Post Game Thoughts: Jets 38 Bills 14
It will be hard to imagine the Jets having a much easier win than the one against the Buffalo Bills today. The Jets outclassed the Bills in every aspect of the football game on their way to a 38-14 rout of their division rivals.
Last year the Jets hit on a formula against this Bills team where they simply took advantage of the Offensive Line/Defensive Line matchup and rammed it down the throats of the Bills and they went right back to that formula in this game. RB LaDainian Tomlinson was the star of the offense with big run after big run after big run all game long. He set the tone early on the first drive where he carried the ball for 41 yards, added a 10 yard reception, and capped the drive off with a score. This is the type of game that was reminiscent of the Hall of Fame version of Tomlinson back when he was the best back in the NFL. If he somehow is not the comeback player of the year at the end of the season something will have seriously gone wrong. RB Shonn Greene finally had the type of game that the team and fans have expected since week 1. Greene ran with more force than he had in the three prior games and broke off a few big ones as well. He definitely did not seem bothered by the fact that he is no longer the number 1 option on offense and let's hope this is the game he needed to get him going because at some point the Jets will need him this year. Sometimes with young players all it takes is one game, and this was a great one for Greene. QB Mark Sanchez may not have had his best game of the year, but he continues his run of mistake free football and looks like he has gotten 3 years older in terms of his maturity in the pocket. He really throws those short timing patterns as well as anyone in the NFL and his playfake is going to be one of the best in the league within the next two years. His pump fake before the bomb to WR Braylon Edwards pulled in the entire Bills defense giving Edwards a huge cushion to make the grab.
Edwards continues the big contract year. He is catching everything that comes his way, broke up an interception, and drew another crucial pass interference at the goal line. TE Dustin Keller had two touchdowns and would have likely picked up a third if not for being blatantly held in the end zone as he released from the line. WR Brad Smith has really gotten a good grasp of running the option offense making a perfect pitch to Tomlinson and throwing the first touchdown of his career. The blocking today was excellent as Sanchez went virtually untouched and the running game looked just as it did last season against this team. FB John Conner, who may have gotten a stinger late in the game, had his first good game at fullback seemingly never missing a block every time he was in for a run play. What was most impressive today was that the offense answered the bell twice to seize control of the game, something that never happened in the 2009 regular season where the team had to rely on defense to spark the team. The Jets scored on the opening drive of the game which is always important on the road and then came right out and took any momentum the Bills may have gained from a scoring drive at the end of the first half by coming right down the field and scoring another touchdown. That score ended any hope for the Bills during the game. The thought of what this offense can be once WR Santonio Holmes returns next week is very exciting. They have the potential to arguably be the best offense since the 1998 Jets.
It is very hard to single out a star of this game because almost everyone played so well in the game. CB Antonio Cromartie had the Lee Evans assignment almost all game and never looked to have significant help with him while holding him catchless during the game. The defensive linemen controlled the line all game and constantly kept Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick on his heels. DE Shaun Ellis again looked great, but came out of the game with a leg injury. Hopefully he is fine as the Jets need him as the season goes on. LB Bryan Thomas forced a fumble and LB Jason Taylor recovered a fumble. Players in the secondary were great in blitz packages. The run defense, which was good last season, has really improved this year. The technique at almost every level of the defense is superb. Im not sure there is a better team in the NFL in terms of having so many players be so good in run support. RB Marshawn Lynch found that out the hard way being held to 8 yards on 4 carries, one of which was fumbled away. Once the Jets defenders made it apparent early that there would be no running game for Buffalo the game was essentially over. The Bills offensive line was completely clueless against the complex defensive packages the Jets present, which allowed players like DE Mike DeVito and LB David Harris to come in untouched and rough up Fitzpatrick.
Midway through the third quarter the defense seemed to suck the life completely out of Buffalo's offense with 10 of the 11 players looking as if they had given up. Fitzpatrick is never going to be a quality starter in the league, but he really gutted it out trying to keep his grasp on a starting job and there is no quit in him at all. He was under heavy pressure all day and had receivers making no efforts to catch the ball, but he stood back there, took a beating, and used his legs to run for over 70 yards. It's doubtful that those 70 yards are a big cause for concern, but it will serve as a lesson that the Jets can not over run their blitzes and have a QB with legs step up and run into an open field. CB's Drew Coleman and Kyle Wilson both had solid games and Wilson seemed to play much better in this role. The Safeties continue to be a concern. On the Bills one meaningful scoring drive it looked as if S Jim Leonhard simply got badly beaten in coverage and then the play was made worse when S Brodney Pool tried to make a half hearted shoulder tackle on WR David Nelson that made a 20 yard gain turn into a 37 yard gain. Nobody covered TE David Martin on the resultant TD which was likely the result of a communications breakdown between the defense. Other than those few plays, though, the defense was superb and should only get better with the pending returns of LB Calvin Pace and CB Darrelle Revis.
Despite the recovery of a fumble early in the game, this was probably the worst game of the season for the Jets special teams. P Steve Weatherford did not seem to get his usual hang time on the punts, perhaps due to the inclement weather, and that allowed PR Roscoe Parrish to have his best game of the season. The kickoff coverage was excellent as KR CJ Spiller did nothing all day, but K Nick Folk had some very short kickoffs. I'm not sure if the first kick that resulted in the fumble was planned or not, but that would be the one good play Folk had if it was. He blew what could have been a crucial field goal early, though hopefully it was just a one game aberration since Folk has been so good all season. Folk looked to immediately blame Weatherford on the field for something on the miss so maybe there was something wrong with the hold that forced Folk to push the ball. Both Kyle Wilson and Jim Leonhard had very good days returning punts.
Give Rex Ryan a ton of credit for the way the Jets came out today. All week reporters and fans were calling this a trap game and saying how the Jets were going to overlook the Bills. Last season the Jets definitely would have overlooked the Bills and been stuck in a close contest that came down to the wire. This season it was a different story with Ryan’s Jets coming out not just knowing they were the better team but playing as if they were the far better team. This the manner in which good teams beat up on inferior teams and it was a refreshing thing to see as a fan of a team that traditionally seems to play down to the opposition.
Offensively the Jets had a bit of a different gameplan than usual. The Jets seemed focused on running the ball, but at the same time were throwing some deep routes down the sidelines. It may have been to avoid S Jairus Byrd in the middle of the field on those intermediate routes, but the deep sideline passes certainly kept the defense honest against the run. There was a strange series of plays on the drive where Folk missed the field goal as the Jets abandoned the run until a 3rd and long which would make one think the Jets planned to go on 4th down but they opted for the FG try.
The Jets have completed the hardest quarter of their schedule and are standing tall at 3-1 on top of the AFC East. They are already 3-0 in the division, with 2 of the wins coming on the road. it's a great start because it now gives the Jets that much needed margin for error in one of the remaining divisional games, specifically the one in New England. You could not ask for a much better start to the season than the one the Jets have gotten these first four weeks.
The biggest positive from these first four games is the play of QB Mark Sanchez. I think it is probably debatable what Sanchez gained from the regular season last year, but those three playoff games have really paid big dividends for him. If the Jets finished the year 8-8 and out of the playoffs in 2009 there would have been such negative backlash against Sanchez and he may not have experienced that taste of what greatness in NY can be. That huge win in front of his home crowd to close out the 2009 season and the subsequent playoff games have given him the confidence he needed and pushed him and his teammates to work that much harder this past offseason. It made Rex's message of this being a Super Bowl team be far more believable and probably a major reason why they got such great offseason participation from players who might usually shun the extra work. I don’t think there is anyone covering the league except in Detroit that even tries to make the case anymore that the often injured Matt Stafford is the guy who is going to “make it” while Sanchez was the golden reach destined to bust.
What we saw today was the validation of a really good football team. The Bills may not be a great team, but they were playing for their lives today and did put up 30 points in New England last week. They should not have been a pushover , but the Jets turned them into one. Good football team outclass inferior teams. They dominate them early and they blow them out, regardless of where the game is being played. Some people say a win is a win and that the manner of the win does not matter, but I disagree with that especially when you are a young team that talks a big game. This is the kind of game that builds the confidence of everyone on the team and it is something vital to have early in the year as you prepare for the real meat of the season schedule.
Next week the Jets will get their chance to make another prime time statement game against the desperate Minnesota Vikings and former Jet QB Brett Favre. Minnesota will present the Jets with the best running attack they have faced thus far, but a porous offensive line that has seen their QB comes under heavy fire thus far. If the Jets can pull off another big win people are going to start to look at them as the real favorites in the AFC not just based on press clippings but based on their performance on the field.