The Saints and QB Aaron Brooks are trying like the Jets to salvage their season.
While Sunday’s game against the New Orleans certainly lacks luster with both teams being 2-8, don’t expect either team to not play their hardest. Both teams are desperate to win a game as the Jets have lost five in a row while the Saints have lost six straight.
“I think it’s going to be two teams that are starving to win a game,” Jets head coach Herman Edwards said. “We have to make sure we understand that. These guys are going to come in and really play physical.”
Saints WR Joe Horn added in a conference call with Jets reporters this week: “You are going to have two football teams who are very hungry to get a win. It’s going to be a very exciting football game.”
It has not been an easy season for either team with the Jets Super Bowl and playoff chances going up in smoke with all the injuries. The Saints had to move to San Antonio after Hurricane Katrina did damage to the New Orleans Superdome. The Saints were the home team in week two against the Giants at the Meadowlands and are playing their remaining home games in San Antonio and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Both Edwards and Saints head coach Jim Haslet talked about how they try to keep their teams focused.
“It’s hard because there are a lot of distractions obviously going on right now,” Edwards said. “When you’re 2-8, that kind of comes with the territory. You understand that. I think the big thing you always have to make ‘em understand is that, you know, you have an obligation because this is what you chose to do. Regardless of the situation, you still have to prepare yourself to win and improve as a player. That’s what you always have to remember. You can’t stop improving. You can never stop doing that. That’s your job. That’s important.”
“It’s something that is a constant battle all the time and I commend our players for staying positive through the whole thing,” Haslett said. “It hasn’t been easy on them, but you are a professional and it is just something that you have to do. Again, our guys have done a good job of it. Our record doesn’t reflect it, with what we’ve gone through and what we’ve done, but I think that the big thing is that we stuck together and that we are hanging tight, playing hard. Hopefully that will correlate into a victory pretty soon.”
The game certainly has the potential to be ugly as the Saints offense ranks 16th in the league while the Jets are third to last. Both teams also have problems holding onto the ball as the Jets are minus-9 in turnover ratio (28th in the NFL) and the Saints are even worse at minus-13 (tied for 31st in the NFL).
“The turnovers have hurt us,” Haslett said. “We’re last in the NFL in turnovers and this last week or this last couple of weeks we’ve actually done a pretty good job on the offensive side not turning the ball over, but we got to do far better in that category. That is the thing that has probably been hurting us the most.”
The Jets offense has had to deal with injuries to their top two quarterbacks this year and is averaging just 237.7 yards per game. Despite QB Brooks Bollinger suffering a concussion last week on the second series of the Jets 27-0 loss to Denver, he practiced this week and will make his third straight start. Bollinger, who had several concussions at the University of Wisconsin, said he feels much better and is prepared to play. He took most of the snaps in practice this week. “Obviously I only have one head so I have to be careful,” Bollinger said.
Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger has spent much of this week trying to figure out how his offense can put points on the board after only scoring three in the past two games.
If the Jets are going to be successful against the Saints, then they will need to limit turnovers as they have turned it over 11 times in the past two games and 27 times this season. It’s an alarming trend considering the Jets entered this season having the fewest turnovers in the league over the past four seasons under Edwards (76).
"The turnovers are killing us,” Edwards said earlier this week. “They're staggering. We talk about it, don't do it in practice and then we do it in the game. We've got to do a better job of that, and if we can do a better job we'll win some games. If you turn the ball over like that, you're not going to win in anyone's league. It's very, very difficult.”
"I just want to go through a game where we didn't turn the ball over. We used to play like that. When you're playing like that you generally win around here. People sometimes said it was boring, but it wins."
With the Saints ranked third against the pass this year, the Jets may be forced to go to the running game, something the Saints have struggled stopping this year (138.6 yards per game). RB Curtis Martin had just seven yards on four carries last week but the Jets abandoned the run after they fell behind to Denver early.
While the Saints have also had to deal with numerous injuries this year including a season-ending knee injury to RB Deuce McAllister, they have been fortunate that QB Aaron Brooks (178-328, 2,267 yards, 9 TD, 13 INT) has stayed healthy this year. Brooks is a good athlete who can run around and make plays with his legs as well as his arms. Brooks has good protection in front of him as the offensive line is big and very physical. When Brooks does throw the ball, his two main targets are WR Joe Horn (30 rec., 426 yds, 1 TD) and WR Donte Stallworth. (44 rec., 624 yds, 5 TD). Horn has missed three games this year with a hamstring injury.
Edwards says as the season wears on and as the weather becomes colder, that has an effect on tackling and ball security. “That’s a big emphasis,” Edwards said. “That’s when the league really gets bad. I think the league, period, in the months of November, after Thanksgiving, maybe the stuff they put in the turkey or something. Tackling becomes pretty sloppy. Guys are nicked, too. A lot of guys are hurt now. Not hurt that they can’t play, but nicked up, fingers are sore, swollen fingers, thumbs, all that. You don’t grab as well. There’s always a lot of missed tackles when it gets cold.”
THREE THINGS GANG GREEN MUST DO TO WIN:
1.HANG ONTO THE FOOTBALL: The Jets have 27 turnovers, second worst in the league behind the Saints, who have 28 turnovers. With 11 turnovers in their last two games, the Jets cannot afford to turn the ball over and give the Saints a short field to work with.
2. PROTECT BOLLINGER: With QB Kliff Kingsbury backing up Bollinger, Bollinger needs to remain in this game and not get knocked around. The jumbled Jets offensive line has not done a good job protecting QB’s this year, allowing 35 sacks.
3. DEFENSIVE SCORE: It has got to be frustrating for the defense with the lack of production on offense. Last week, the Jets defense was on the field for nearly 43 minutes and wore down as Denver put together long drives and the Jets offense could not stay on the field. If the Jets offense can’t get it done against the Saints, then the Jets defense needs to step up and get a defensive touchdown.
PREDICTION: With the Saints just as bad as the Jets, this is the perfect time to snap the five game losing streak. Bollinger needs to remain protected and not turn the ball over for the Jets to win. While Brooks and Horn are good players, the Jets defense can stop them.
-KINGSBURY TO BACKUP BOLLINGER: Edwards announced earlier this week that Kliff Kingsbury will back-up starter Brooks Bollinger at QB. “Vinny (Testaverde) is hobbled,” Edwards said. “He has an ankle and he still hast he calf thing going on. That’s not always good. I think Vinny can still play, but he’s hobbled. Kingsbury is obviously a little bit more mobile at this point. If he had to play, we’d put him in right now. If he struggles, obviously Vinny could probably come back in the game and play.”
Kingsbury played the final minute of last week’s loss to Denver after Bollinger and Testaverde got hurt. "I was brought in just in case something like this happened, to go in and try to get a win in a dire-straight emergency situation," Kingsbury said. "That's the way I approached it and I'm going to go out there and play as hard as I can to try and get a win if they need me."
Kingsbury has been a NFL journeyman, with the Jets being his fourth team in three years. Edwards said the main concern for Kingsbury is the center to QB exchange as Kingsbury playing in the shotgun at Texas Tech.
-HORN RIPS TAGLIABUE: Saints WR Joe Horn is not one to shy away from letting people know what’s on his mind and in a conference call with Jets reporters this week, expressed his frustration at the NFL for not finding a permanent home for the Saints. "The least they can do is resolve this mess," Horn said. "Let us stay here. If we are going to stay in Texas, then damn it, let us stay in Texas. If we are going to Louisiana, then hey, let's do that ... Don't have us hanging over, using us like we're bait. That's the way guys feel right now."
Horn accused the league and Tagliabue of poor planning for the hurricane's aftermath, which forced the organization to relocate to San Antonio. Horn also was harshly critical of Tagliabue's handling of the crisis. "Guys right now are salty that he has sent his executives here to talk to us," Horn said. "It's OK, we respect them. I don't really personally care whether he came or not ... But the other guys are pissed off that Mr. Tagliabue hasn't said, 'I'm going to New Orleans and I'm going to hear their frustrations, hear their pain, so at least when I go back to New York, they will say I was man enough to come there and confront them.'"
-The Jets hold a 5-4-1 all-time record against the Saints. The Jets defeated the Saints, 16-9 on Nov. 4, 2001 in the last meeting between the teams.
-Before last week’s shutout against Denver, the last team to shut out the Jets was the Saints, 12-0 on Dec. 24, 1995.
-The Jets have been outscored 68-7 in the first quarter this year.
-Rookie P Ben Graham has a 39.2 net average, fifth in the NFL.
-RB Curtis Martin needs 19 yards rushing to reach the 14,000 yard mark for his career. The other three players in NFL history that have accomplished the feat are Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, and Barry Sanders.
CB David Barrett (eye) will miss his third straight game and rookie CB Justin Miller will start in his place. Don’t be surprised if Derrick Strait comes in if Miller is struggling. QB Brooks Bollinger (head) practiced this week and will start Sunday.
-QB Jay Fielder (shoulder): Out
-CB David Barrett (eye): Out
-RB Derrick Blaylock (foot): Doubtful
-DT Sione Pouha (calf): Questionable
-WR Harry Williams, Jr. (knee): Questionable
-RB Curtis Martin (knee): Probable
-DE John Abraham (shoulder): Probable
-C Pete Kendall (back): Probable
-FB B.J. Askew (hamstring): Probable
-QB Brooks Bollinger (head): Probable
-TE Ernie Conwell (knee): Questionable
-LB Courtney Watson (knee): Questionable
-DT Brian Young (wrist): Questionable
Gametime is at 8:30 p.m. Sunday and the game will be shown nationally on ESPN. Local Radio is 1050 ESPN Radio and 770 WABC. Check back to Jetsinsider.com for a full recap as well as photo gallery.