Post Game Thoughts: Jets 29 Vikings 20
Hopefully the Jets learned a lesson about letting a team hang around in a game tonight. The Jets dominated the Minnesota Vikings for about 40 minutes but left the game in a position where a big play or two sees you behind. Once the Vikings got hot the whole game changed, but luckily the Jets escaped with a win to move to a very respectable 4-1 and remain atop the AFC East.
I don't think there is any better way to start than to focus on the outstanding play of the offensive line, in particular that of LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Ferguson ate star DE Jared Allen alive. He never pushed the issue or got close to Sanchez, despite Sanchez dropping back over 40 times in the game. There was rarely any mention of the Williams name during the game showing the strength of the interior line. RG Brandon Moore played very well and LG Matt Slauson did an excellent job for most of the night, especially when they had him doing those cutback blocks. The guys helped paved the way for RB LaDainian Tomlinson who is just having a special season. Tomlinson looks like an MVP on the field. Once he breaks the line of scrimmage and turns on the jets he is extremely hard to bring down. Everytime he gets that jump through the line he seems like a threat to go for 10-15 yards. He picked up a few key first downs and was the offense for the first three points of the game. This is just such a great story that somehow the media is missing because they would rather complain about other players or coaches on the team. RB Shonn Greene had a major run at the end of the game to answer one of the Viking scores. The cutback he had on that run was outstanding as was the lead block by FB John Conner. QB Mark Sanchez continues to grow in many respects though the focus on him is probably going to be negative because of the poor stat sheet. His command of the pocket is outstanding. It is hard to imagine that the QB we saw against the Vikings is the same one that we saw last season. He never forces the issue anymore, is being extremely patient, and is throwing darts on the field. I'm not sure if he ever played in a rainstorm like he did at the end of the first half before, but there was never any panic, even when he missed WR Jerricho Cotchery for an open TD. He made a few big passes towards the end of the game that helped use up clock, though he made a terrible throw and snap count decision late in the game that could have cost the team the game. He did go through a bad steak in the second half where he was a bit wild with his throws and way off target, but at least nothing got picked off. The accuracy is one area of his game the team will be working on as his career progresses.
There were definitely some glimpses of what potential the offense will have with WR Santonio Holmes. Holmes had a few catches, but more importantly was pretty open on a few plays deep down the field where he and Sanchez just did not connect. It will take the two of them some time to work on the timing, but once they get it the combo really has potential. WR Braylon Edwards was again the big target of the game and continued his string of big games. The Jets were wise to not extend him as he is playing for a contract and it shows on the field. This is probably the most focused Edwards has ever looked as a player. The problems with the wideouts on the night came with the drops almost all of which seemed to force the Jets to settle for field goals rather than score touchdowns and put the game away early. The weather probably played some role in it, as no player was catching everything, but it was frustrating to watch a team completely dominate the opposition and never score 6 points. The Jets are going to go back and watch that first half and see all the missed chances and kick themselves for giving a game away. The Jets will likely be looking to put in extra work on their red zone offense this week.
This looked like it was going to be the best game the Jets have played defensively since Rex Ryan took over the team last year, but they tired out in the second half and once the Vikings got a taste of success it became a real struggle for the defense. The Jets should have known all too well what can happen when you give Brett Favre a chance to make a comeback off an awful game. They saw it firsthand when he was here in the game out in Oakland where he was beyond terrible for 57 minutes and should have driven the team to a win in overtime if not for a slip by then TE Chris Baker. The TD pass he made to WR Randy Moss was an incredible throw and sparked the whole team and seemed to bring the defense down. Early on the Jets front 7 annihilated the Vikings offensive line. They pushed the piles into the backfield and got constant penetration. The first key to beating Minnesota is to take RB Adrian Peterson out of the game and they did just that. Peterson had nowhere to go and LB David Harris was like a heat seeking missile out there. It was his job early to follow him and he put some vicious hits on the man who may be the strongest back in the NFL. But it all changed after the Moss TD and subsequent lack of scoring by the offense. Minnesota seemed to convert every third down attempt. Peterson broke off a few big runs and converted a big 3rd down in the fourth quarter by driving the defenders five yards down the field. The Jets just did not look like the same team after that score.
CB Antonio Cromartie had an outstanding game. He played Moss man up and broke up almost every pass that went his way. You could not have had better coverage on the TD throw, it was just a perfect pass. Favre constantly threw his way and he stopped almost everything. It was an incredible turnaround from the Monday night opener where he looked every bit as bad as all the statistics sites said. He was the best defender on the field. In general the coverage was good most of the night with the exception of the first Percy Harvin touchdown and big Greg Lewis catch toward the end of the game. The Jets defenders on the Harvin play- S Jim Leonhard, S Brodney Pool, and CB Darrelle Revis- seemed to be in discussion when the ball was snapped and Harvin took off before they could recover. It looked to be Revis' assignment, but that is just a guess on my part. Revis clearly looked to be at fault on the Lewis reception. At the very least he thought he had help and did not. The holdout has definitely hurt Revis who does even come close to resembling the player he was last season. Hopefully as he heals up and gets in some practice time he will return to form. The secondary blitzes were effective again and it goes back to the excellent play of Cromartie who allows them to do that without the threat of consequences. CB Dwight Lowery made the perfect read at the end of the game for the game sealing TD. It looks like he is in the mix with rookie CB Kyle Wilson for the fourth DB role on the team.
Excellent job by kicker Nick Folk tonight who hit everything in sloppy conditions, including a 53 yarder. This was probably the best game of his career. His kickoff distance is still a concern and it allowed a few big returns by the Vikings, who have not been a strong return team this year. P Steve Weatherford was back to having those booming punts that pin the team deep in their own territory. Brad Smith had a huge kickoff return where he faked out the coverage by making it look like he was going to down the football and then took off running. With the amount of prime time games the Jets have and the attention Smith will get for his special teams contributions as well as wildcat QB role that some team is going to overpay for him next year, which is too bad because he is a nice role player for the team. Marquice Cole has taken over the role vacated by Wallace Wright in terms of downing the football and being the first coverage guy down the field.
You cant say the Jets were not prepared for this game. They came out and played inspired football for the first 30 minutes of the game. Everything they did on both sides of the ball worked. The defensive fronts had the offensive line of the Vikings completely crossed up. Everything was working on offense unless the Jets were stopping themselves. The team also does a great job of going after balls on the ground which is all about coaches making the players aware of the ball in those situations. The team should have been up by 20 points and I think the staff was somewhat dumbfounded when they found themselves only up 8 and in danger of losing. The time management at the end of the 4th quarter was questionable to say the least. The decision to call a pass play on third down, but not drill into the head of the QB that he has to take the clock all the way down was a big mistake. It was a gutsy move by Ryan to continue the blitzing at the end of the game and leave Cromartie one on one with Moss when 1 play ends the game. It worked and helped cause that interception to seal it.
We have seen this same script play out so many times through the years that it becomes painful to watch because you just have that sinking feeling as a fan that its going to end poorly. While it would be nice to see the team win by the 20 points they deserved to win by, this is also a good thing to see as it shows growth for the team. This is the kind of game the Jets would have lost last season. They lost at least 4 games last year on the final drive of the game and this time around People may not look at it that way and will only look at the negatives of the game, but this is progress for the franchise. It is these types of gut check wins that separate a team with real playoff aspirations from the kind of club that never seems to get past the 8-8 mark, such as the Houston Texans.
That said it is becoming apparent that this defense is nowhere near the level of last years defense. This years defense is good with the penchant for giving up quick scoring drives at some inopportune times. Last years defense was elite. Right now this is nowhere near elite and the Jets are going to have to win games by getting the offense on track. They were able to win by playing the field goal game this week, but probably will not be so lucky a second time. The Jets may be the most well balanced team in the NFL this season, but they are going to have to be more consistent if they want to beat better teams.
You really have to tip your hat to GM Mike Tannenbaum. I'm not sure where this team would be without LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Cromartie. They are arguably the two best players on each side of the football and without them the Jets would be 2-2 right now. They carried the team tonight and its not the first time they have done so. Cromartie has given up some yards in this game and the Miami game, but he is being targeted a ridiculous amount of times and you are going to give up receptions when they throw at you all game long. The more important stat to look at with him is passes defensed and he seems to have a lot of them. He is getting his hands on the ball when he is one on one with a receiver.
You really could not have asked for a better start to the season than this one. Even with all the injuries and drama surrounding the club there are 4-1 and definitely playing as one of the best teams in the AFC. It is still early in the year, but at this junction the Jets, Ravens, and Steelers are the three AFC teams that look to be head and shoulders above the other teams in the conference. They have a hard game coming up against a banged up Broncos team that features a surprising aerial attack and I don't think anyone would be stunned if they lost next week. It's a tough stadium to play in especially off a short work week. If the Jets come out of there and head into the bye week at 6-1 it will really be a major accomplishment. Lets hope they keep on rolling.