Hackett Playing Not To Lose

By Christopher Falvo
Jets Staff Writer
October 14th, 2004
The Jets need to get the ball to WR Justin McCareins more in the red zone. (Jets Photo)
The Jets need to get the ball to WR Justin McCareins more in the red zone. (Jets Photo)
Jets offensive coordinator Paul Hackett put in place a good game plan, this past Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. He did a nice job of mixing the run game in a predominantly pass heavy offensive attack.

It was not Hackett’s game plan that almost cost the Jets this week. His play calling in tight situations, and inability to create mismatches put the Jets in a compromising position at the end of the game. At times the Jets offense played this game, not to lose.

While it may seem silly to criticize a team that us undefeated, Hackett must make changes as the schedule in the weeks ahead becomes much more challenging. If the Jets play this type of game against the Patriots, they will get rolled. With 2:16 left in the first half, from their own 28-yard line, the Jets ran a five play mix of runs and short passes to Curtis Martin and Jerald Sowell moving 31-yards. The Jets then spent their first timeout, leading 7-0 with 1:06 left and the ball on the Buffalo 41. The Jets were staring a golden scoring opportunity in the face. After an incomplete pass on 2nd and 4, Chad Pennington hooked-up with Wayne Chrebet for 12-yards, down to the Buffalo 29. The Jets, with two timeouts and about: 50 seconds left, opted to run out the clock with a short pass and a run, both to Martin, and settled for a 37-yard Doug Brien field goal. Hackett shied away from the opportunity to put a dagger in the hearts of the Bills just before halftime.

Hackett also failed to create mismatches on that drive and throughout the game. He used Sowell out of the slot during the final drive of the first half. Sowell, who is second on the team in receptions with 18, has been a key cog in the Jets offense this season. In that position he does not create problems for a defense whose linebackers ran down Santana Moss on the previous drive, holding his dash for the end zone to a 41-yard catch and run. Sowell had a two yard reception on that drive.

Hackett did a good job of taking shots at the end zone throughout the game, but did not put his players in positions to succeed. Three times Hackett called for the fade to the corner of the end zone, none of which were successful. One was overthrown to Justin McCareins and the other two were thrown to Moss, who is listed at 5’-10”. The reason the Jets traded for McCareins was because they needed a bigger more physical receiver to catch slants and jump balls in the end zone. McCareins is here to do what Keyshawn Johnson did to make Vinny Testaverde look so good during the 1998 season.

As the games progressed the Jets did a good job of moving the ball against Buffalo, one of the leagues better defenses. The Jets had three drives of 11 plays or more and had an impressive 8 play 80-yard drive which culminated with a one yard touchdown pass to TE Chris Baker, his second of the season. They were also able to move the ball 58-yards in just three plays before Baker’s fumble ended the Jets march on the Buffalo 12-yardline. The Jets seemed to be moving the ball at-will but had only 13 points to show for it.

After Drew Bledsoe connected with TE Mark Campbell for a 16-yard touchdown to pull Buffalo within six, the Jets had a chance to drain the clock and give their defense some much needed rest. With just under nine minutes left and the ball on the New York 27-yardline, Hackett’s play calling wilted under pressure as the Jets went three and out gaining 8-yards and giving Buffalo the ball with 6:58 left in the game. The prior drive the Jets were once again moving on Buffalo mixing run and pass. They had burned six minutes off the clock, before Pennington’s ill-advised pass slipped through Curtis Martin’s arms into the hands of Jeff Posey, setting up Buffalo’s first score.

Every Friday, Jets head coach, Herman Edwards posts stats of what turnovers in the NFL can do to a team. The Jets were minus one in turnovers against Buffalo.

“Generally you don’t survive,” said Edwards. “I told them we dodged the bullet.” Edward’s stats stated that out of 25 teams minus one in turnovers for a game, only five teams won.

Buffalo came right back after the Jets three and out scoring the game tying touchdown on a 46-yard bomb form Bledsoe to rookie WR Lee Evans. The extra point by K Rian Lindell put the Bills up 14-13.

Fortunately Jets did not fold under the pressure this time around. Hackett constructed a nice drive and the Jets marched down then field on the poised arm of Pennington. After a three yard Martin run, Pennington connected with on six consecutive passes to four different receivers. With the clock stopped for the two minute warning the Jets are once again faced with a situation similar to the end of the first half. Having all three timeouts and the ball on the Buffalo 27-yard line, Hackett called Martins number for a five yard burst up the middle, then wisely took a shot at the end zone, but Pennington overthrew Sowell, who was open for six. “We we’re going for the jugular,” said Edwards.

Driving into the same wind that steered Brien’s first quarter 29-yard field goal wide-left, Hackett chose to run a play action pass short of the sticks on third down. With a little over a 1:00 left to play and all three timeouts, Hackett opted to go for three. He decided to put the game on the leg of his kicker instead of going for the first down and running out the clock or truly going for the jugular and put seven on the board. Once again Hackett placed his player in position difficult to succeed, as Brien’s game winning 38-yard kick, which was almost stalemated by the strong Giant Stadium winds, inched over the cross bar to give the Jets a 16-14 lead.

Like the Jets defense Hackett must learn to put teams away when he has the chance. The Jets will not become an elite team in this league until they start playing, like Herm says, “to win the game.”

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