Previewing the Rematch
Monday night, October 12th, represented a shift for the New
York Jets. Before the events of this evening, their defense had been a reliable force controlling games, performing exceptionally even in a loss to the explosive New Orleans Saints. Many prognosticators, including this one, picked them to rebound on primetime in Miami.
After all, the Dolphins’ quarterback situation was unsettled, inexperienced Chad Henne replacing starter Chad Pennington. Their group of wide receivers was disappointing. They blew a game to the Colts at home, a brutal loss. All signs pointed toward the Dolphins being a team entrapped in transition, forced to sacrifice the present for future gains. Surely they would be stymied by a ravenous Gang Green defense. Of course, reality unfurled, leaving the braggadocios bunch from New York humbled, perhaps even embarrassed. Everything, inexplicably, went to hell. Bart Scott missed tackles. The unassailable Darrelle Revis, and approximately thirteen other defensive backs, were toasted deep by Ted Ginn on a momentum turning play. Henne sliced and diced with the cool efficiency of ten-year veteran. Miami even overcame a stunning debut Jets by Braylon Edwards, earning a deserved win on a dramatic final drive, leaving no time for rebuttal. “The attitude in this locker room is that was a game that we felt we should have won,” said Edwards. “That is a game that we felt that we could have won. Going in there and not getting it done hurt these guys. We come back (three) weeks later ready to play these guys again. Like Coach said, we’re ready. We are more than ready. We will play today, we will play tomorrow, we’ll play whenever.”
After a week of preparation, the Jets appeared completely flummoxed by Miami’s signature wildcat formation. As Rickey Williams and Ronnie Brown eluded their tackles, racking up yardage, something less tangible was slipping away from Rex Ryan and company. It was their fragile, still developing identity, a smash-mouth brand which could cocoon a rookie quarterback still learning on the job. A week after their first truly dispiriting performance of the season, Mark Sanchez seemed affected by the sudden shift in atmosphere, enduring a hideous showing against Buffalo. That was the Jets’ third straight loss, a losing streak that started at the acceptance stage in Louisiana, before mutating into appropriate panic. The Raiders beat down was reassuring, yet a tenuous achievement.
Here are the Jets. Four victories and three defeats, alternating between champs and chumps, now with a chance to reestablish the identity taken away on a humid night in Miami. There is much riding on this duel. For as excellent as the Jets appeared against Oakland, all those temporary accolades will vanish with a home loss to a divisional foe, coming off an atrocious, potentially season killing fourth quarter meltdown themselves.
Indeed, Mark Sanchez played conservative manager and the offensive line continued to bulldoze against beleaguered Oakland, but this progress needs to be converted into consistency, lest the Jets begin to resemble an intriguing blend of talent still a year or two away from making real noise in this league. They will no doubt be bolstered by the return of Jerricho Cotchery, who barely missed the action against Oakland, and will finally line-up across from Braylon Edwards, at close to full strength. The combination could be lethal; Cotchery doing the dirty work on intermediate routes while Edwards stretches the field. And with the Dolphins secondary not operating at peak capacity, missing solid cornerback Will Allen, an aerial show could be order. Rex Ryan always seems slyly confident about his passing game, and Sanchez’s stabilizing afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum, which concluded with him enjoying a Stadium hot dog on the sidelines, could provoke early vertical aggression from the Jets. Sanchez seemed to put the hot dog controversy to rest earlier this week. “I don’t want to give up my hot dog connect,” said the rookie, laughing. “The last thing I will say about the whole deal is that I did not mean it as a form of disrespect. I wasn’t trying to take away from anything the team had going on. People have gotten some laughs out of it and we’ve all kind of joked about it, but it is one of those things that I definitely need to learn from and it was a mistake. It won’t happen again and that’s all there is to say about that.”
That said, the Jets’ defense could very well determine this game. The offense certainly held little culpability for the Monday Night debacle, holding up their end with an impressive second-half. In fact, had Rex Ryan or Brian Schottenheimer possessed an inkling of the defensive disintegration awaiting, they may have opted to air it out early that night. Instead, the defense repeatedly returned momentum to Miami, sealing the game.
The group recovered slightly against Buffalo, but were handed a devastating blow when Kris Jenkins suffered a season-ending knee injury. Jenkins was in action that Monday night. Can the Jets really reverse their atrocious week five showing without the most vital cog of their interior line? Other facets will need to camouflage this decided weakness.
The Dolphins are a strange team on many levels. They rely on a gimmick offensive package for the majority of their explosive plays, though Ryan is a fan of the wildcat. “I think it’s good. I think you really see it in the college game. It’s all that spread and they run that Wildcat. They run that read play. It definitely has merit. Everybody would load the box and get an extra defender in the box and this is one way to counter that. Now you’d have to put another guy in if you want to overload the numbers. I think that’s why a lot of teams are running different versions of it.” A key member of their running attack departed from football a few years ago on a personal quest for knowledge, a tact seldom seen from an athlete. They have suffered two inconceivable losses, both at home, to the Saints and Colts. Squandering two games at home in such brutal fashion represents an unforgivable sin in a league not known for leniency. And yet, they still feel like a damn dangerous team. The running game can control the clock. The linebackers are superb. Having a chance to sweep the Jets, in a campaign venturing toward moral victory territory, may provide an additional spark.
All that said, I see the Jets winning this one. But it will be close. The absence of Jenkins will become an obvious hindrance. With nothing to lose, Miami will be reaching deep into their bag of tricks. I see the Jets continuing their impressive rushing streak, with Jones and Greene falling short of the spectacular, yet producing enough to curry time of possession toward New York.
Brian Schottenheimer has faith in Greene, and Washington’s absence, though disheartening, could be overcome, should the rookie continue his capable work. “[He]’s Very good. We’ve all felt good about Shonn from the time he got to training camp. He had a big scrimmage for us when we were up in Cortland. He was just in a crowded backfield. He played well against New Orleans. We came in here and did the same thing in the staff room, how do you get three guys carries? It was hard. Obviously nobody is pleased with what happened to Leon (Washington). It was a testament to Shonn to go out there and do what he was able to do without too much work at practice is pretty impressive. His talent speaks for himself,” said the offensive coordinator.
Mark Sanchez may make fewer mistakes than Chad Henne, who will be dropped into the most hostile environment he has ever faced as a pro.
“It’s a big game, a division game. We have the bye week coming up next week. We need to put everything we have into this game. It’s going to be a tough game. They are a tough team. It was down-to-the-wire last time, so we know what to expect,” said Thomas Jones.
A Jets field goal decides this one late.
New York 27 Miami 24