Jets QB Chad Pennington hopes to bounce back from a horrible performance against the Pats last season. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Herman Edwards’ one-game-at-a-time mantra has worked to perfection through five games of this young NFL season, albeit the Jets’ offense and defense have been far from infallible.
The latter must change Sunday if Gang Green is to walk off the field at Gillette Stadium with a one game lead over the New England Patriots for AFC East supremacy and an early leg up on possible home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Anything less won’t get it done. Not against the defending Super Bowl champions. Not against wonder boy Tom Brady. Not against Bill Belichick’s stifling and opportunistic defense.
Brady won’t assume the fetal position in the face of Jets’ blitz packages. Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, and Ty Law and Co. aren’t going to allow the Jets to score 22 unanswered points as the 49ers did last week. Belichick, rest assured, will devise a game plan to attack and expose the Jets’ weaknesses. Hopefully, Gang Green’s coaching staff with make the necessary adjustments, as they did a week ago, to counteract anything the Pats throw at them.
The Jets need to, er, must play perfect football to improve to 6-0. The question is, “Will they?” The answer: Yes!
Much has been said that the Jets are the beneficiaries of a soft schedule. That they are the byproduct of the generosity provided by the Bengals, Chargers, Dolphins, Bills, and 49ers. Despite playing sad sacks the Jets have been less than impressive and lack the killer instinct to put lesser teams away, the critics say.
No argument here. There is some truth to all of this. So what? The bottom line is they won the games they were supposed to win. The last time we checked, there were only three undefeated teams standing. Has every team played a killer schedule? No. The Patriots, for instance, have only played two tough opponents – Indianapolis and Seattle – both at home. Following Sunday’s game, the Pats have only three games remaining with teams owning winning records. The Eagles’ last three opponents have been the Lions, Bears, and Panthers, which are a combined 6-10.
What the Jets are is a work in progress. The offense has clicked at times and struggled at times. The defense has been downright scary on occasion and generous at others. The constants have been Curtis Martin, the most cohesive offensive line in football, a team that leads the NFL in turnover efficiency, a healthy Chad Pennington, and a much-improved, more mercurial defense that has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher. No wonder Jets’ fans can’t help but get all warm and fuzzy.
When you run the ball, control the clock, play mistake free football, and capitalize on the opposition’s errors you win football games. Plain and simple.
Come Sunday, the Jets need to take their game to a higher level. They must play a complete game. They must send a loud, conclusive message that they are contenders and not pretenders. It may be Week 6, but the entire eyes of the NFL will fall on New England this weekend. (The World Series aside).
Memo to Paul Hackett: Put the run, run, pass game plan in the trash. Enough. Allow the cerebral Pennington to improvise and take what the Pats give him. Utilize Lamont Jordan more. His presence is unquestioned. And for God sake, get Justin McCareins the ball. As for Donnie
Henderson, he must stay in the coaching booth and demand, before kickoff, that his defense plays with intensity for a full 60 minutes. If he has to come down to the sidelines before halftime to read his guys the riot act again, game over.
You can’t take a play off against the Patriots. They’ll make you pay. Ironically, Gang Green is playing a lot like the Pats: keeping games close and making big plays at the end. Something has to give.
The Jets have one more thing in their favor. An intangible that has proven to be a catalyst for productive teams in any sport: chemistry. More so than any Jets team since 1998, this year’s rendition has a genuine appreciation for one another and possesses a spark not seen in these parts for a while.
This has been evident in several games when the offense, defense, or special teams for that matter, needed to make a big play to seal the deal.
The same can be said of Edwards’ coaching. He has never been more in control of his team as he has this year. In his fourth season, he has come into his own. We already knew he was a terrific motivator. But his in-game adjustments are much improved. Did we agree with his choice to go for two points last week? No. But we admired his instinct. And when’s the last time anyone questioned his clock management skills?
Moreover, Edwards’ teams’ thrive on the road, owning one of the best records in the league since 2001, including two victories this season. They have also been the least penalized team in the league. That is also a testament to his coaching ability.
The Jets have won five of the last six meetings in Foxboro dating to 1998, highlighted by the Pats’ last home loss, a 30-17 drubbing, in Dec. 2002.
It says here the Jets make it six of the last seven.