The "new and improved" Dolphins led by journeyman QB Gus Frerotte storm the Meadowlands this Sunday. (Sun Sentinel Photo)
Bank on passion and execution being the calling cards for the Jets against the Dolphins Sunday.
The Jets will not only beat the Dolphins, climb back to .500 at 1-1 and restore their dignity, they might even rout their AFC East rivals. The Jets have historically been too resilient under the leadership of Herman Edwards to fold two weeks in a row.
Everything is set up for a Jets' victory, helped by the fact that it's the home opener at Giants Stadium.
The Jets are coming off of their worst, most lackluster and ill-prepared performance in memory. The Dolphins are feeling good about themselves, having beaten up on the Broncos last week at home.
Desperation often breeds some crisp performances. And clearly, the Jets, facing 0-2 in a season that was predicted by so many to include a run at a Super Bowl berth, are the more desperate team amongst the two. The Dolphins were predicted by almost everyone to finish last in the AFC East.
The Jets, too, are coming off a hell week that included some stern messages from Herman Edwards behind closed doors along with some very serious and spirited practices that included some brow-beading by offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger and defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson.
"Let's just say we were under the thumb today, if you know what I mean,'' Jets' left guard Pete Kendall said after an extra-long Wednesday practice that had players huffing and puffing as they entered the locker room. "There wasn't a lot of ass-patting or 'atta-boys' out there.''
Nor should there have been after last Sunday's performance.
The prediction here is that Edwards' words struck home with his players when he told them they needed to get back to being the blue-collar team that out-works and out-grinds its opponents.
Clearly, the Jets players had become too enamored with the big picture and seduced by the possibilities everyone was predicting _ overtaking New England in the AFC East, getting to the AFC Championship game, perhaps even the Super Bowl.
Often, those kinds of positive predictions are poison for teams, because they believe in the hype before they make the effort to match the hype. This is surely a part of what happened to the Jets last week. They forgot about the task in front of them, the Chiefs, and were blinded by the big picture.
"This lets us know where we stand,'' Jets' linebacker Jonathan Vilma said.
"You realize you're not that good a team a right now and you do have to go back to basics; you can never outgrow the basics,'' cornerback Ty Law said.
"Everything Herm says we take to heart,'' receiver Wayne Chrebet said. "Herm's not the kind of guy that just talks to talk. When he says something like that he means it. It's from the heart. He wants us to succeed. The things he says to us is meant to strike a chord, strike a nerve in us to realize what made us a success in past is going to continue to make us successful _ being a blue-collar, smart team.
"Last week was only one loss, but we've got to stick together after a game like that. We can rebound. We've got 15 weeks to rebound from it. You certainly don't want to start the year off that way, but it happened, you learn from it and move on.''
That brings us to Sunday at Giants Stadium, where the Jets can make a new start. Home games, particularly home games that happen to be division games, are more important than Kansas City on the road. So a win Sunday over the Dolphins can count as almost a win-plus.
The advice here, coming from a rabid sports fan who goes to games preferably to cheer rather than boo, is for Jets fans to forget about the ridiculous events that took place last Sunday in Kansas City and pretend Sunday at Giants Stadium, 4:15 kickoff is the start of the 2005 season.
The advice here is to make Giants Stadium Jets Stadium and get loose, make the Dolphins feels like unwanted visitors and help propel the Jets.
Chrebet said it best late this week when he talked about the importance of a fast start Sunday. Surely, there are going to be plenty of skeptical Jets fans waiting to be shown why they should cheer madly or waiting to see more signs of last week's debacle.
So the Jets need to make plays and make them early. That'll whip the place up into a frenzy and make it become the home-field edge it should be.
And, if you're looking for a good omen in the face of last week's bad loss that has everyone on edge, consider what Law has gone through a couple of times in years he went to the Super Bowl with the Patriots.
Two years ago, the Patriots were waxed by the Bills 31-0 shortly after they'd made the controversial cut of safety Lawyer Milloy. Think about how many thought that was the demise of New England's season _ a division loss along with serious chemistry problems inside the locker room.
"We went on to win the Super Bowl that year,'' Law recalled. "We had the same feeling that year as we had after the Kansas City loss. We have to put it behind us, but we have to remember it. We remember what this felt like, and do what ever we can to make sure this doesn't happen again.''
Law, who recalled an earlier year when New England got belted by the Bengals in the opener and went on to win the Super Bowl, revealed that he spoke to some teammates about those very comebacks from the dead to the Promised Land.
"I have (talked to teammates),'' Law said. "I said my two cents and let it go. We have to pick it up and move on. That was one game. If you have to take a loss like that you'd rather have it happen in the beginning, not middle or the end.''
INSIDER EXTRA POINTS
Chad Pennington was adamant all week about not pushing panic buttons despite his six fumbles (two lost) last week. The shotgun snaps were a bit of a fluke. On the first one, Edwards revealed late in the week that Pennington was a yard too close to center in the formation. On the second one, center Kevin Mawae simply sent the ball too high and hot out of the box.
"It's one game for crying out loud,'' Pennington said. "It's water under the bridge. The end result, I think, kind of muddies what went on. If you take away putting the ball on the ground, we had a chance to have a career day in the passing game.
"The fumbles kind of muddied the waters as far as what happened out there and how we were still in the game even though hit didn't seem like it. Everybody thinks it's the end of the world. It's really not.
"I'd be much more disappointed if we went out there and got slammed, couldn't move the ball and everything we did they had an answer for but that wasn't it. They didn't have an answer for a lot of the things we did. We just didn't execute them and make them pay.''
Speaking of Mawae, who was so disgusted with his performance he immediately called himself out in the locker room after the game in Kansas City, calling it the worst game he'd played in 10 years, look for a big rebound from him for two reasons.
Reason No. 1, his pride was hurt badly by what took place against the Chiefs.
Reason No. 2, Miami linebacker Zach Thomas. Thomas brings out the best in Mawae, because Thomas is one of the best middle linebackers in the game. Those two have marvelous battles every time they meet.
"He's a guy who wasn't really happy with how he played,'' Edwards said of Mawae. "He's a Pro Bowl player, a very good, consistent player. When guys don't play as well as they anticipate they generally come back the next week and
play better. I anticipate he'll do that.''
Speaking of the offensive line, look for the Jets to get help on the left side where left tackle Jason Fabini is. Fabini, who struggled last week in pass protection at Kansas City, allowing a sack and forced fumble and some pressures, matches up against Miami defensive end Jason Taylor, always a difficult task for him.
A couple of Jets coaches indicated during the week that they're going to have to send a tight end over to Fabini's side at times to "help him out.''
Don't look for anything more to come out of the Jonathan Vilma-James Reed confrontation that took place during the Chiefs game on the sideline. For those who have been on Mars all week and haven’t heard about this, Reed socked Vilma in the eye on the sideline in KC last Sunday after Vilma berated Reed for not keeping offensive linemen off him.
According to sources inside Weeb Ewbank Hall, not only Edwards spoke to both players directly, but even defensive captain, defensive end Shaun Ellis, had a word with them.
According to one highly-placed team source, Edwards' message to Vilma, who is emerging as one of the leaders of the defense, was about knowing who he's talking to.
The thinking there was that Vilma should have taken his beef with Reed up at another time instead of calling him out on the bench, because Reed wasn't mature enough to handle that kind of criticism in public. The end result was Reed losing his composure and punching Vilma.
Reed this week sounded very sorry the incident happened, and he should be. He needs to remember that Vilma is one of the leaders of the team and the last thing he needs to be branded as is the guy who took a swing at a team leader. Reed needs to remember that, before Josh Evans retired, he was on the street with no one burning up his agent's phone line to sign him.
If it wasn’t for Josh Evans’ retirement, Reed, who had been cut in the spring probably wouldn’t have even been on the team. He was brought back, had a good camp and won the starting job almost by default, with not a lot of competition. Another game of being pushed around like he was on the line in Kansas City, though, and his job status could become rather precarious.
At halftime of Sunday's game, the Jets are honoring linebackers Marvin Jones and Mo Lewis, two players who gave their respective heart and soul to the organization.
It's nice that they're finally doing it, but the question here is this: Why did this take so long? Why wasn't this done last year? These guys haven't played since 2003.
In what can only be described as a cheese ball move, the ceremony honoring the two greatest linebackers is being sponsored by some company the Jets marketing department drummed up to make a few more dollars.
It makes you wonder, what if no sponsor had been found to fund these proceedings? Does that mean Jones and Lewis would never have been honored?.
Pardon the cynicism, because both players, who spent their entire careers with the Jets, richly deserve their night. But it just seems tacky to have a sponsor's name attached to this, doesn't it?
We don't recall Joe Namath being honored by the Jets with Leggs panty hose sponsoring the proceedings.
When Lou Gehrig made his famous speech at Yankee Stadium, calling himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth, did he thank Reingold Beer for sponsoring that day?
Trust us on this: You'll never find the tradition-rich Giants honoring one of their past greats with a sponsor's name attached to the day to squeeze a few more bucks out of the event.
It's in poor taste.