Atalanta QB Michael Vick will be looking to put on a show for the Monday Night Football audience this week.
The New York Jets 2005 season has been a struggle for the Jets. They have to deal with numerous injuries to star players and that is one of the reasons they are 2-4. Meanwhile behind QB Mike Vick, the Atlanta Falcons are 4-2. The Jets have a chance to shock the Falcons and impress the national TV audience when the teams meet at the Georgia Dome on Monday Night Football.
“Everybody knows that Monday night is probably the greatest game you can play outside of the Super Bowl,” Jets DE John Abraham said. “Everybody is watching you and it’s the one game that everybody is watching on that Monday so it’s definitely going to be a lot of pressure on both teams.”
The pressure will certainly be on the Jets offense which ranks 27th in the NFL averaging 244.7 yards per game and 30th in the league with 13 points per game. The o-line was strong last year helping lead the way for RB Curtis Martin to the NFL rushing title. But lost one of the key components when RT Kareem McKenzie left in the off-season. He was replaced by second-year Adrian Jones but against Jacksonville, LT Jason Fabini was injured. The two switched positions and the last three weeks Jones has started at left tackle and Fabini has started at right tackle. Then on Sunday against Buffalo, C Kevin Mawae tore his left triceps and is out for the season. The injury ends Mawae streak of 177 consecutive starts. Pete Kendall moves from left guard to center and Jonathan Goodwin takes Kendall’s place at starting left guard.
“(He brings) leadership, a guy that's been around,” Jets head coach Herman Edwards said of what Kendall brings to the position. “He's smart, very smart. Very smart football player, Pete, and so he brings some of that, what Kevin brought. And he does it in a different way, that's what he brings, toughness, tough guy.”
Kendall talked about the difference in playing center. “I think the types of pulls are different,” Kendall said. “As a center, you’re not asked to pull and kick out which is nice, it’s a little easier on the body. Believe it or not, playing in a balanced stance, which is what I’d have to do as a center, makes it easier to get out up and run.”
QB Vinny Testaverde was asked about having a new center. “It’s like playing with any other player,” Testaverde said. “You have to allow for some adjustment. Hopefully with a week of practice, you’ll get it done. The good thing is that during the game Sunday against Buffalo, we did take a couple snaps on the sideline and I felt pretty comfortable with that. Hopefully, going into this week, that confidence will be there, we won’t have any mistakes and we’ll get some scores.”
“I feel like it’s a big opportunity,” Goodwin said. “I hate to gain it because of someone else getting hurt, but that’s the way the NFL is. Now I’ve got to go out there, play hard and hopefully play as well as I did last year.”
If there is a positive for the Jets, it is Martin had his best game of the year with 148 yards and a touchdown last week. Martin still has faith in his o-line. “I’m confident,” Martin said. “I feel like Kevin (Mawae) is definitely one of our best players, not just on the offensive line, but on our team. To lose him is hard, but I think with Pete (Kendall) stepping in playing center, I don’t expect it (offensive line) to drop off.”
While the Falcons defense lets up 356.2 yards per game this season, they have been solid at home under head coach Jim Mora, Jr. where they are 9-2. During that span, they have 25 takeaways and 43 sacks while allowing only 85.7 rushing yards per game. Atlanta has allowed only 17 first quarter points at home in those 11 games. That’s certainly a concern for the Jets who have been outscored 30-7 in the first quarter this year. “We always want to get off to a fast start,” Testaverde said. “It’s always better to play from the lead than from behind. The last few ball games, we’ve been playing from behind so it makes it tough. You hear it all the time, but all the mistakes we’ve been making are correctable, that’s the good news. If we were just getting beat because we weren’t as talented as the other team, then we’d be in for a long road, but there has to come a point where we stop making those mistakes and play consistent, stay focused throughout the whole ball game.”
The Falcons defense is led by LB Keith Brocking (55 tackles) and CB DeAngelo Hall (three interceptions). The Falcons love to blitz on defense. “We’re going to see that every week,” Testaverde said. “If we don’t pick up the blitz and make plays, we’re going to see the blitz every week. The sooner we pick it up and have some success against the blitz, the better off we’re going to be.”
The Jets will also have to deal with the loud atmosphere at the Georgia Dome. “You’ve got to just communicate it obviously and it's about communication, it's about guys talking,” Edwards said. “We'll go over that again, but we played in a lot of loud places…They have been in those situations before, we handled it well and we'll handle it well when we go to Atlanta.”
“We have a really good crowd,” Falcons head coach Jim Mora, Jr. said. “In the south, you guys know how football is in the south, it’s serious business and they understand the game. They understand the importance they can have in the fall of a game. We don’t get the wave going when we’re on offense. I’ve been at places where, I know it sounds ridiculous, but they are cheering when you’re on offense doing the wave. We have educated fans and they’re passionate fans. We enjoy playing in or environment. I think it can be a help to us.”
If the Jets offense can sustain drives and put points on the board it will help the defense. In the last four games, the Jets offense had 199 plays compared with the opponents’ 276.
The main topic at Weeb Ewbank Hall this week is how will the Jets stop Vick. While Vick has stayed in the pocket more than he has in the past, completing 55-of-100 passes for 607 yards and five touchdowns, he still can make things happen with his feet. Vick is second on the team rushing with 284 yards and a touchdown.
LB Jonathan Vilma was asked how the Jets prepare for Vick. “You can’t simulate his speed, so you prepare for him by watching him, knowing what he does, knowing his tendencies, aside from that, the scout team QB can’t simulate his playmaking ability, so we’ll just run the plays that we run on the scout team,” Vilma said. “The only way to prepare for him is to watch him.”
Abraham gave his keys. “Contain him and try not to be overly aggressive,” Abraham said. “A lot of people mess up when they try to blitz him or do more than you have to do. Just stay in your lanes because if you give him a little crease he’s going to end up making a big play.”
Mora got upset in a conference call with New York media when he was asked where he thinks Vick is as a QB. “What do you mean, as a quarter back per say? In the mold of Peyton Manning or in the role of Mike Vick? Because in the mold of Mike Vick he’s outstanding. He wins two-thirds of his games. I think it is unfortunate that people always put him in a mold. Let him be him. He is a QB. He’s a great QB. I see him do things that other QBs don’t do.”
The Jets players have said this week Vick is doing a better job checking off his receivers better this year. “It’s not just this year,” Vick said. “I was doing that last year and the year before. Like I say, teams have to prepare for me in the passing game, they have to prepare for me in the running game. I know my progressives, I know what we are doing in the offense and I know where to go with the football.”
Warrick Dunn leads the running backs with 111 carries for 577 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. “We have to game tackle him,” Ellis said. “When we get there we have to make tackles. We can’t miss tackles like we did last week. We have a whole lot of missed tackles. This week, we just have to get a guy on him and everybody else just rally around him and get him down. He’s short, so he has a lot of leverage and he’s very explosive because he has a low center of gravity.”
The Falcons also use T.J. Duckett (45 carries, 183 yards, four touchdowns) but Duckett is probably out for Monday night. The Falcons are tops in the NFL with 185.58 rushing yards per game.
When Vick does go to the air, TE Alge Crumpler is Vick’s favorite target with 23 catches for 309 yards and two touchdowns.
Edwards gave his take on stopping Vick. “The best theory? Stay on the field offensively and you won’t have to worry about it. It’s real simple,” Edwards said.
-The Jets and Falcons have split the eight games playing between the two teams with the Jets winning the last game 28-3 at the Meadowlands in 1998.
-The last time the Jets played in the Georgia Dome was when they opened the season there on Sept. 6, 1992.
-Edwards finished his playing career as a member of the Falcons in 1986.
-The Jets are 16-19 all-time on Monday Night Football and 2-2 under Edwards.
-The Jets have been sacked 21 times for 125 yards in losses.
-The Jets have committed 37 penalties that have cost them 299 yards.
-The Jets have lost five straight regular season road games.
-LB Jonathan Vilma leads the NFL with 74 tackles. 54 of those are unassisted, also tops in the NFL.
Jets D-line vs. Falcons QB Mike Vick
The Jets need to put pressure on Vick and track him down when he takes to the ground.
THREE THINGS THE JETS MUST NEED TO DO:
-CONTAIN MICHAEL VICK
There is no denying Vick is a very good QB and an exciting player to watch. As Edwards and numerous Jets players said this week, you can’t defend him but you can contain him and the Jets need to keep him in front of them and not miss tackles.
-CONTROL THE CLOCK
The Jets defense has been on the field a lot this season and one of those reasons is because the offense has not been able to get any long drives. The Jets offense needs to produce first downs and use the clock so the defense has time to rest.
-DON’T FALL BEHIND EARLY
One of the reasons the Jets have struggled this season is because they have been outscored 30-7 in the first quarter. The one game they did not fall behind was the win over Miami. When the Jets have fallen behind, teams know they are going to throw more and blitz more. The Jets need to jump out to an early lead and take the Georgia Dome crowd out of it.
The Jets don’t want to embarrass themselves on national TV but Vick is a tough player and the Jets will struggle against Vick as the Jets go into the bye week at 2-5.
Falcons 31 Jets 14
S Oliver Celestin (left PCL) is officially listed as doubtful but will not play Monday. CB Ty Law is still battling with lower back tightness and did not practice for a second straight day. Law is questionable. WR Justin McCareins is questionable with a knee injury and did not practice today. FB B.J. Askew (knee) is probable. LB Eric Barton (ankle) is probable and will return Monday after missing the last three weeks. RB Curtis Martin (knee) is probable and has not practiced this week. DE John Abraham (back) practiced today and Edwards said he is probable but Abraham does not appear on the official injury report. CB Derrick Strait (illness) returned to practice today and is not on the injury report.
-QB Chad Pennington (shoulder): Out
-QB Jay Fiedler (shoulder): Out
RB Derrick Blaylock (foot): Out
-C Kevin Mawae (triceps): Out
-S Oliver Celestin (knee): Doubtful
-CB Ty Law (back): Questionable
-WR Justin McCareins (knee): Questionable
-LB Eric Barton (ankle): Probable
-FB B.J. Askew (ankle): Probable
-RB Curtis Martin (knee): Probable
-RB T.J. Duckett (ankle): Questionable
-T Todd Weiner (arm): Probable
The Jets will hold a night practice tomorrow before departing for Atlanta. Gametime is 9 p.m. Monday and the game will be shown nationally on ABC 7. Local Radio is 1050 ESPN. Check back to Jets Insider.com for a recap!