Archive for November, 2011

Jets Extend Schottenheimer to 2012

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

He’s been apart of two memorable runs to the AFC Championship game. He’s personally taken on the maturation process of Mark Sanchez. And he’s one of the most polarizing figures on this New York Jets team. He’s been praised when the team’s winning and crucified when losing. He’s been considered the mad genius of the Jets offense — usually more mad than genius. But no matter where you stand on the topic of Brian Schottenheimer, one thing is indisputable: he’s not going anywhere after the 2011 season.

It has come to the attention of the JetsInsider.com, that the Jets have extended offensive coordinator Schottenheimer for the 2012-13 season.

Perhaps to the dismay of Jets Nation, Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has been given a contract extention through the 2012-13 season. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Schottenheimer has come under fire for a Jets team (5-5) that has struggled offensively after posting the eleventh best offense in 2010. Over the course of their current two-game losing streak the offense has averaged a meekly 14.5 points per game. Overall they rank sixteenth under Schottenheimer, as the unit has still yet to hit their stride.

He was hired by Eric Mangini in 2006 before being retained by Ryan in 2009. When the team drafted Mark Sanchez in ‘09, Schottenheimer assumed the duties of Victor Frankenstein, hellbent on creating an NFL passing monstrosity out the collegiate work in progress. Stating that as his claim to fame, he has seen a mixed bag of success. Here are Sanchez’s career numbers with Schottenheimer at the helm offensively.

  • GAMES: 41
  • QB RATING: 72.9
  • COMPLETION PERCENTAGE: 667-1209 / 55.2%
  • PASSING YARDS: 8,068
  • PASSING YARDS PER GAME: 196.8
  • TOUCHDOWNS: 43
  • INTERCEPTIONS: 43
  • FUMBLES: 25 (9 lost)

In his first five seasons, Schottenheimer has been mediocre at best — ranging from as low as 26th in total yard in 2007 to 11th last season.

The JetsInsider.com’s State of the Nation Address

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Mr. Woody Johnson, Mr. Rex Ryan, members of the Jets Insider staff, the distinguished guests of the Landing Strip, the lovely ladies of the Flight Crew and fellow citizens of Jets Nation.

Tonight I want to begin by congratulating the New York Jets on the successful endeavors of their season thus far. And as we mark this occasion, the first ever JetsInsider.com State of the Nation address, I would also like to be mindful of those endeavors that have been considered a failure. It is with high hopes that citizens of Jets Nation wish the team learns from these failures and use them to continue their guarantee of bringing the Lombardi Trophy through the Canyon of Champions.

It’s no secret that this 2011-12 team has had its share of adversity to overcome. The debates have been endless; Mark Sanchez or Brian Schottenheimer, the offensive line or the running game, Bart Scott or the safeties. Many fingers have been pointed, names called out and blood boiling in the pressure cooker of the Big Apple. But, my friends, all those are the ingredients of a hard-nosed, battle-tested, championship-ready team. I ask you, how many wars were won without adversity? How many achievements reached without an obstacle to hurdle? That’s what makes being a winner so satisfying — vanquishing hardships to end up more resolute and stoic.

The Jets need the enthusiasm of Fireman Ed from all of Jets Nation as they embark on their playoff run this week at home against the Buffalo Bills. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

And it is on the day after Thanksgiving — a day that symbolizes family, unity and togetherness — that the State of the Nation address is to be given; to remind those who have forgotten that team’s are not defined by half of their work. They are defined by their entire season, one that has currently yet to be played out. It has happened far too often in recent history for us to continue to remain pessimistic. In 2009, at 4-6 with a rookie quarterback and first-year head coach, the Jets rattled off a 5-1 record to propel their way into the playoffs for a run to the AFC Championship game. In 2010, they lost two straight following Thanksgiving only to beat Pittsburgh and Buffalo to get the last wild card spot.

“I absolutely believe this team is capable of doing [going on another late season run],” Ryan said.” We’ve done it [before]. You go back to the recent history that we’ve had. We, generally, play our best at the end of the year. And [now] we have to. I think the ability to run the football and protect the quarterback, especially this time of the year, is critical. There is no doubt. I think that, moving forward, we’re going to be just fine in those two areas. I feel good about it.”

Currently they rank 26th in rushing yards (966) and tenth in sacks allowed with 26, one more than their total from 2009. But Shonn Greene has average 4.7 yards per carry over his last four games with Joe McKnight getting a shot on offense last week, totaling 121 yards. And while the offensive line has given up eight sacks in the last two games, guard Matt Slauson said the unit was getting too “tight in the middle” which put extra pressure on the tackles. In a report from the New York Daily News, he said the unit has abandoned that logic and hopes that will fix the holes on the problems with protecting Sanchez.

A combined 7-4 over the last two season after Thanksgiving, the Jets have been down this road before. Wavering supporters step aside, for we have heard the cries of their inept offensive coordinator before. We have seen the struggles of an offense yet to find their stride. We have seen the defense take a few shots on the chin. Adversity is nothing new for this team –  a self-proclaimed team of destiny.

They are poised for progress. Two years of sneaking in through the back door only to be a stone’s throw away from football’s Holy Grail. While champions are measured by rings and wins it’s not only what defines them. They are defined by guts, grit and their response to the unforeseen.

That’s the project of the New York Jets. And for the citizens of Jets Nation, in Fireman Ed we trust.

Tebow, Broncos beat Jets 17-13

Friday, November 18th, 2011

DENVER, CO – Tim Tebow did it again. Backed up on their own five-yard line, Tebow marched down the field before scampering 20 yards for the go-ahead score with 56 seconds remaining in the game. That put the Denver Broncos up for good, 17-13, defeating the New York Jets on Thursday night.

Tebow saw the Jets stack the box with nine defenders and man coverage on the edge. He rolled out, evaded safety Eric Smith on the left edge and steamrolled his way to the endzone.

He’s not your average quarterback, that’s for sure. But Tebow did what he’s done his whole career: beat the odds, defy the doubters and win. The Broncos (5-5) are 4-1 since he replaced Kyle Orton as the team’s starter at quarterback.

Mark Sanchez struggled against the Broncos defense, yet again having another poor game-managing moment to end the second half-leaving Rex Ryan to scratch his head. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

The Jets (5-5) have lost two games in four days — both, in their own right, hard to swallow. Mark Sanchez (24-40, 252 yards, 1 INT), who’s been under fire as of late for his mediocre level of play and untimely game-managing skills, did little to prove doubters otherwise.

Nick Folk hit a 45-yard field goal to break the 10-10 tie in the fourth quarter with 9:14 remaining. Tebow and the Broncos offense took the field for their final drive with 5:54 left in the game. Safety Jim Leonhard nearly put the game to bed, as he had Eddie Royal tackled in his own endzone, but managed to break free and gain eight yards on the play.

Tebow ran for 58 yards on seven carries on the final drive, as the Jets defense and Darrelle Revis looked to be lulled to sleep by the Broncos unorthodox offense. But it was that same unorthodox offense led by their polarizing young quarterback that won the game late.

It was after Matt Slauson’s improbable touchdown — a fumble recovery in the endzone after rookie Bilal Powell on the one-yard line, who replaced the LaDanian Tomlinson on the depth chart after suffering a MCL injury. The touchdown gave the Jets a 10-3 with just under 11 minutes to go in the third quarter. It was the first fumble recovery for a touchdown by a Jets’ offensive lineman since 1972.

Denver tied the game up as cornerback Andre Goodman stepped in front of a Sanchez pass that was intended for Plaxico Burress and return the interception 26 yards for the touchdown. It was third interception returned for a touchdown by Sanchez this year. On the ensuing kickoff, the league’s best kick returner Joe McKnight, was stripped at his own 41-yard line and the recovery was made by Cassius Vaughn. The turnover proved to be fruitless, as the Broncos went three and out on the following drive.

McKnight and Powell split the carries for the Jets, who lost starting running back Shonn Greene did not return in the second half after suffering a rib injury earlier in the game. McKnight totaled 121 yards on the day while Powell gained 18 total yards in the NFL debut. Greene left the game with 3:24 left in the first half after catching a 4-yard screen pass.

The Jets stacked the box on defense, a calculated move to stop the college-like option scheme that made Tebow a historic quarterback at Florida. But the defense could only record one sack and one QB hit on the former Heisman winner.

They did manage to hold Tebow to 9-20 passing, but failed to force him into mistakes. Instead he dropped back and fired a 28-yard strike to Demayrius Thomas on a seam route for the first play of the game. Yet after that play and until their final drive, the Jets stymied Tebow and the Broncos option attack.

Following a botched punt where the Broncos got the ball at the Jets 34-yard line, kicker Matt Prater made a 37-yard field goal to break the 0-0 tie. The Jets tied the game at 3 apiece after Folk’s 21-yarder, that came following a Willis McGahee fumble recovered by Bart Scott.

Folk’s 61-yard try as time expired came up short, getting little help from the thin Denver air.

Notes: In addition to Tomlinson, the Jets had three inactives on Thursday night. Jeremy Kerley (left knee), Brodney Pool (sprained left knee) and Shawn Nelson (illness) all did not play.

Broncos More than Just Tebow

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Let’s just point out the pink elephant in the room before we get started. TIM TEBOW. There, I said it. Tim Tebow is the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos. I said it again. Tim Tebow is not your average NFL quarterback. Hell, Tim Tebow may not even be an average NFL quarterback. In the four games Tim Tebow’s started this season, the Broncos are 3-1. That much is undeniable.

Can I stop saying Tim Tebow now? I think I reached the national media’s requirement of times saying the ever-polarizing Tim Tebow. Whoops, I did it again. My apologies. But in all seriousness, that’s the perception of this Broncos team. It’s the only thing people want to know about. But this team is far more than just their third-string quarterback turned savior. And while Tim Tebow is carrying the burden of national spotlight on his back, it is the defense that is making their success possible.

Mark Sanchez is going to need a lot more than the thin Mile-High air if he expects to soar over the Broncos defense. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

“As well as Tebow’s doing, and playing and running, all that, he’s doing a great job, but that’s the last thing on my mind,” Mark Sanchez said to the surprise of all on Tuesday. “Their defense is tough and they have a lot of veteran leadership. They disguise a lot of looks. They’re fast. They’re always in the right spot it seems like. they apply pressure quickly. They don’t mess around.”

Ranked at a modest 18th in total defense, the Broncos have held their opponents to an average of 18 points per game in their three wins over the last four weeks. Forget Tebow. Get yourself reacquainted with savvy veterans the likes of Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins and do some research on Elvis Dumervil, D.J. Williams and Von Miller. Their fast, ferocious and versatile. Williams and Miller have combined for 77 tackles, 11 sacks and three passes defended –  proving they can hang in coverage just as well as they can get after the ball carrier. Meanwhile it appears Bailey and Dawkins have drank from the fountain of youth; combining for 55 tackles, 10 passes defended and two interceptions.

Speed and pressure are this team’s strengths. The luxury of Bailey is that of a Darrelle Revis, where his man coverage skills are so superior it allows the defense to focus on one less player. Add in the speed of edge rushers Dumervil and Miller and the Broncos may not need anything more than a four-man rush. The Patriots were able to bull-rush the Jets offensive line and get their paws on Sanchez.

Now, of course, there aren’t many — if any –  similarities between New England and Denver. If the Broncos win this game, it won’t be a blow out, taking away the opportunity for the defense to pin their ears back and just go after the quarterback. But the pressure Sanchez felt last week is what he’s preparing for on Thursday.

“It’s [Miller], it’s Dumervil off the edge. It’s Dawkins sometimes blitzing, sometimes he’s doubling somebody. So we’re gong to have our hands full whether it’s [one of them] or D.J. Williams, they’re all really fast. When they come to pressure the quarterback they’re in there quick, so you’ve got to be ready to get the ball out of you hand,” Sanchez said.

That was a problem for Sanchez on Sunday night. When his first read wasn’t available it appeared that’s when the play broke down — that anxious feeling of pressure coming without notice, the window of opportunity closing faster than the defender to his target. The result? Two interceptions on check-downs that resulted in 14 points. On the tipped interception by Rob Ninkovich, Sanchez admitted to throwing the ball “way too hard” to Shonn Greene, who was only a few yards away. That ball wouldn’t have come out so hard if it wasn’t for the pressure.

In their last three wins, the Broncos have 10 sacks and 23 QB hits. On Sunday night, Sanchez was sacked five times and hit nine times in total. Prone to mistakes and mental lapses –  like the costly timeout before halftime that lefts more than enough time for Brady to score, Sanchez must leave the happy feet to the penguins and Tebow on Thursday.

(Writer’s Note: Tim Tebow counter: 9 Tim Tebow’s + 1.5 Tebow’s = 10.5 Total Tebow’s mentioned.)

Morning After Report

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

If you’ve ever been 20 years old you know the feeling. That ‘Morning After’ feeling. Your pores ooze out the Jack Daniels’ from the night before, stomach uneasy from the unhealthy amount of mixed Coca-Cola. Hair disheveled, last night’s clothes doubling as your bedtime pajamas, there’s a stain of cigarettes on your breath and remnants of a girls’ perfume stagnant on your skin — except there’s no girl there. The only thing that you wake up with is that thin band of pain shooting up from behind your eye socket meandering its way up to your forehead. A hangover so bad that there’s not enough over-the-counter drugs to subside that excruciating feeling.

Get me an egg and cheese sandwich and a yellow Gatorade stat.

After the 37-16 pounding the Jets took at home against the New England Patriots, Rex Ryan and his players must’ve had a similar feeling Monday morning. Prior to the game, the Jets had everything on their side: winners of three-straight welcoming a team on a two-game skid who hasn’t won in the Meadowlands since 2008. The offense was clicking and the defense finally seemed to hit their stride. A cliche in sports, but they controlled their own destiny to an AFC East title and were 60 minutes away from moving into the driver’s seat.

In the beginning of the season, Ryan issued a challenge to the other 30 NFL teams: “Someone else, please, beat the Patriots.” Well, some teams got that memo with the Bills, Steelers and Giants all beating New England. However, his own team must’ve missed that as the were swept by Bill Belichick and Tom Brady for the first time since 2007. They have little time to dwell on their poor performance, as they turn around and travel out to Denver to meet Tim Tebow and the Broncos on Thursday Night Football.

Sanchez's costly timeout at the end of the first half was just one of the many mistakes made by the Jets on Sunday night. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

PASSING OFFENSE:  D

  • While Mark Sanchez did top 300 yards for the third time this season and fifth time in his career, his two interceptions were costly. To say the Patriots secondary was in shambles Sunday night would be an understatement — yet Sanchez failed to take advantage. Mental mistakes were the microcosm issue of the night for the team, perhaps highlighted mostly by Sanchez’s costly timeout on third and goal in the second half. That gave Brady and the Patriots offense enough time to go down the field and score before the half –  which they did –  leading Ryan to call it the “stupidest call in the history of the NFL”. That’s his starting quarterback he just called out.
  • Dustin Keller (2 receptions, 37 yards) was hardly used against a Patriots team that allowed 11 receptions, 152 yards and 1 TD combined against the Steelers and Giants tight ends the last two weeks. His poor performance was highlighted by the show second-year tight end Rob Gronkowski put on. But the glaring difference between Keller and Gronkowski was not receptions, yardage or even touchdowns –  it was the targets. Keller was targeted only four times to Gronkowski’s staggering 11 targets from Brady.
  • The offense’s problems can’t all be shouldered be Sanchez and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Arguably the game’s best pass-blocking tackle, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, was worked by journeyman veteran Andre Carter for four sacks and a slew of other QB pressures. The Patriots had 15 sacks coming into the game, and left with a total of 20. The Patriots sent numerous four-man rushes, using little-to-no blitzes. But due to the aggressive four-man fronts, they needed Keller and Matthew Mulligan to stay back and block, leaving three receivers to find openings in seven-man coverages. That math never works out in the favor of the offense.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-

  • The combination of LaDanian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene averaged five yards per carry. Problem is, they only had 20 attempts between the two of them. The game wasn’t out of hand until late in the second half. Ryan has repeatedly said that he wants his offense to be a run-first team, yet in their four losses this season they’ve averaged 22 rushing attempts as a team. It’s hard to pound the ground on a minimum amount of attempts.
  • With his 16-yard reception in the fourth quarter Tomlinson moved into fifth place on the NFL’s all-time scrimmage yards list, surpassing Barry Sanders. Tomlinson finished the game with two catchers for 22 yards. His 18,206 total yards is now 948 yards behind Marshall Faulk.

PASSING DEFENSE: F

  • The Jets defense had no answer for Brady, who was out for blood on Sunday night. Miscommunications and defensive players huffing and puffing were the reoccurring images from the night. The defense seemed shocked by the Patriots no-huddle, hurry-up offense — something they’ve done all season long.
  • The pass rush was this close to sacking Brady a couple of times, clawing at his feet in a last-second effort before Brady was able to side-step, plant and throw for a completion.
  • Kyle Wilson, who has played exceptionally well in his sophomore season, reverted to his rookie campaign as he continually looked out of place and oblivious in coverage.

RUSHING DEFENSE: A

  • Well, at least the rushing defense stepped up to the plate. After giving up 136 yards and two scores to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, they held him to eight yards on eight carries and leaving the entire Patriots rushing attack to 2.1 yards per attempt.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D

  • After setting a team record for consecutive field goals made to start a season, Nick Folk has missed one each of the last two weeks — this last one being a chip shot that kept the Jets off the board on their first drive of the game.
  • Joe McKnight, who’s been a great weapon to the offense with his athleticism in the kick return game, was forced to return punts after he replaced Jeremy Kerley. The result? A botched return that led to a field goal that put the Patriots up a touchdown.

COACHING: D

  • In the post-game press conference, Ryan looked nearly unrecognizable — appearing dejected, beaten and ragged. Hunched over with his head down as he spoke in the microphone, Ryan looked little like the jovial braggart that’s usually over-zealous and over-the-top. It’s always alarming to see the leader of your team soaking in the smell of defeat.
  • There’s no excuse to the lack of execution and communication against a team that they know all too well. The only answer for the lackadaisical play? The preparation by the coaching staff.

PREVIEW: Patriots (5-3) @ NY Jets (5-3)

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Some things in life are just better in twos: socks, gloves, Miller High Life’s and the Jets and Patriots playing each other. With no disrespect to the team’s in Pittsburgh and Baltimore but the rivalry between New York and New England may just be the best in the sport.

With only their record and standing in the AFC East serving as similarities, the Jets and Patriots are polar opposites. The Jets are the plagued have-nots; their history filled with stories of being this close and other near misses. Currently, they are the out-spoken, hard-nosed personification of head coach Rex Ryan’s ego. The Patriots have been the toast of the town since the anointment of Tom Brady as the NFL’s poster boy. A high-octane offense coupled with a stirringly quite confidence, the Patriots are currently in an identity-crisis of their own — tallying high giveaways while giving away huge chunks of yardage.

The Patriots recent play cannot bode well as they prepare to play the Jets, who are 4-0 at MetLife Stadium this year, in a place they haven’t won with Brady at the helm since 2007.

WHEN: Sunday November 13, 2011 @ 8:20 EST (Can be seen on NBC or heard on 1050 ESPN Radio).

WHERE: MetLife Stadium / East Rutherford, NJ (capacity: 82,500)

SERIES HISTORY: 103rd meeting, Jets lead, 51-50-1 (Postseason: Patriots lead, 2-1)

LAST MEETING: Patriots, 30, Jets, 21, Gillette Stadium (10/9/11)

NOTABLE: The Jets are 8-5 against the Patriots in prime time games. The two teams met exactly three years ago (11/13/08) when New York traveled to New England and defeated the Patriots 34-31 in overtime on a Thursday night.

Mark Sanchez played very well in his last meeting against the Patriots (2 TDs, 0 INT). Will he continue his success against the Patriots on Sunday? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

STATISTICS:

  • JETSOFFENSE; 24.9 PPG (11th-T), 306.1 YPG (28th), 96.6 Rushing YPG (25th), 209.5 Passing YPG (22nd), 40% 3rd Down rate (13th-T), Sacks Allowed 18 (13th-T). DEFENSE; 20.4 PPG (8th-T), 319 YPG (8th), 123 Rush YPG (22nd), 196 Passing YPG (7th), 43.7% 3rd Down Efficiency (2nd), 18 sacks (18th-T).
  • PATRIOTSOFFENSE; 27.8 PPG (4th-T), 437.3 YPG (2nd), 111.6 Rushing YPG (17th), 325.6 Passing YPG (1st), 47.9% 3rd Down Efficiency, 16 Sacks Allowed (6th-T). DEFENSE; 23 PPG (20th-t), 416.3 YPG (32nd), 102.3 Rushing YPG (9th), 314 Passing YPG (32nd), 43.7% 3rd Down Efficiency, 15 Sacks (25th-T).

HEAD COACHES:

  • JETS – Rex Ryan / Third season /25-15 Regular Season / 4-2 Postseason
  • PATRIOTS — Bill Belichick / Twelfth season /  167-97 Regular Season / 15-6 Postseason

INJURY REPORT:

  • JETS — OUT – Logan Payne (wrist), Robert Turner (leg), Bryan Thomas (Achilles’). QUESTIONABLE – Shawn Nelson (illness), Brodney Pool (knee). PROBABLE – Plaxico Burress (lower back), Antonio Cromartie (finger), Mike DeVito (knee), Marcus Dixon (shoulder), Kenrick Ellis (ankle), Shonn Greene (head, groin), Santonio Holmes (foot), Wayne Hunter (finger), Nick Mangold (ankle), Josh Mauga (lower back), Joe McKnight (toe), Calvin Pace (groin), Sione Pouha (finger), Matt Slauson (neck), Isaiah Trufant (hamstring).
  • PATRIOTS — OUT - Dane Fletcher (thumb), Brandon Spikes (knee). QUESTIONABLE – Kyle Arrington (foot), Patrick Chung (foot), Shaun Ellis (rib), Kevin Faulk (knee), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (toe), Gary Guyton (shoulder), Jerod Mayo (knee), Taylor Price (hamstring), Sebastian Vollmer (back), Ryan Wendell (concussion). PROBABLE – Wes Welker (rib).

KEY MATCH-UPS:

  • Antonio Cromartie vs. Patriots WRs: No need to worry about whomever Darrelle Revis is covering, you won’t hear from them all day. But Brady will lock on Cromartie and second-year corner Kyle Wilson. The Patriots offense has been lacking that big, over-the-top play instead opting for the underneath plays. This may work out well for Cromartie, who can stay physical within that five-yard limit and harass smaller receivers with his aggressive build and long arms. But remember, Deion Branch burned Cromartie for two touchdowns in their second regular season meeting last season.
  • Nick Mangold vs. Vince Wilfork: The Patriots (15 sacks on the season) have zero pass rush, but do a decent job against the run (ninth in yards allowed on the ground). If the Patriots want to disrupt Mark Sanchez, it starts by not letting Shonn Greene get started. If that can happen, the Jets’ play-action won’t be nearly as effective, where Sanchez has felt most comfortable all season. What better way to kill two birds with one stone than the massive Wilfork, who is the team’s best pass rusher, and their stout run stopper.

X-Factors:

  • Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets – A fairly obvious choice for the team’s x-factor, but bear with me for a moment. As Ben Roesthlisberger showed two weeks ago, the best defense against Brady is a sustainable offense. Keeping Brady off the field is the blueprint to beating the Patriots. Additionally Bart Hubbuch, of the New York Post, found an interesting stat about Sanchez and his influence on a Jets victory. In 22 career wins, Sanchez completing 59 percent with 30 TDs and 13 INTs. In 15 career losses, his line is just 49%/11/26. The definition of an X-factor.
  • Devin McCourty, CB, Patriots — He was a beast last year, pulling down a league-high seven interceptions in his rookie campaign. Now he seems lost midst a sophomore slump, barely recognizable on the field as the freakishly athletic corner from Rutgers. Down the stretch last season, he was the reason that the defense, also rated in the bottom-third of the league, was labeled as opportunistic. The Patriots should be worrying less about their problems on offense, where they are filled with savvy veterans, and worry about a young defense. If McCourty can show a glimpse of his level of play from last season, creating a turnover or two, the Patriots may be able to steal a win in New York.

THE PREDICTION: Patriots 23 — NY Jets 21. I know, I know. The Patriots are reeling and the Jets are soaring. But there are a few guarantees in life: death, taxes and Belichick & Brady not losing three games in a row. They won’t win pretty, but they’ll squeak out a win thanks to a timely turnover.

Defeating the Patriots

Friday, November 11th, 2011

For a long time, it’s been the age old question. How can we beat the Patriots? In year’s past the Pats, more notably Tom Brady, have been the big brother in the AFC East, as he boasts a 14-5 career record against the Jets. But at a pedestrian 5-3 record, currently amidst a two-game losing streak and with the league’s last ranked defense, the Patriots suddenly seem … dare I say … beatable.

The Jets also come into this Sunday’s mega match-up at 5-3, however how the two have gotten there is what separates the rivals now. A three-game winning streak, where the offense has been balanced and efficient — to say the least — and the defense turned the clock back circa 2009, has washed away nightmarish memories from the month prior. A renewed sense of confidence has breathed life into a Jets team that may certainly smell Patriot blood in the water.

In those two losses the Patriots have lost two chinks in their invincibility amour; their wins in an NFL-record 31 regular-season starts at home for Brady and in 20 regular-season home games for the Patriots. They lost consecutive games for just the third time since the start of the 2003 season. Add in the fact that a Brady-led Patriots team have not beat the Jets at home since 2007, where they are 4-0 this season, and it kind of makes you wonder why Gang Green is only 1-point favorites . Hell, the last time the Patriots won in the Meadowlands was when Matt Cassel was making his first pro start against a guy whose name looks like Frett Bavre.

The Jets don't need Shaun Ellis (above) to defeat a wounded Patriots team on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. (JetsInsider.com Photo.)

But it is Mark Sanchez at the helm of this offense, who is 3-2 against New England. And in their last meeting he posted his highest QB rating of the season at 105.6, throwing two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He feels that if it wasn’t a for a slow start, things could have been different that day.

“We played pretty poorly that first quarter and then really turned it on for three quarters. It felt like the second, third and fourth quarter we played really well and we’re right in it at the end of the game,” Sanchez said on Wednesday. “For us, it’s just [about] coming out maybe a little faster and seeing how things go, but I was proud of the way we played the first time and just need to pick up where we left off and improve a little bit, take care of the football.”

Avoiding a slow start starts with keeping drives alive and converting on third downs. As Ben Roethlisberger showed in the Steelers steamrolled victory over the Patriots, things are easier when Brady doesn’t have the ball in the his hands. And in their last three games, the Jets offense has converted 65% of their third downs. It also doesn’t hurt that the Patriots defense has given up 132 first downs — thirteen more than the 31st-ranked Green Bay Packers.

The big reason for the offense’s turnaround? The return of the ground game and finally hammering out their issues in the red zone. It’s really all about feeling comfortable. Rex Ryan feels comfortable running the ball. Sanchez feels comfortable running the play action. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer says it’s the team feeling comfortable executing their red zone packages that’s the reason for their success.

“It comes down to execution. I like the way we’re practicing things  We’re running the ball pretty well. When guys are isolated, we’re finding those match-ups. When guys are deep, we’re checking it down. So, a lot of it’s got to do with just the way we’re practicing it. We like that. We’re comfortable with that, but also the execution’s been clean,” Schottenheimer said.

And for the defense? Well, they were sued mightily by the Law Firm of BenJarvus Green-Ellis for 136 yards and two rushing scores in their last meeting. Since then the D has rededicated themselves to the run, giving up an average of 100 yards per game and holding Ryan Matthews/Mike Tolbert and Fred Jackson to 96 yards each.

With 10 interceptions and two fumbles, Tom Brady is a “mortal. He’s not an alien after all.” At least that’s the thought of David Harris. His unusually high tendency for turnovers may prove to be fatal against a defense with 13 interceptions, 1 more than they had on the whole season last year. In their last three games they’ve totaled 8 takeaways, while the Patriots have 8 giveaways.

When the rivalry was renewed on October 9th, no one could have guessed how Foxborough might be the crossroads for both teams, changing the fortune of their fate at the crossing of their paths. On November 13th they will be staring one another in the face. Both teams 5-3. Both teams tied for first place. Mirror opposites of each other –where their only differences just might be their similarities.

Morning After Report: Mid-Term Exams

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Have we reached the midway point in NFL season already? My, how times does fly. And like Charles Dickens so eloquently put it in a Tale of Two Cities, thus far it’s been the best of times and it’s been the worst of times for the Jets. Laced with Super Bowl aspirations and dreams of a soaring offensive attack, their season was hit with a wave of turbulence filled with injuries, finger pointing, and bush-league play.

Sanchez has, at times, looked to have fulfilled the title of “Sanchize”, but has at others proven skeptics who think he’s still not ready to make the leap from game-manager to game-winner right. The defense, boasting themselves as the bullies of the league, were shellacked for their milk money as team’s ran by them. The offensive line and, in turn, the running game were pounded; losing the signature of a Rex Ryan team.

And, still, we’ve seen young players blossom (Jeremy Kerley, Joe McKnight) in the spotlight. There’s been the rebirth and retribution of fallen stars (Plaxico Burress, Aaron Maybin) and a war of words between two historic Jets personas (Ryan, Joe Namath).

Yet, throughout it all the Jets remained ever-confident; dreams delayed but swagger never swaying. They overcame a well-noted three-game losing streak to a 4-3 record and a puncher’s chance at getting back in the AFC East division hunt. Heading into Week 9 the Jets Insider is pulling all-nighters filled with Red Bull, Starbucks, Halloween edition Reese’s pumpkins and stacks of stats to make the grade for this mid-term edition of the Morning After Report.

While the good, like Plax's 3-TD performance, have been great; the bad have been pretty unsightly for the Jets first half. (JetsInsider.com Photo.)

PASSING OFFENSE: C+

  • To the Sanchez doubters:With 12 touchdowns through seven games, Sanchez ranks ninth in the league; ahead of former Pro Bowlers Michael Vick, Tony Romo, and Matt Ryan. Sixty-one percent of the time spent in the red zone has resulted in a touchdown. His 0.9 interception per game rating his higher than Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger.
  • Thus far Dustin Keller has pulled in 25 receptions for 372 yards, averaging 15 yards per catch. In the team’s four wins he’s compiled 21 receptions for 262 yards and two touchdowns, while getting only eight receptions for 106 yards and zero scores in their three losses. The point? More Keller means more wins.
  • Hampered by injuries on the offensive line, Sanchez has been sacked the twelfth most in the league at 17 times, mostly likely leading to his six fumbles, four lost.
  • The combination of Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes has yet to take flight. Their eight combined touchdowns (still three less and Calvin Johnson) is skewed due to Burress’s last game where he had three red zone touchdowns. They’ve totaled 40 receptions for 554 yards –  their combined yardage ranking eleventh in individual receiving yards, behind Dwayne Bowe and ahead of Jeremy Maclin.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D

  • Rex Ryan’s two-year average rushing yards per game: 160.1. His 2010 average: 92.4. Without a strong secondary rushing threat, Shonn Greene has been forced to be the lone attack and, at times, looked sluggish. But over his last four games he ranks eleventh in rushing yards (264), ahead of Ray Rice and Darren McFadden, and averaging 4.3 yards per carry in that stretch.
  • What LaDanian Tomlinson has lacked rushing the ball, he’s made up in receiving. His 20 receptions ranks 17th among RB and his 13.0 yards per catch is third.
  • The offensive line has been a bit of a carousel ride. With the loss of Rob Turner, the unit was the thinnest we’ve seen in years, cycling through nine different players in three positions due to either inefficient play or injury. Hard to find continuity when the players to your left or right continually change.

PASSING DEFENSE: B

  • Anyone still think Darrelle Revis is overrated? He’s accounted for a third of the team’s total passes defended (10) and interceptions (4), while getting their only two defensive scores. All this while facing the likes of Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker, Brandon Marshall and Anquan Boldin thus far.
  • Tights ends have continued to hurt the Jets passing defense. They rank twenty-seventh in the league in yards allowed to opposing tight ends at 64.4 yards per game. Teams target the mid-section of the Jets defense, mostly their poor pass-covering MLBs and undersized safeties.
  • At 18 sacks thus far, the Jets are on pace for 41 sacks on the season. Their average over the last two seasons? Thirty-six. The loss of Bryan Thomas hurts, but waiting in the wings is a hungry Aaron Maybin (3 sacks, 3 forced fumbles).

RUSHING DEFENSE: D

  • The Jets were among the bottom third in the league in rushing yards allowed, giving up 126.9 yards per game. Ryan has predicated himself and his team as one that’s going stop the run above everything else, allowing an anemic 98.6 yards in his first two years.
  • Where Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito stepped up huge was the whole left by Kris Jenkins. A year later the tandem seems to get pushed aside while blockers advance to the next level of the defense. The problem is, players like Bart Scott (36 tackles) have been getting pushed aside as well.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A

  • Mike Westhoff has proven that it’s not the players that make the system, for his continues to defy the odds. With Joe McKnight returning kicks, the Jets lead the league in return yardage (30.3). According to TeamRankings.com, the Jets special teams unit leads the league in estimated points per game at two.
  • The oft-maligned Nick Folk has quietly put together a perfect season thus far, going 10/10 on tries and 3/3 on tries of 40+ yards. The thing is the Jets are keeping his attempts down. This time last year he had 16 attempts missing three.
  • Punter T.J. Conley ranks in the top third in the league at pinning the opponent inside their own 20, doing so 31% of the time.

COACHING: B

  • There are some things that go beyond statistics. And despite the faults and shortcomings of this team thus far, this might be Ryan’s best coaching performance yet. Keeping a team on the playoff track amidst locker room feuding, media frenzies and public criticism nationally.
  • Ryan is a perfect 4-0 at home. With a career home record of 9-7, Ryan recognizes the importance of defending your home turf. The combined record of the four remaining games (vs. NE, vs. Buffalo, vs. KC, vs. NYG) is 19-9.
  • Offensive coordinator continues to be the scape goat, right or wrong on this team. When the offense struggles it’s his fault. Yet when they produce it’s because of Sanchez living up to his potential. It’s a no-win situation for Schotty. This should be his last season with the team, for the betterment of both parties.