Post Game Thoughts- Jets vs Chargers
The clock has not struck midnight just yet on this team. A dominating defensive performance fueled has allowed the Jets to move onto the AFC Championship game for the first time in over a decade.
It took some time but the Jets offense was efficient and patient enough to finally wear out the Chargers defense and allow a big run play to cement the victory. The entire offense looked a bit overwhelmed by the magnitude of the game and were pushed around early by the Chargers defense. The Jets may as well have thrown away the first quarter and a half of play as they failed to gain a first down in their first four possessions of the game. It led to a crowd frenzy for most of the game and put the defense in bad position over and over again. But something clicked for the team in the second quarter as they allowed Mark Sanchez to begin to throw the ball a little bit and that was all that was needed to soften up the Chargers defense for the remainder of the game. Even though the Jets did not score many points on offense they ate up the clock and began to win the field position battle. The learning process continues for QB Mark Sanchez. Sanchez looked a bit shaky early missing a few targets, but he also made some big throws that the Jets needed to keep the chains moving. He hit Jerricho Cotchery on two crucial third down plays including a bullet that he snuck through two defenders that had Phil Simms raving. He showed good patience on his TD pass to TE Dustin Keller, something that he would have not done so well early in the year. Braylon Edwards was able to use his body to shield himself from the defender, similarly to what Antonio Gates did to the Jets defenders, to get a few big catches. For as bad as Edwards seems to be catching the ball over his shoulder he is great on these little slant routes where he can use his body to catch the ball.
Of course, it goes without saying that the big star of the game was RB Shonn Greene. The Jets waited to use Greene, trying out Thomas Jones early, and it paid big dividends as he ended up looking far fresher than anyone on the defense by the time he got his legs going. He is the first Jets back in a long time that can simply outrun the defense off a draw, which was a necessity today since the field was so bad and made it impossible for anyone to cut hard. One thing is for certain going into 2010. Greene is the running back of the team. Thomas Jones may be back and so may Leon Washington, but Greene is the best player of the three. The offense is much more fluid with him in the game than Jones and the play fakes with Greene in the game work very well, something that has not seemed to be the case with Jones since 2007. I know I have been critical of the fumbling in the past, but maybe those issues are behind him now. Right now he is everything the offense needs. The offensive line should also get tremendous credit for todayís victory. They had their problems early, but eventually wore the Chargers out. Even though they had two offsides calls, RG Brandon Moore and RT Damien Woody were tremendous. They were paving the way all day on their side. LG Alan Faneca continued his strong play and LT DíBrickashaw Ferguson and C Nick Mangold both were solid. You know when Ferguson is drawing another team to cause a personal foul penalty that the line is in the heads of the defense. It was fitting to see these guys pave the way against a stacked front on the clinching 4th down play. A great effort.
For as well as we have seen the Jets play on defense this season, this was far and away the best performance this unit has had this year. The walked into San Diego and nearly shut out an offense that usually scores 24 points in their sleep every week. Phillip Rivers is one of the top three QBís in the game and they made him look quite average back there. Rivers who usually is excellent at avoiding pressure seemed to be facing heat most of the game and having to make quick decisions that usually he can avoid making. There were a few defensive breakdowns here and there that led to a few big gains, but two of those plays required circus catches by Gates and WR Vincent Jackson. Iím not sure if the team has enough gameballs to give around today. CB Darrelle Revis was outstanding. Iím donít believe he even gave up a catch as all of Jacksonís receptions seemed to be when covered by other people. He also had one of those incredible interceptions that shows why there is nobody better than him in the NFL at the position. S Jim Leonhard played an outstanding game. He pressured Rivers often, did a great job breaking off his blitzes to cover the screens, had a big interception, and should have been credited with a fumble recovery when he mauled the Charger receiver. LB David Harris was all around the football as was LB Bryan Thomas, who has probably had his two best back to back games as a Jet since 2006. Much maligned S Kerry Rhodes made a huge hit on Rivers and did a good job tackling runners today. Had the team lost he would probably get the majority of the blame for the TD pass early in the game simply because he is an easy target, but most likely that play was the fault of the inside linebacker (Bart Scott?) who should have been defending that area of the field, but instead chose to stay short. The three down linemen all played well. Shaun Ellis played with his hand in a cast but did his job. Mike DeVito had some big stops including a sack of Rivers.
This was just a great team effort. The defense seemed to have the Chargers rattled early on as San Diego looked like a team on the road committing costly penalties to set up third and long. The Jets really stiffened up in the 2nd and 3rd quarters which is where the Chargers usually make their big march to take the games over. After allowing the one score to open up the 2nd the Jets defense held the Chargers to just 20 offensive plays, 2 first downs, and forced two turnovers. This was where the game was won. The Jets not only took the Chargers offense out of the game, but they finally took the crowd out of the game, with the home team actually getting booed off the field at one point. You know you are doing something very special when the home crowd boos their team in a close playoff game. All season long the Jets have talked a big game about how special their defense really is and one could argue one way or the other about how good they really were. There was no argument today. Today they showed the world that this is the type of defense that can carry a limited offense to the Super Bowl. One more game like this and the defense is going to get the team there.
After a season of such poor play it is kind of ironic that the Jets ended up getting a big leg up due to the Chargers inability to execute a field goal. P Steve Weatherford had a very up and down day, but made the crucial play of the game when he hit a beautiful punt that Wallace Wright downed around the two yard line. That was the key play that set up the Leonhard interception which turned the game around. It turned a very mediocre day for the punter into a stellar game. Jay Feely hit his one field goal, but the Jets made a few questionable kickoff decisions. They may have shown way too much respect to Darren Sproles who has not had a good year at all. Brad Smith had another big kickoff return and Jerricho Cotchery had a big punt return. There were other contributors as well. James Ihedigbo caused a fumble that could have changed the game. Rhodes grabbed the onsides kick attempt. Even Revis got into the special teams act with a big return off a missed field goal.
Rex Ryan has accomplished more than anyone thought possible with this team. He had a brilliant gameplan set up defensively today and bucked conventional wisdom by moving his star corner all over the field rather than blanketing Jackson. While sometimes it did not pay off, the overall result made it a huge success. Ryan made a super gutsy call going for it on 4th and 1 to close out the game and I donít think there was even an argument to play it another way. Give credit to Brian Schottenheimer for having his guys snap the ball quickly rather than going through the motions of trying to draw a team offsides before the snap. That caught the Chargers napping. The staff held to their gameplan even when the game looked to be getting away from the Jets. There was no panic from anyone and the Jets felt they would wear the team out and be able to make enough plays to win the game and that is exactly what they did.
When Ryan reviews the tape he will think twice about two decisions he made. Allowing Sanchez to spike the ball rather than taking a time out at the end of the first half was a bad choice. Had the Jets been in field goal range that was the proper play, but when you still need at least 10 more yards for a field goal attempt you can not waste a down. The second one was not being prepared for the 4th and 1 situation in the 3rd quarter. Wasting a time out was unacceptable. Phil Simms made a great point that they would have been better off challenging a spot in that case. Still, he is a rookie coach, coaching his first Divisional round playoff game, and if that is the worst that happened and they won then he did a great job.
Just a few weeks ago nobody would have believed it, but here are the Jets advancing to the AFC Championship and looking better than anyone on the defensive side of the ball. There will still be some people critical of the result this week and claiming the Jets got lucky that the Chargers missed all those field goals, but the way the defense was playing that would not have made a difference. If Kaeding hitís a few of those field goals the Jets never would have allowed the Chargers to drive down the field for that second touchdown. The Jets were in complete defensive control and trying to run out the clock which allowed the Chargers to get into the end zone the way they did. The Jets dominated this game and deserved to win and advance onward.
This is a real storybook game next week. The Jets have had weeks to hear from the local media about how they did not deserve to be in the playoffs because the Indianapolis Colts pulled Peyton Manning from their game. Not only did the Jets prove that in a close game they could beat a team on the road as good as the Colts this week, but they now get to stand in the way of the Colts trip to the Super Bowl. All the pressure in the world is on Indianapolis next week. The potential of losing to a team that they ďallowedĒ to get into the playoffs is going to be a big pressure on Indianapolis. It is going to be a huge game for both teams and the NFL.
If the Jets continue to play this well there is no reason to think they can not do the impossible and advance to the Super Bowl. This is a really special season right now and that would be the icing on the cake. The Jets have wanted this rematch since week 15 ended and are going to be well prepared for everything Indianapolis can throw at them. This is a great time to be a Jets fan. It is so rare that these games happen for the franchise that this is something that we should all really treasure. The Jets are the talk of New York and the real Cinderella story of the NFL. Donít let it end. Bring on the Colts. Go Jets!