Florham Park, N.J. – After following up the last two weeks with another loss to the Patriots, I can think of only one direction to go from here. That direction is the Good News, Bad News game.
The good news is the Jets showed some signs of life and looked like a legitimate NFL team for the first time in six quarters of football, the bad news of course is they weren’t good enough to beat the hated Patriots and prevent a three game losing streak. The Jets played good enough to beat probably about 85 percent of the league yesterday, but they didn’t play the bottom 85 percent yesterday. They played the Patriots and they didn’t play a perfect enough game to emerge victorious.
The good news, Nick Mangold returned and his presence was felt immediately. The offensive line got off to a rough start to the season even with a healthy Mangold, but became as dysfunctional as the Bundy family from “Married With Children” in his absence. This week Mangold returned and all of a sudden Sanchez had time to throw and Shonn Greene had holes to run through. The bad news is even though the Jets found success at times, they couldn’t find a way to make that success continuous and the success they did find was against the 32nd ranked defense in the league.
So while one could look at this game and think, well at least the offense finally woke up, someone else could just as easily say the offense failed miserably because this was by far the best statistical game the Patriots defense played all season. The Jets only managed 255 yards of total offense (97 rushing and 158 passing), which was around half as much yards as the Patriots gave up in each of their first four games. So yes, there were some positives involving the offense, but clearly this team still needs a lot more out of their offense.
When Greene had holes to run through, he hit them and he looked like the downhill, power runner everyone originally thought he was. Greene carried the ball 21 times and rushed for an average of 4 yards a carry, which when compared to the rest of this season is great. But compare it to the typical Jets standard and it’s still not even close to good enough. At least the Jets got the run/pass ratio back down to almost even (25 runs to 26 passes) and tried to get back their ground and pound identity, but they weren’t consistent enough to use it to their advantage like a typical Ryan coached Jets team would like.
As for Sanchez, he played a very efficient game (16-26, 166 yards, two touchdowns, no turnovers and 105.6 QB Rating, Brady’s was 100.7). The key was no turnovers and very few mistakes (a few bad passes that should have been completions), but the offense seemed to limit itself as it once again got too boringly conservative. It’s great that Sanchez made it through the game without any turnovers, but it’s terrible that the offense didn’t open it up enough to give Sanchez enough chances to make big plays to keep the game from getting away from them.
The two long scoring drives were designed and executed to perfection, but what about the rest of the drives? Slow starts to each half gave the Patriots a chance to jump out to a big enough lead to hold off the Jets. The Jets went into half time trailing only 10-7, but of their five first half drives, only the last one that they scored on wasn’t a three-and-out and the offense continued to kill any momentum from the Cromartie interception in the end zone to end the half by coming out with yet another three-and-out and ended the game with seven total drives that went three-and-out. The lack of creativity on offense once again, combined with some awfully timed dropped from receivers, stalled the offense and as great as they were on those scoring drives, to have seven different three-and-out drives is simply inexcusable.
For the last bit of good news involving the Jets offense, we have the one and only Joe McKnight. Once again his big kick return breathed life into the Jets and gave them a chance to get back in the game, but once again the team couldn’t continue the positive momentum swinging in their direction. I liked the fact that I saw McKnight line up wide as a receiver, but I’d like to see it more. It’s clear now that McKnight should fully take over the Brad Smith Swiss Army Knife role for this team, just not as much in the ‘Wildcat.’ I’d like to see the Jets employ McKnight in a similar fashion to how the Patriots use Danny Woodhead, get the ball in McKnight’s hands with space between him and defenders and watch him spark the offense.
As for the defense, let’s start with the good news that was Jamaal Westerman. Westerman had a good game yesterday, with two sacks and more pressures, he flashed some speed and ability I honestly didn’t know he had in him. It may even turn out that Westerman is an upgrade from Bryan Thomas in defending the pass, but he’s clearly still a downgrade when defending the run. And as good as Westerman played yesterday, Aaron Maybin was a non-factor after a solid performance last week. But by no means am I writing Maybin off, just simply pointing out the bad news that was his disappearance yesterday.
The Jets defense had a very solid outing overall, especially considering they were playing against Tom Brady. The Jets didn’t allow Brady to break the game open, which is obviously the good news, but the bad news is they couldn’t stop Green-Ellis (27 carries for 136 yards and two touchdowns) from running out the clock and finishing them off. The Jets kept the two tight ends (nine catches for 87 yards between them) in check the entire game and with the exception of one play (more on this in a second) they did an excellent job containing Wes Welker (four catches for 51 yards excluding the 73 yard catch), but it was unsettling to see the team so often lose track of Deion Branch (seven catches for 74 yards and a wide open touchdown) as it seemed they weren’t even trying to cover him on some plays.
That one big play to Welker was a huge one and one that never should have happened. I knew it was coming as soon as I saw Revis lined up way off of Welker, which meant Revis had the underneath coverage on Welker and Eric Smith was responsible for over-the-top coverage. Brady faked the handoff and Smith bit and started running towards the line as Welker flew right past Smith for the big catch and run, the good news is we all got a reminder on just how fast Revis is. The bad news is it didn’t matter because the Patriots scored minutes later anyway.
Overall the Jets played a solid game and showed signs of hope for their fans, but as Jay-Z so eloquently said, “Moral victories are for minor league coaches.” And considering this loss marks the Jets third straight there can’t possibly be anyone out there looking for moral victories after that game. Still that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. The three teams the Jets lost to are among the best teams in football (of course this was a problem that plagued the Jets last year too) and have a combined record of 10-4 and the winless Dolphins are up next as the Jets finally get to return home (where they are undefeated this season) for their next two games before their bye week.
And the final piece of good news to end on is simply this, one thing we should have learned from Rex Ryan’s first two seasons as coach of the Jets is this team plays their best when their backs are against the wall and no one believes in them. Well, their backs are certainly up against the wall now and they have plenty of doubters, now it’s time to see if they can prove those doubters wrong again for the third year in a row.