers. Had they been able to punt, the Jets could have been faced with the same type of terrible field position that had short-circuited their offense in the first half. Instead, New York was able to pin San Diego on their own four-yard line thanks to a quality Steve Weatherford punt, which concluded their proceeding drive. This sequence set up Rivers’ devastating miscommunication with Gates.

Revis placed it all in motion.

Sione Pouha, who has filled in quite admirably for Kris Jenkins, was a frequent, and surely unwelcome, disruption at the Chargers’ point of attack, collecting five tackles. Unsung defensive line grinders like Pouha and Mike DeVito were instrumental in the Jets’ dominant efforts against the run. Tomlinson was completely neutralized. Meanwhile, Bryan Thomas, who seems to be playing his finest football at a most opportune time, encapsulated the Jets’ defensive day with a bone jarring tackle of Chargers fullback Mike Tolbert.

The defenses’ emotional leader, boisterous Bart Scott, chipped in with four tackles, and Jim Leonhard had that aforementioned, momentum shifting interception.

Safety Kerry Rhodes, maligned by critics for an inconsistent campaign, shined bright. He racked up eight tackles, a strip sack of Philip Rivers that flashed shades of his previous pass rushing prowess, and a big time recovery of a perfectly executed, high arching onside kick by Mike Scifres. Rhodes utilized a nifty vertical leap and sure hands to place the Jets in perfect position to run out the clock. The Chargers had just cut New York’s lead to three in the fourth quarter.

Here was a total team effort, and the plaudits do extend to the offense.

Much of the credit for a tempo-setting 169 yards of total rushing offense should be reserved for the offensive line, a synchronized force comprised of heralded free agents and high draft picks. They knew when to seize the moment. The Jets, leading 17-14, were a first down away from totally salting away the game. Facing a fourth and one from the Chargers twenty-nine, their fearsome trench troupe blew the Chargers defensive line off the ball one final time, allowing Thomas Jones to gain two yards, securing a truly extraordinary victory.

But the biggest rush of the game had occurred earlier in the fourth quarter. With nearly nine minutes remaining, and the Jets toting a 10-7 lead after cashing in on Leonhard’s pick, Shonn Greene took a first down handoff up the middle for fifty-three yards and a resounding touchdown. Greene bowled over Safety Eric Weddle on his way to paint. The Jets were now up 17-7, giving themselves the breathing room often missing in other disappointing regular season defeats.

The regular season couldn’t be further away.

Greene, becoming a certified freshman sensation, rushed for 128 yards, his second straight 100-yard excursion in the playoffs.

 Speaking of rookies, it was another fine exercise in game management for Mark Sanchez. While he started off slow, missing a few easy completions, Sanchez proved more than capable. His touchdown to Dustin Keller early in the fourth quarter gave the Jets a lead that they would not relinquish. Sanchez, who was rolling out on the play, demonstrated ample agility and patience, finding Keller in the right corner of the end zone with a dart-like strike. Greene’s touchdown was only possible due to a third down Sanchez completion to Jerricho Cotchery. Sanchez flashed commendable accuracy on the seven-yard pass, hitting Cotchery on his back shoulder, where only his receiver could make the catch. “I’m not comparing stats in any game, that’s not what I’m all about,” said Sanchez. “And that’s not what this team’s about. We want to win the game. That’s the most important stat… It’s unbelievable. It’s special. I’m counting my blessings.”

The Chargers’ one dimensionality was revealed against the Jets. Forget a viable alternate option, their running game was a weakness. With Darrelle Revis and the Jets secondary refusing to allow a game-breaking play, the Chargers were left collecting chunks of yardage that New York seemed willing to sacrifice. “The passing game I don’t think was an issue. They’re very good up front. They did a good job against us. We weren’t able to get anything going in the running game,” acknowledged defeated Chargers head coach Norv Turner. “That’s what ultimately makes it difficult and we missed opportunities obviously as we know. We missed a couple field goals we normally make and a couple times down in there we had penalties that took us out.”

When the defense was pushed, they responded, leaving the Chargers relying on kicker Nate Kaeding. Incredibly enough, Kaeding, one of the most accurate kickers in League history, missed three field goals. The misfires occurred, in order, from 37, 57, and 40 yards.

The Chargers were also undisciplined, a myriad of penalties pushing them backward throughout all four quarters, culminating in Vincent Jackson’s immature, insolent kick of a challenge flag as San Diego attempted a frantic comeback.

San Diego had opened the scoring with a thirteen-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, from Rivers to Kris Wilson.

The Jets, of course, would close the show.

Cancel the symphony.

The grunge band is moving on.

Tuesday Insider Report: The Big Question

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

When meeting a loaded opponent on the road in the playoffs, the underdog is usually faced with a myriad of difficult questions.

 In the Jets’ case, they must ask themselves whether their top ranked rushing attack can set a furious enough tempo to force a sizzling San Diego outfit outside a comfort zone unchallenged in months. They must also ask themselves whether their heralded defense, undoubtedly the finest unit remaining in the playoffs, can slow down a juggernaut Chargers offense that has racked up at least twenty points in every single game this season. Can New York’s criminally underrated secondary mitigate a dynamic passing attack? Surely, the Jets coaching staff, led by hyper confident ringleader Rex Ryan, have faith in their personnel. Yet, until the results begin pouring in from outside the hypothetical realm, eyeing the matchups and making predictions brings one no closer to the cold hard truth. That will be revealed this Sunday.

But the most delectable possibility, concerning the Jets anyway, has not yet been mentioned. It’s a development that would elevate them into another stratosphere, no doubt championship contenders.

Impressive defensive prowess, outlandish physicality, and admirable cohesiveness have delivered a heretofore inconsistent group onto the doorstep of greatness, though one mitigating factor may send them crashing en masse into a celebratory party that even the most starry eyed optimist never could have envisioned. And it’s a simple question, far less complicated than those queries aforementioned: Has the quarterback figured it out? 

Mark Sanchez: If he's good, are the Jets great?

After all the overblown controversies, glorified accomplishments, perfect throws followed by folly, harsh times and practice slides, has Mark Sanchez taken the next step, smack in the middle of a potentially historic Super Bowl run?

Well, some stirring evidence has recently surfaced that this is a far different quarterback than the beleaguered version singularly responsible for a few brutal regular season setbacks.  But sports can provide reprieves damn near immediate.  The Jets’ recent success has rendered Sanchez’s growing pains an unpleasant memory, instead of the principal alibi for a disappointing campaign. Suddenly, the playoffs were a real chance to put it all together, tie together all those individually strong facets into an unstoppable force. Not many gave the Jets a legitimate shot to turn this difficult trick.  Have they?

Sanchez is the key.  Like any quarterback on the precipice of something truly special, his narrative now mirrors the whole.  Stall in San Diego, and Sanchez, along with the Jets, are a temporarily noteworthy story.  Everyone agrees the future is bright. A polite applause is reserved for a roster that approached the inconceivable, without taking total possession of a miracle and calling it their own. Just a few steps short of destiny… soon, the Jets are forgotten. As they should be, overtaken by conference championship game coverage, and eventually, a Super Bowl they could have improbably participated in. The offseason begins, and the whole process starts over again, new characters and circumstances, a harrowing amount of work ahead. They start over. And Sanchez, too, starts over. Arriving off a poor statistical rookie year that may have ended with a flourish, but ultimately, did not prove much of anything.

The Jets and Sanchez. Intertwined.

The rookie stepped to the podium today wearing a USC tee shirt and sporting a bushy beard. “It was a special game last week,” Sanchez said. ”Just taking care of the football, making the right decisions. I still have a lot of work to do.” This work in progress compiled a 139.4 passer rating in his postseason debut. It seemed offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer exposed a few favorable matchups. “He’s taught me so much about playing in this league,” Sanchez said of Schottenheimer, who is suddenly a sought after head coaching commodity.

He called close to a perfect game.

Had Braylon Edwards corralled a sure touchdown pass, instead of dropping it in the end zone, Sanchez’s stats may have been even more impressive. As it was, game plan and execution had worked very well in concert. “Just keep throwing him the ball,” a supportive Sanchez said regarding Edwards, “He’s bound to catch it.” 

Sanchez took a definite step forward beginning with the Colts game, an overlooked occurrence, obscured due to Jim Caldwell’s controversial decision to bench his regulars. The improvement carried over. “It just kind of gradually turned,” said Sanchez of his development. “At the press conference after the Cincy game, [it hit me], it all just came together… turnovers get you beat in this league.”  A hard lesson had been learned.  

Sanchez was eventually asked how it felt to be among the final NFL quarterbacks standing, an elite group featuring brand names all over the place. “It’s great,” he said, before quickly adding, “But you don’t just want to be there. You want to win it.”

Despite his youth, Sanchez is highly conscious of this chance’s preciousness. He relayed an inspiring conversation with Thomas Jones, wherein the veteran running back encouraged Sanchez to keep championship visions in mind while toiling in the film room.  “That could be us,” Sanchez said. “It could change your life forever. You can be a champion forever.”

 New York’s defense and running game…  truly a topnotch pair… a symbiotic partnership essential to the team finding victory. But, just as he needed to do against a lesser team in Cincinnati, Sanchez must step up. The Chargers may be slowed down by this defense, but they will still make plays. The Jets must reply. 

Sanchez need not imitate Kurt Warner. If he is good, the Jets are great. And there’s no telling what a great team can do.  They answer all the questions.

……………………………

Here’s some news from Rex Ryan’s presser, straight from the coach.

On Braylon Edwards [who missed practice for a court appearance stemming from a misdemeanor assault charge back in Cleveland on October 5th] having a breakout game: “I just sense it. The drops stick out. But look at the catches he’s made, the blocks. I told him the next time you’re open like that, catch it one-handed. He looked at me like I was crazy, like you guys do.”

On Steve Weatherford: “We [certainly hope he’s better].”… I think he’s fine right now.”

On Revis not winning Defensive player of the year:“I would like to congratulate the people who voted for Darrelle Revis. The number is eight, and no, that’s not the number of touchdowns Green Bay gave up to Arizona, it’s the number of passing touchdowns we’ve given up… Revis is going for different hardware. This for me is the most impact a corner has ever made in a season…” [Charles Woodson won the award.]

On the recent positive developments shown by Mark Sanchez: “You can’t buy experience. He’s able to read defenses. It’s the confidence and command of the offense [he has shown.] …When you’re a young Q.B. , he’s just worried about what our play is. He’s clearly passed that now.”

On if he cares about the Jets’ perception in the eyes of other teams: “Don’t care.”

Previewing the Wildcard Round: Jets Vs. Bengals

Friday, January 8th, 2010

The slate is clean, all patterns erased. The playoffs represent a completely fresh challenge. Sure, the New York Jets, plagued by inconsistency in ’09, could still play sloppily with everything on the line. But a new chapter has begun, and that fact is beyond dispute. 

This circumstance can be construed as either a gift or curse. For New York, the former designation definitely applies. They needed everything short of divine intervention to secure an invitation. But a superpower sitting idle with a bye must overcome the pressure of preserving a superb season, without the safety net of second chances. Momentum is fickle.

One wonders how to categorize the Cincinnati Bengals.

They can neither be classified an elite outfit, nor hopeful party crasher. As a golden opportunity for greatness draws closer, the Bengals must either find, or redefine themselves. It is a formless squad at the moment, completely embarrassed by the Jets last week, while resting a few key players.

Their message is inconsistent. Carson Palmer thought they had a legitimate game plan and aspirations for victory against the Jets.

“I don’t think we were vanilla at all.  We came out.  We had a game plan and we went after it.  We just didn’t play our game plan well,” claimed Palmer on a conference call. Chad Ochocinco differed, suggesting their scheme simplistic, a humbling defeat masquerading an underlying trick of deception. “Similar to a preseason game,” he said of the Bengals’ approach.

Cincinnati possesses an elite receiver in Ochocinco, and an accomplished quarterback in Carson Palmer. Recent editions of the team had relied on an explosive offensive aerial show for success. But the Bengals underwent a makeover for ‘09, transforming into a smash mouth squad. Bruising running back Cedric Benson, unavailable Sunday night, became their key player, the tempo-setter. Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine does not need to be reminded. “He’s a key component of their success,” said Pettine. “He’s rested now a week, which I think was a goal of theirs on Sunday.  No matter what happened, they should have him rested going into the playoffs.  He’s been their guy.  They’ve transitioned in the period of a year to a run first offense and he’s the centerpiece of that.  Add to that now that he’s rested, it’s a big challenge for us.  The offensive line is a solid group and I think they threw it a little bit more on Sunday than they are planning to do this Saturday.  Stopping Benson is a critical thing for us,” concluded the coordinator.  

Featuring a fleet and tenacious group of linebackers, and a dynamic duo at corner, the Bengals’ defense quickly earned respect around the league. After nearly a decade under his watch, it seems they had finally cultivated a philosophy and approach suiting Marvin Lewis, an acclaimed defensive mind. Play the ground and pound and stout defense, protect possession, watch the wins pile up…

The Bengals’ resilience has been thoroughly tested, their exhibited toughness unparalleled. When assessing all the adversity they have been through in 2009, it becomes apparent Cincinnati has accomplished plenty already. The fact they even have their flag planted in playoff soil is quite remarkable.

Between the discouraging setbacks of week one and seventeen, the Bengals were forced to survive years of hardship condensed into mere days. They had to contend with the death of Wide Receiver Chris Henry, a terrible tragedy. Henry, dogged by off-field transgressions throughout his early career, seemed to be transitioning toward a more positive mindset before a domestic dispute evolved into something unfathomable. In addition to the crushing death of Henry, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer lost his wife Vikki at age 50. 

Defensive End Antwan Odom and talented rookie Rey Maualuga would end up on injured reserve, the latter injury especially devastating, compromising the linebacker unit, which had been essential to the Bengals’ excellent defense.

The Bengals have endured a campaign that would have demolished a lesser team. They persevered. The returns of key defensive pieces like Domata Peko, Chris Crocker, and Robert Geathers for the playoffs shoulder bolster a unit that appeared beaten in their previous outing.

The Jets and Bengals do sport similarities. They are both run conscious, but the Jets are pretty much forced to focus on that facet, while the Bengals kill the clock on their own volition. They both boast strong defenses, especially against the pass. But the trajectory of their two seasons could not be more divergent.

The Bengals’ journey, though blighted by tragedy, reflected their conservative philosophy. There were flashes of the total dominance Cincinnati will no doubt aspire toward in 2010, especially a clean sweep of the defending champion Steelers, but overall, the Bengals grinded, and looked pretty exhausted themselves down the stretch.

Meanwhile, the Jets were consistently bizarre, blowing sure wins, luckily avoiding losses, a championship caliber team except at the most important position. No doubt, the Jets have turned a rare trick in 2009, developing a rookie quarterback, who appeared overmatched at times, while making the playoffs. To offset Mark Sanchez’s predictable growing pains, the Jets ran the ball with ferocity, defended the pass expertly, and stopped opposing rushers admirably, especially considering they were largely without the services nose tackle Kris Jenkins.

The availability of David Harris, stricken with an ankle injury, is pivotal for the Jets. Harris will be a key ingredient in stopping Cedric Benson.  “It’s getting better. I’ve been up here all day getting treatment, getting rehab and doing everything I can to get back on the field. Hopefully I’ll be fine by Saturday,” said Harris.

On a somewhat fascinating note, Cedric Benson admitted earlier this week to not even knowing who David Harris was. “I had a couple of guys tell me that. I’m only the leading tackler on the number one defense,” said Harris with a laugh. “It’s just hard to not know who I am.” If Harris does play, he’ll have a chance to make a personal introduction. “If I play, I’m sure I’ll introduce myself early in the game to him. We’ll see,” said Harris, laughing again.

David Harris probably has a rude greeting in mind for Cedric Benson, but will the star linebacker suit up?

The Jets’ strange adventure ultimately added up to nine wins, and a chance many feel they don’t deserve. Well, to quote noted frontier philosopher William Munney, “deserve’s got nothing to do with it.” The Jets have a spectacular running game and a defense flush with elite level talent. If they reach the Super Bowl, it will be an incredible story, but not an inconceivable one. Stranger things have happened than a great defense and running game carrying an otherwise flawed team to the promise land.

As for this game: I keep coming back to one question: Who’s making a big play for Cincinnati? Who’s breaking this game for the Bengals? It’ll be close, for sure, the dynamic rushing attacks battling for supremacy, both defenses up to the task. But I simply see the Jets, for all their issues at quarterback and other quirks, possessing more big play capability. For instance, the Bengals do not have wildcard like Brad Smith. “When we brought him in, the main thing is we thought we were getting a heck of a receiver, which we still feel that way,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said regarding Smith. “He came with an asterisk that he can do certain things. I said last week that the greatest thing about Brad is you can put him under center. He doesn’t have to solely work out of the shotgun. That’s not something easy to do. His role has expanded this year through the course of the season. Leon (Washington) was kind of the guy we used initially in the Seminole package.  Brad was a part of it. When Leon went down, Brad became more involved with that.”

Smith can make an impact on special teams, too, another factor that could tilt the contest toward the road team. Lauded Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff on Smith: “I went to Missouri and worked him out.  I loved him.  I feel like the prognostic here because last week when you guys asked me I said, ‘When is the only time you’ve seen him with the ball in his hands and didn’t like him?’  He’s pretty good.  I loved Brad with the ball and thought he should be a teams guy.  When I was at Missouri, we had talked about it.  The place was in mourning when he was leaving.  They loved him, everybody from the equipment guys to the trainers to the coaches.  He’s just such an athlete.”

Smith could be the difference

This is not a slight to the Bengals’ principal playmakers, compared to the Jets. Just match-ups.

The Jets secondary will be the difference.

 New York 20 Cincinnati 10

TUESDAY INSIDER JETS REPORT

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

How the Jets can win the Super Bowl

FLORHAM PARK, NJ  - So the Jets just won the Super Bowl. Confetti’s streaming all over. Somebody, probably on defense, is going to Disney World.

A team merely two games over break even in the regular season, that needed ample assistance to reach the postseason, has stunningly corralled the ultimate prize.

Shocking doesn’t begin to describe this twist of fate. Unprecedented would qualify. A rookie coach and quarterback, a grounded aerial attack, and an uncanny tendency to forfeit victories when they appeared a total certainty, all these perceived postseason weaknesses had been surmounted.

It’s the most unbelievable championship run in New York since the miracle Mets of 1969, even more unexpected than the Giants’ amazing trophy drive two years ago.

How did they do it?  

OK, the dream’s concluded. Wake up!

How could they do it?

1. They stayed healthy.

The playoffs are the promise land, a destination desired by every executive, coach, and player plying their craft in the league.             Double that notion for a franchise prowling the outskirts of contention, jobs hanging perilous in the balance between victory and defeat. The margins are wafer thin. Every transaction by the suits, game plan drawn up by the headset troupe, and play executed by the team is dedicated toward that pursuit, the elusive gift of true opportunity, the shot to stand victorious on a podium, a validated organization.

The playoffs are different. The elevated intensity practically leaps off the television screen.

But it is a mistake to assume that the standard level of gridiron chaos subsides just because the games mean so much more. The constant press conferences and heightened media coverage, the delirium of fans, these differences can get us thinking in dramatic terms. The star quarterback doesn’t get hurt in the movie. The best player’s knee doesn’t combust. But these things can happen in January, just as easily as in October.

The Bengals saw Super bowl visions disintegrate in the 2005 Wild Card game when Carson Palmer took a devastating shot low, courtesy of Kimo Von Oelhoffen. Palmer’s knee was mangled, and the Steelers won a Super Bowl that could have belonged to Cincinnati. Nothing very cinematic about that…

Everyone remembers Leonard Marshall’s brutal hit on Joe Montana in the 1991 NFC Championship game.  

After losing essential players like Kris Jenkins and Leon Washington way before the tournament, the Jets simply can’t withstand another major loss. All the trades, game plans, hopes, dreams, and schemes go out the window should Darrelle Revis sustain an injury.

On that note, New York also desperately needs David Harris anchoring the linebacker core next week. If they are to make a legendary dash for glory, the Jets need to be healthy.

2.Mark Sanchez did not turn the ball over – neither did the rest of his offensive teammates.

If there’s one thing that practically invites a playoff thrashing, it’s when a road underdog cannot maintain possession of the pigskin, offering up a bounty for the home team, and placing their defense firmly on heel.

Countless playoff showdowns have been rendered laughers once the fumbles began rolling and interceptions started flying.

The stature of the team and their frequency of mistakes are definitely connected. The less of a realistic shot for an underdog to pull an upset, and the more likely they attempt compensating for a sizable talent gulf with risky maneuvers. A running back will stretch for an extra yard and neglect ball security. A quarterback will channel his inner Favre and test triple coverage. Should the underdog fall behind early, a comedy of errors often follows.

The Jets are in a rare position. New York is undeniably fortunate to have made the playoffs, but they do not necessarily need to employ a reckless philosophy, beyond the reach of their abilities. Toting a top ranked defense and running game, the Jets are not a garden-variety wild card team. Just last year, a dangerous Chargers outfit, that secured a division title only because the Broncos imploded, defeated the favored Colts in the first round. The Chargers were, and remain, obviously, completely loaded with talent. They didn’t need to deviate from their usual strategy. Although the Jets will be on the road for their wild card matchup, as opposed to the Chargers in ’08, they should share a similar mindset.

If Rex Ryan’s gang plays their best, they could beat just about anyone. Inconsistency at a key position often precludes them from firing on all cylinders, but despite the fortuitous sequence of events allowing their entry into the playoffs, these Jets belong, especially against the Bengals. No need to pray for miracles.

That in mind, there really would be no excuse for turnovers.  The Jets defense can withstand one major mistake, maybe two, but a total breakdown, in the vein of the second New England game, would be totally unacceptable. This is not a team that should be playing desperate from the opening gun, and the Bengals’ newfound conservatism on offense will probably preclude early home team fireworks. 

If New York does defeat Cincinnati, they should carry the same calm mindset into proceeding match-ups.

The Jets have self-destructed before in 2009.  With the overall skill level of their roster, and the great opportunity they have secured, it would be a real shame for that trait to be a defining mark.

3.The Running game took over. 

Where are the Jets without Thomas Jones? Nowhere. Jones assumed an even heavier responsibility when Leon Washington suffered a season ending leg injury. The third year Jet appeared to be wearing down late, neutralized by a mediocre Falcons run defense in week fifteen. Fortunately for the Jets, Jones still had octane in the tank, rebounding with strong outings against the Colts and Bengals. The emergence of Shonn Greene has definitely helped. Greene will be vital for the Jets in the playoffs, spotting Jones. The explosive rookie is also capable of changing a game with one run, though his penchant for fumbling could prove extremely detrimental.

Completely reliant on this phase, the Jets have found creative ways to generate big plays with the run, especially last week with Brad Smith. They may have a few other gadgets up their sleeve for the Wildcard round. The offensive line shined brightly on Smith’s long gainers. The efforts of this group are absolutely vital for a sustained playoff push.  

Brandon Moore and the offensive line are key to the Jets' championship hopes.

4. The defense dominated. 

The Jets defense is arguably playing their finest football going into the playoffs, shutting out the Bengals week seventeen, and totally embarrassing Carson Palmer in the process. They received zero plaudits for defeating the Colts at Indianapolis after Jim Caldwell pulled his starters, but the big strip fumble of Curtis Painter, executed by an onrushing Calvin Pace, was probably the biggest single play of the entire season. 

Pace has enjoyed a remarkable year, considering his absence in the first four games of the season. He is just one piece of a unit that is arguably the strongest in the league. The exploits of Darrelle Revis are finally receiving deserved due. Shaun Ellis chalked up one of his most disruptive campaigns. Bart Scott proved an adept tackler and excellent in coverage. And on…

Should the offense successfully employ an intelligent approach, rooted in ball control and clock killing, the defense could be poised to dominate.

Their presence practically guarantees close games.

Bart Scott and the Jets D will keep New York in the game.

5. They finished.

Championship caliber teams close the show. Those brutal home losses against Buffalo and Jacksonville typify a roster prepared to win on a physical level, but perhaps lacking a mental edge. Communication breakdowns were the principal cause for the Jaguar defeat, while the Bills game exposed the inexperience under center. Have the Jets grown? They needed to.   

…………

Quotes from the opposition:

Carson Palmer and Marvin Lewis were available via conference call today. Here were some of their thoughts.

Palmer:

His relationship with Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez: “I’ve known [Mark] for probably ten or fifteen years. I first met him back when I was a young guy in high school and he was kind of hanging around. His brother was one of my teammates on our high school football team. I met Mark way when I was probably a sophomore in high school.

How often does he communicate with Sanchez? “It depends on what time of the year. If it’s the off season quite a bit, and during the season its tough just because he’s extremely busy being there in New York with all the stuff he’s got going on. I get pretty busy out here.”

On whether he had advice for Sanchez regarding the media: “Mark is obviously a very smart kid, but coming from USC, it’s a little bit different but not much different than the New York media. He’s used to that being the USC starting quarterback, being the only game in town with no NFL team.”

On his offense struggling against the Jets’ defense this past Sunday: “I don’t think we were vanilla at all. We came out. We had a game plan and we went after it. We just didn’t play our game plan well. We got outplayed obviously by a very good team. We’re not going to hide a bunch of things. We’re going to have a couple of new wrinkles, but we are who we are just like the Jets are who we think they are which is very good.”

Lewis:

On whether it will be a different Bengals team this Sunday: “We have to go and play better football. We didn’t play good enough football. We got our butts kicked in. We have to play better football than we did Sunday night this weekend.”

On the return of Cedric Benson: We have to do a better job of blocking the guys up front, getting on the right guys and so forth.  The runners aren’t going to make any runs without the people up front doing a better job. That’s going to be key for us.”

Did the Bengals hold back on Sunday? “That really isn’t relevant right now at all to the situation. We’re going to play the Jets on Saturday and what we did, or didn’t do, doesn’t really matter now.”

………………………….

Rex Ryan had his daily press conference. The most pressing team related news involved David Harris, who did not participate in practice with an injured ankle. With the way Ryan was talking about Kenwin Cummings and Ryan Fowler, it seems Harris missing the game this Saturday is a definite possibility.

Ryan on Mark Sanchez this Saturday: “We just need him to be efficient… Joe Montana would have had struggled in those conditions. [Sunday] He’s as confident as I’ve seen him.”

Ryan on Cedric Benson’s potential impact: “Benson’s had a great year. There’s a lot of confidence in him. Maybe they’ll take a more running approach.”

Ryan’s thoughts on the phrase ‘same old Jets’: “Nothing. That’s not the Jets I know.”

Ryan on Shaun Ellis: “His peers recognize Shaun as a tremendous football player… he can play in any type of defense.”

Ryan on Shonn Greene’s fumbling issues: “He’s got to get that out… he knows how carry the football… the kid never fumbled in college. Mentally he’s got to know he isn’t a fumbler.”

James Ihedigbo suffered a stinger in practice but eventually returned for full participation.

……………………………..

On behalf of myself, and JetsInsider.com, I send my condolences to the Johnson family in this difficult time.

JETS 37 – BENGALS 0

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Jets exorcise demons, come up big against Bengals to clinch playoff spot.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – Taking the snap from behind center, Brad Smith faked a dish and squared his shoulders with a sudden, violent flex. He proceeded downfield, slicing through a wide-open seam punctured into an overmatched opposing defensive front. Breaking a tackle with relative ease, the multitalented specialist, physically imposing and agile, reached the end zone with a dramatic dive. The 32 yard scramble blew open a contest that the Jets had been thoroughly dominating, setting the stage for a night of unabated celebration. The score was now 17-0, and would end up 37-0.  

The New York Jets were twenty steps ahead of the Bengals in every phase of the game, mauling their opponent at the point of attack and befuddling them with a series of savvy play calls that utilized the electric, heretofore largely untapped talent of breakout star Brad Smith.  “I just try to take advantage of the opportunities given to me. I try to help this team,” said Smith after the game. “It’s all about team. You can ask any guy in this locker room and they’ll sacrifice anything to help this team win.”

Jets CB Dwight Lowery who had an INT, celebrates the Jets 37-0 whipping of the Bengals.

Smith also made a massive impact operating out of the wildcat on the Jets’ first possession of the night, setting the proper tone for a raucous rout. The former Missouri standout took a direct snap from New York’s 42 and dashed behind right tackle for a 57 yards, stirring a sold out Meadowlands crowd. Smith nearly scored, but was dropped from behind by dynamic Bengals corners Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph. Neither was to be a factor however, this scintillating Smith jaunt an explosive harbinger for a night tinted green and white.

The room available for Smith to burst through the line of scrimmage was indicative of the bullying the Bengals’ first level endured for four quarters.  When the carnage was complete and the statistics could be counted, running back Thomas Jones concluded with seventy-eight yards and two touchdowns, while Shonn Greene notched a 4.8 average on thirteen attempts. But these numbers, though note-worthy, do not properly convey the Jets’  ground dominance. It seemed they could run at will, against a quick defense that had been stout all season. Surely the absences of Rey Maualuga and Domata Peko contributed to the Bengals’ woeful performance.  Robert Geathers and Chris Crocker were also held out of the lineup. That said, Cincinnati must be concerned about being overpowered by their competition in next week’s Wild Card round.

Brad Smith provided the excitement, but the Jets defense brutalized the Bengals with the same vicious efficiency as the offensive line. Carson Palmer, under constant harassment from unpredictable blitz packages and interior pressure, played pitifully. He completed only one pass.

Meanwhile, eccentric receiver extraordinaire Chad Ochocinco did not record a catch after engaging Jets Corner Darrelle Revis in friendly a war of words in the days leading toward their showdown. Ochocinco’s day got off to an awful start when he slipped and fell in pregame warm-ups, banging up his knee. “There were frozen spots on the field. I was running a route in pre-game, I slipped and banged my knee really hard,” said the receiver.

Not only was Ochocinco shut down by Revis, he caught licks from a nasty New York secondary. Revis employed a far more physical strategy than usual against his braggadocios foil. “It’s just me doing my job,” said Revis, humble as usual. “We talked back and forth during the week on Twitter a bit, but I cut it off by Wednesday so I can focus on my job and my preparation.’”

Ochocinco was also clocked early in the affair, Safety Kerry Rhodes delivering a knock while the player formerly known as Johnson dived for a low Palmer pass. The pop caused an incompletion. Ochocinco later dropped an easy grab over the middle, perhaps hearing footsteps. Despite a lackluster performance, Ochocinco does not seem willing to change his name. “Child please,” he replied when asked about the possibility.

The Bengals’ running game, a staple of their success in a surprisingly bountiful campaign, was completely nullified by a ravenous Jets defense. The final tallies may not read like a crime scene, but Cincy’s rushing attack had no bearing the outcome of a game that pretty quickly spun out of control.   “That’s not the outcome we wanted today,” said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. “The Jets outplayed us in all three phases and they got the victory. Now, we get a chance to regroup and keep going again next Saturday afternoon, and that’s about the size of it.”

The spectacular play of his teammates set up heavily scrutinized rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez for a commendable regular season finale. Sanchez finished the night  eight of sixteen, with sixty-three yards passing. His numbers could have been far prettier, if not for a drop deep by Braylon Edwards, and a touchdown pass to Cotchery later deemed a lateral.

 Sanchez guided an offense that was machinelike. They scored on their first drive, propelled by Smith. A near touchdown to Edwards early in the second, scuttled by an imprecise throw, led to a Jay Feely field goal. This settle would not haunt New York in the least. For in this quarter, the competitive portion of NBC’s showcase would conclude. Smith’s sprint to the paint made it 17-0. The Bengals’ offense had no answer. They didn’t even have a question. A tidy ten play drive just about ending the first half was punctuated by the six-yard lateral to Cotchery. It was one of the team’s finest drives of the season, a clinic. They faced one third down, only needing a single yard to convert. Suddenly, it was 24-0 New York, and the second half was window dressing.  A Dwight Lowery interception, paving the way for another Feely field goal as the first half expired, provided a fitting climax. The kick was up and good, the crowd was going crazy, and the Jets’ dreams were alive and well.

Not content to scale back their efforts in the second half, the Jets’ defense preserved an emphatic shutout, while the offense tacked on ten more points. Thomas Jones broke the franchise rushing touchdown record he set last season with a two-yard tuck into pay dirt.  Jones’ fourteen touchdowns provide ample evidence for his tremendous value in the red zone.  Jones was thrilled with winning the final game at the Meadowlands. “It feels great. I played here a lot. I played here when I was in Arizona and Chicago. There is a lot of history in this stadium and for us to go out the way we did, especially at the end doing a victory lap [with] tall the fans there. This is why you do it,’ concluded the halfback.

J.T. O’Sullivan, appearing in relief of Carson Palmer, threw for thirty-one yards.

For the Jets’ fans and franchise, it was a gratifying victory. Criticized in some quarters for controlling their own destiny entirely through the providence of Jim Caldwell, their first string defense obliterated a Bengals offense playing a full hand, save for Cedric Benson. And while the Bengals’ defensive unit was not at full strength, the Jets should not be negatively critiqued for taking full advantage of favorable circumstances. Everything seemed to go right, aside from an ankle injury to key linebacker David Harris, the severity of which is not immediately known. The Jets closed the Meadowlands with style. Marty Lyons gave a halftime speech rivaling Howard Dean in over-the-top earnestness. Old fan favorites like Victor Green barreled out of the tunnel one last time. The team took an emotional lap around the premises, thanking their supporters with very real sincerity. “It was great,” said Head Coach Rex Ryan, regarding the gesture. “They [the fans] were such a huge part all season. There were ties where it was probably hard to be a Jet fan, but they stuck with us. There was no doubt.

The playoffs were a reality, and anything suddenly appeared possible.

Three New Year’s Resolutions the Jets should consider, plus notes

Friday, January 1st, 2010

The cynic in me is unsure about the effectiveness of New Year’s resolutions.

Sure, the heart is in the right place, when personal promises are made on a night where new possibilities beckon. But whether these dalliances with self-improvement progress into legitimate evolution, or fade with a fresh cycle of days, is a question that the short term could never provide. Proof usually takes awhile to accumulate. But when that new slate solidifies permanent, the evidence is impossible to deny. Getting there sure is tough, though. If only our best intentions didn’t have to compete against the grind…

Amazingly enough, the supposedly snake bitten New York Jets football team, hounded by pessimists at every turn,  have been gifted a chance to capitalize on the rare commodity of certainty; to play beyond the fleeting holidays. 

Santa Claus must have been wearing green and white. Or maybe karma dropped a dime on the Jets back in preseason. Either way, the Jets know for sure that they are in the playoffs with a win. 

 A team on life support received enough outside assistance to hop off the gurney and dance a jig.

To reach the playoffs, in a season marked by inexplicable fundamental meltdowns and inconceivable defeats, overseen by a rookie head coach while a freshmen quarterback contributed his fair share of carnage, all this wildly inconsistent collection of talent must do is follow through on a few resolutions for one week, one game, one chance. Anything occurring thereafter should be considered house money. It’s like a smoker being totally cleansed after quitting for seven days.

To fail in this last regular season game would be utterly disastrous.  In fact, it could immediately derail hundreds of sobriety resolutions among an edgy fan-base.

Here’s how the Jets can avoid what would surely be an ignominious end…

Resolution the first: Mark Sanchez must resolve to manage the game

Lost in the tempest following Jim Caldwell’s controversial decision to bench Peyton Manning and company last week, essentially punting a perfect season, was the strong performance of Mark Sanchez. In his last road game approaching the magnitude of a showdown against spotless Indianapolis, Sanchez disintegrated against New England, faltering terribly at Foxboro. Other than an interception quickly nullified by a penalty, Sanchez did a superb job playing caretaker for a run oriented attack against the Colts. He was accurate, and although his contribution did not totally determine the outcome, it bodes well for another solid performance in far more favorable surroundings this Sunday.

Resolution the second: The team resolves not to get stuck in a moment

The Jets must resist the allure of this moment, suddenly so vibrant and immediate after appearing a total pipe dream only weeks prior. The Bengals boast two upper echelon cornerbacks in Jonathan Joseph and Leon Hall, and Sanchez in particular will pay for reckless mistakes. Establishing the running game will be vital, but such a commitment demands the excellent patience that the Jets exhibited against the Colts.

 Despite being soundly outplayed in the first half, a couple of near Colts misses from being totally shellacked in fact, the Jets held firm to measured game-plan, especially after that aforementioned near interception.

Uncertain increments of playing time, still to be doled out by Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, have many leaping to conclude this contest will be a Jets runaway.

That assumption overlooks a basic fact about this Jets team: They are not built to blow out opponents. If the game is still close after the first half, wariness may stifle the crowd.

But the Jets cannot let uncontrollable external perceptions or a warped franchise history ruin their execution in this defining hour. 

All signs are pointing toward a Jets win against the Bengals.

 

Resolution the third: The team resolves not to concoct another completely unique recipe for defeat

A 9-7 record immediately conjures thoughts of boring, garden-variety mediocrity. Often, this kind of performance justifies a playoff berth that flames out quickly, the type of deficiencies producing seven losses over sixteen games dooming Cinderella.

There are exceptions of course, but the rule is usually unforgiving. Heck, plenty of teams with nine wins have flat missed the postseason. Just last year, the Patriots stayed home with eleven wins.

The Jets, winners of eight games, improbably control their own destiny. This fact could be construed mildly surprising, but nothing that’d cause a National Football League junkie to reevaluate his whole method of analysis.

It’s an unpredictable sport.

But if one were to actually analyze how the Jets have lost some of these dust-ups, their survival becomes even more stunning.

New York arguably owns the best defense in the league, to go along with a fantastic running game.  But as the season unfolded, the Jets continued suffering devastating setbacks that did not reflect their true talent level.  For a championship caliber group, just one of these brutal loses would have sufficed. The chaotic nature of football practically demands it. But just when it appeared the worst was over, the Jets would cook up something new. 

Sometimes the unfathomable would happen multiple times in the same game. Fumbled snaps, hall of fame tight ends wide open in the paint, dumb penalties, interceptions and incredulity, special teams coverage meltdowns, dropped passes, defensive indifference with the game on the line. You name it. The 2009 Jets probably blew it. Every phase of the game was accounted for.

And despite all that, this is still a team with massive potential. Potentially horrifying to face in the playoffs, with absolutely nothing to lose. This abject “ability” to swipe defeat from the jaws of victory is the primary reason why the Jets will be fighting for their season against Cincinnati. 

Who’s to say these demons won’t be lurking around the Meadowlands Sunday night?

This has nothing to do with Jets teams of the past. Quite simply, the ’09 edition has shown a staggering capacity for self-destruction.

The Bengals may do the Jets a great service in eliminating themselves as a threat. If the game is close, however, New York will either slay the dragon or see their dreams rendered ash.

Fundamental play is the answer. Experience is the best teacher. The Jets, as individuals, needed to learn to carry out this resolution. 

We shall see. 

News:

Bit of concern about punter Steve Weatherford, the Friday before a win or go home scenario. Head Coach Rex Ryan said Weatherford, “Did something with his right hamstring. We list him as questionable.” The Jets do have contingencies in place, though this news certainly isn’t welcome.  “We’ll see how he is,” continued Ryan. “We’ll work some guys out tomorrow just to make sure we have a plan if he can’t go. If something would happen to Steve during the game, then Jay Feely would be our backup punter… the good thing about playing the late game is you can spend as much time to heal as possible. We’ll see what the doctors and trainer think and how Steve feels.”

Shaun Ellis has also been listed as questionable, with an illness. “We’ll see how he is,” said Ryan. 

Ellis has been listed as questionable.

 

Kellen Clemens drew praise from Ryan for his professionalism. “He [Clemens] has just been a pro,” Ryan said. “There is no question about it. We had a great competition at training camp. It was a legitimate competition. I thought that bought out the best in both of them. And now his professionalism, e prepares every week like he is going to have to go into the game… clearly he has done a tremendous job for us.”

Tony Richardson was overlooked for the Pro Bowl; but the bulldozing fullback’s locker room presence and raw talent have not gone unrecognized by his head coach. “I think he’s an outstanding fullback still. I know he’s played 15 years, but you look at him and he’s still young. He’s still got some bounce in his step. He does a tremendous job. Our football team has great confidence in him. [He] might be the best guy around. He’s a great teammate, a great leader, and by he way, he can play. He can still play.”

Ryan shared detailed thoughts regarding the pressure his team may feel against the Bengals, with so much on the line. “You can look at it as excitement and opportunity more so than a negative. I think pressure can be positive. We’ve put ourselves in this situation. It would have been great to go in and be able to rest guys and treat it as bye week. We’re not that fortunate. We haven’t earned that right.” Ryan then turned his attention to the fans. “We’ve got to keep it positive. We don’t want [the fans] to turn into a negative [because] we’re not getting it done. We need them there for the whole game and supporting us. Our fans want it. They want to get this team in the playoffs in the worse way. Like I say, I’m expecting big things out of our football team. “