Get this ó Jets just might
be a great team this year
Beating Dolphins no big deal, but way
New York won big very impressive
Quarterback Chad Pennington and the Jets ran over the Dophins 41-14 on Monday night.
COMMENTARY
By Mike Celizic
NBCSports.com contributor
Updated: 2:06 a.m. ET Nov. 2, 2004

Thatís wasnít just a win by the Jets on Monday night football. It was a statement; a loud and clear announcement that this is a team to be reckoned with.

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It wasnít beating Miami that said all that much. If it did, then just about every team in the NFL would be able to make the same statement. It was the way the Jets did it, the way they rushed for more than 230 yards on a team that gives up 100-yard rushing games as readily as a puppy gives up a favorite chew toy. It was the way they ran up 41 points on a team whose previous worst defensive showing was in the 24 points it gave up to New England.

And it was the way the Jets, stung a week ago in a six-point loss to New England, jumped off the canvas to put together its most impressive all-around performance of the year.

The J-E-T-S are growing in skill and confidence as the season rumbles toward the halfway point in the schedule. Their offensive line, anchored by Kevin Mawae, who may be the best center in the game, is better than expected. The defense is quick and aggressive. The team forces turnovers and rarely gives the ball up.

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Martin, Jets take off in win over Dolphins

ďIf you can keep this bottled up, we have a chance to be a pretty good football team,Ē their coach, Herman Edwards, said after the game.

That was perfect coach-speak. He didnít say his team was good, just that it has a chance to be good. Itís how football coaches deal with the constant threat of complacence, by talking about what the team can be rather than what it is.

And Edwards, more than most coaches, seems to send messages to his team via the media. Last week, when the word out of the locker room was that some of the Jets felt good about hanging tough against New England the previous week, Edwards blasted the writers for reporting what the team had said.

Reporters didnít like it much. But from what the Jets did in the Meadowlands Monday night, it was clear that Edwards didnít care a hoot what the media thought; he was talking to his team, and making sure theyíd see it on every sports broadcast they watched.

Apparently, the lesson took. The Jets played like just winning wasnít good enough for them. They played like a team that realized it needed to establish itself as more than a team that slips by every week, but one that can beat up on you.

The schedule hasnít been that impressive to date ó two wins over Miami, and one each over Cincinnati, San Francisco, San Diego, and Buffalo, hardly the cream of the NFL crop ó the Jets canít do anything about that. Perhaps more important for January, when the real football starts, is the fact that whatís ahead of them isnít much more challenging than whatís behind.

Theyíve got Baltimore in two weeks, then New England and Pittsburgh in December. If you think St. Louis is a tough game, throw that in there. But cut it any way you want to, the Jets are 6-1 now with 12-4 all but guaranteed. Win one of those tough games and take care of business against the bottom-dwellers, and they could finish 13-3. Keep winning between now and Game 15 against the Patriots on Dec. 26, and they could be looking at a shot at a divisional title.

Thatís looking an awfully long way down the road. People get hurt in this game, as New England has been learning of late. Teams youíre supposed to beat put together great games from time to time. Stuff happens.

But Iíve watched the Jets, the NFLís answer to the Boston Red Sox, for many years, and I donít remember many of them being as hung with optimism as the one thatís now before us. Even this year, until Monday night they had played pretty much to the level of the opposition. They had won five games, but they had a way of letting the other guys hang around much too long, winning by as few as two points and never by more than 10. They were successful, but they werenít impressive.

That changed Monday night. For the first time this year, they put the hammer down and never let up. Curtis Martin and Lamont Jordan each rushed for 115 yards. Chad Pennington threw the ball downfield for two touchdowns. They didnít turn the ball over. The got four sacks and gave up one, running their totals to 20 sacks on the season against seven given up.

They have now given up 116 points, eight fewer than New England and second in the AFC only to the 100 points surrendered by Baltimore. Their 168 points scored are tied for fourth in the conference.

One month ago, they beat Miami 17-9. This time, the margin was 41-14, with the Fish not getting their second touchdown until the last play of the game.

Theyíre 6-1 and no one has a better record in the AFC. It doesnít matter if their schedule is soft. All that matters are rolling up the wins and developing a killer instinct.

Beating Miami wasnít that big an order. Beating the Dolphins up was. The Jets did both. But for two huge mistakes ó a turnover deep in New England territory and too many men on the field for a punt ó they might have beaten New England.

They're not great yet, but, like their coach said, they have a chance ó some might say an excellent chance ó to be good, maybe even a chance to be great.
Mike Celizic is a frequent contributor to NBCSports.com and a fre