STARS OF THE GAME
Rams WR Torry Holt was a thorn in the Jets side all of Sunday's game.
5. Jets RB Curtis Martin: The Jets' lone offensive weapon rebounded from last week's 33 yard performance against the Patriots with 153 yards on 28 carries. Taking advantage of an over-aggressive defense, the Jets used draws and traps to spring Curtis through the holes in the line left by the blitzing linebackers. Martin, who carried the load because of poor QB play and questionable play-calling, sliced through the line for some of his longest gains of the year. The 31 year olds showed he still has the spring in his legs this late in the season. His 153 yards also propelled him to the 2004 NFL rushing title, surpassing Seattle’s Shaun Alexander by one yard (1697 yards).
4. Jets KR/WR Jerricho Cotchery: The rookie WR out of N.C. State had his breakout game as a Jet ironically on the same day that Wayne Chrebet’s careeer in a Jet uniform may have come to an end. Cotchery, who took over the duties as KR a couple weeks ago due to the ineffectiveness of Jonathan Carter, had a 94 yard kickoff return for a TD in the 3rd quarter which changed the momentum of the game at the time. He also had a long KR in the 4th quarter that set up the Jets' game-tying FG. Overall, Cotchery had 5 KR's which averaged 39.2 yards. Cotchery also had 2 catches for 15 yards while replacing Chrebet in the slot. Again, with the Jets unable to score points offensively, the emergence of Cotchery is essential.
3. Rams WR Torry Holt: The explosive Pro-Bowl WR tortured the Jets' lackluster secondary throughout the day as he recorded 7 receptions for 116 yards and 2 TD's. Holt, whose receiving records at N.C. State were broken by Cotchery, just had to much speed on the fast dome turf for the Jets to handle. He continually burned Jets CB David Barrett on the outside. Holt was also wide open on both of his TD catches, taking advantage of a very loose zone. Holt showed why he's still considered one of the best WR's in the NFL.
2. Jets LB Jonathan Vilma: Who's faster than a speeding bullet? Who's more powerful than a locomotive? Who can leap tall buildings in a single bound? VILMA! The rookie LB out of Miami continues his Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign as he had 6 tackles and an interception for a TD. He and the Jets LB corps held the Rams to 47 yards rushing while Vilma showed good coverage on Rams RB Marshall Faulk in the nickel package. When the Jets needed a big play from their defense, Vilma made a big play. Vilma has the potential to be a Ray Lewis type playmaker for the Jets for years to come.
1. Rams QB Marc Bulger: Jet fans got to see why Mike Martz is so high on his QB and why he called him “The best QB he's ever coached” as Bulger completed 29 of 39 passes for 450 yards with 3 TD's and 2 INT's and led the Rams to 32 points in a "must-win" game with the playoffs on the line. . Despite little support from his running game, Bulger deftly hit his explosive receivers all over the field, picking apart the Jets' loose secondary. He also showed his ability to make accurate throws over the middle through traffic. Some critics argue that Bulger is a "system" quarterback benefiting from the talent around him, but he showed all the skills of a quality NFL starter and showed he is the key that drives the explosive Ram offense.
GOAT OF THE GAME
Paul Hackett. Hackett, who reportedly will be let go at season's end, seemed to have no gameplan going into this game. The Jets were set up with good field position all game long but were unable to get the ball in the endzone, settling for field goals 4 times (3 of which were made). Hackett was as conservative as ever, trying only twice a pass over 20 yards. Hackett also seemed surprised by the numerous blitzes the Rams showed and did not call anything that attacked the Rams secondary that was playing man to man. His solution? Go to a maximum protection set and only use Moss and McCareins as receivers. Hackett, as usual, also ran numerous 5 yard slants on 3rd and 8 as the Jets only converted 28% of 3rd downs. Hackett has hand-cuffed the Jet offense by not exploiting the weaknesses of the opposing team and not utilizing the strengths of his own team.
-S Oliver Celestin saw a lot of action in the 2nd half replacing SS Reggie Tongue, who seems to be in DC Donnie Henderson's doghouse with his inconsistent play.
-As mentioned earlier, Curtis Martin one the NFL's rushing title by a yard with 1,697 yards. Congratulations Curtis!
-Shaun Ellis dominated in the 2nd half as he recorded 3 sacks and deflected the pass that Vilma picked off and ran back for a TD.
-Chad Pennington again had a sub-par game in the big game. Granted, it seemed that the QB was handcuffed by Paul Hackett's play calling and poor play of the offensive line, which was horrible protecting the QB. Pennington however, still missed many throws and made a couple of questionable reads. The Jets got lucky and are in the playoffs despite losing, but Pennington must play better to help the team win in the playoffs, and help them win in the future years. No if, ands, or butts. He simply must play better.
-The Offensive Line struggled with their blitz pick-ups throughout the game as Pennington was sacked a career high 6 times. T Jason Fabini had a horrendous game, getting burned on the outside on numerous occasion.
-The Jets secondary could not contain the Ram WR corps. The Rams picked apart their loose zone coverage and the Jets seemed to have some communication break-downs on a few plays. In particular, rookie S Erik Coleman had a tough game as he was late coming over to help on two of Bulger's three touchdown passes. As mentioned earlier, S Reggie Tongue was horrible, eventually being replaced by Celestin who was an undrafted rookie signed by the Jets off Minnesota’s practice squad a few weeks ago.
-The Jets' pass rush was inconsistent all day. Shaun Ellis had 3 sacks, all of which came in the second half. Simply put, the entire defense misses John Abraham.
-Santana Moss had only 4 catches for 28 yards despite seeing some man coverage on the outside because of how much the Rams blitzed.
STAT OF THE GAME
MY TWO CENTS:
Could you feel any worse for Wayne Chrebet? The long time veteran was injured with a mild concussion early in the game and it seemed like he was crying as he eye black was running down his face. The camera showed LB Eric Barton asking him what was wrong and Chrebet, unable to look up, simply pointed to his head. A man like Chrebet deserves to go out as a hero in the game. A man like Chrebet shouldn't slide into the sunset quietly after he was injured early in the biggest game of the year. One could only wish that he either comes back with the Jets next year in a some role, or he decides his NFL time is over and retreats to his family and the NFL afterlife. Chrebet is the ultimate Jet, willing to give everything for the team without complaint or regard for himself. He is a role model for me and millions of others who have seen that dreams can come true with hard-work and determination. He‘s respected himself, his team, and the sport of football. Good Luck to you in whatever you do Wayne. We all wish you the best!