After week 1, everyone was absolutely blasting the Jets. Their offense looked abysmal, Jenkins got injured AGAIN (like my friend Josh said- "his knees are made of jelly"), and the defensive play calling was questionable at best. Rex was blitzing the house constantly, allowing the Baltimore receivers just enough time to get down field for QB Joe Flacco. In week 2 against the Pats, Rex was stubborn (surprise!) and stuck with his defensive game plan: attack the quarterback and pray you get to him before he can throw to a single covered receiver. Well, it didn't work. Luckily for Rex, the Patriots blew about 5 opportunities to take a commanding lead in the first half. You have the Moss play action just outside the end zone on the first drive. You have the Jets converting a 2nd and 20 from their own 15 on their way to a TD. You've got a missed field goal. Just a horribly blown chance for the Patriots to put away their division rivals. Had the Jets lost that game, they would have not only been 0-2 overall, but 0-2 at home which is the mark of death for a playoff hopeful.
And then it happened: Rex made some defensive adjustments, Schottenheimer opened up the playbook, Sanchez stopped playing like a toddler, and the Jets found their identity.
It happened right then in that locker room during halftime against the Pats. Since then, the Jets have outscored opponents 87-37. Sanchez has looked like an NFL quarterback, Dustin Keller has played like a pro-bowler, LT has risen from the dead (actually, last year he was a corpse) and looks completely re-energized, and the defense looks like its getting closer to being as dominant as people predicted before the season began.
After week 1, people wondered whether Sanchez "had what it takes" to be an NFL player. They thought he was immature, they thought he was inaccurate, and they thought that the coaches didn't quite trust him. In the last 3 weeks, Sanchez has built up his image as a true franchise (Sanchize) quarterback as fast as Lebron destroyed his nice guy, team player image during his ridiculous "Decision Special."
[Quick tangent- Lebron is an idiot. He had the whole basketball world eating out of his hand, and now he is basketball's villain. People hate Kobe, but they respect him and his 5 rings. Lebron? He's done nothing. Until he wins a championship he'll just be the great player who could potentially average a triple-double, but could never put it together enough to win a championship. This reminds me of a great Jeremy Piven ad from the NBA playoffs a few years back:
Anyway, we all used to love Lebron, and now we hate him. By the way, I just looked at the Miami Heat roster from tonight's game. If only they had a decent center...]
OK, back to football:
When the Jets couldn't put things together after Rex's infamous "now lets go eat a goddamn snack" speech, I figured there was nothing this poor guy could do to motivate his players. They were lazy, cocky, and too full of themselves (I wonder where that mentality came from??) For those of us lucky enough to have seen HBO's unbelievable Training Camp documentary, "Hardknocks," we saw the Jets players eating cheeseburgers before a scrimmage. Well, after the Jets horrific 14 penalty's for 125 yards debut against the Ravens, one had to wonder whether they devoured a few too many burgers before that game as well. I mean they looked awful, especially CB Antonio Cromartie (who I believe was one of the perpetrators of the aforementioned cheeseburger before scrimmage crime).
But, unfortunately for me, and fortunately for every one of my Jets fan friends (I hate you all)- the Jets didn't give up on the season after one and a half bad weeks, and now look like one of the favorites to come out of the AFC.
A few quick hits on what facilitated the Jets unbelievable turnaround:
1) The offense looks extremely good, and that is because they have finally found a nice balance. Last year, the Jets relied way too heavily on the run game, and it ended up killing them in the AFC Championship game when they didn't have the firepower to keep up with Peyton's Colts. This year, their passing game looks almost unstoppable (Sanchez has thrown 8 TD's and 0 Int's. ZERO! He had 20 last year!) and I think it is just as much because of Dustin Keller and Ladanian Tomlinson as it is about Sanchize. Keller has given Sanchez a big target who gets open over the middle of the field and is awesome in the red zone. LT has given their running game the boost that Shonn Greene was expected to give them. He's running at a 6.1 YPC average, and has helped the Jets close out games against the Pats and Bills.
2) Trusting Sanchez. I think Schottenheimer finally realized that limiting the playbook was limiting Sanchez's ability to perform at a high level. Since Sanchez has started playing with confidence, he has looked like one of the better quarterbacks in the league.
3) I think on the defensive side of the ball two lower key players have stood out: Brodney Pool and Sione Pouha. Pool looked very good in the Patriots game, making a beautiful keep-your-feet-inbounds interception to give the Jets some breathing room in the third quarter. He and Eric Smith have made a nice tandem along with speedy Jim Leonhard. Although Pouha has been quiet the last couple of games, he has done a more than serviceable job filling in for Jenkins. His two fumble recoveries in week 1 gave the Jets a chance to win the game, and he helped smother the Pats run game in week 2.
4) This has nothing to do with the past few games, but to help sustain their success, they are getting back Superstar Holdout Darrelle Revis, the 2nd smartest player in the NFL (behind Braylon)- Santonio Holmes, and Calvin Pace.
Being a Patriots fan from Boston, heaping praise on the Jets isn't easy. And to my fellow Patriots fans, I accept all of the "NY lover" curses you are sending my way. But please don't deduce from this article that I think the Jets are the team to beat in the AFC. In fact, I'm not even sure they are the team to beat in the AFC East. The Patriots are division champs until proven otherwise. I think these two teams are very even overall, and that the division race will come down to the wire (great show by the way). Both of these teams are built well for the postseason- the Jets have the bone crushing defense, the Patriots have Tom Brady.
Here's to a potential Patriots-Jets playoff game for all the marbles...
Here are a couple of links to help you get through another Wednesday of work:
Easterbrook writes ridiculously long articles which go WAY off topic, but overall a must read for all football fans:
From my roommate Matt, a Jets fan perspective on the Pats- Dolphins game. Typical Jets fan spinning everything so the Jets come out on top. You can't say the Patriots didn't deserve to win. Yes, maybe the Dolphins lost the game on some bad mistakes, but the Patriots executed their special teams gameplan to perfection (it is 1/3 of the game) and came out victorious!
A feel good ending for Billy "the Kid" Wagner. Lets hope the Braves can win a championship for him this year, seems like a great guy and teammate:
For those interested in a great sports finish, the Ryder Cup was unbelievable. Not a golf fan at all, but this article will help explain what happened and what it meant to the US:
(check youtube if you want video)
The difference maker. Great block by SamBam Morris, and great inside juke by Tate before he turns the corner:
The start of a New Era:
A couple other thoughts on the Pats game last night that I forgot:
1) It looks like the Patriots have found their Devin Hester/Josh Cribbs. Brandon Tate is downright lethal on kick returns.
2) This wasn't mentioned on TV, so I missed it, but unfortunately Brandon Meriweather was taken out of the game with an injury, and it is unknown whether he will be back in action next week. This could be a huge blow to a secondary which has already lost its top cornerback for the year. Lets hope this is just a minor injury, as Meriweather was just starting to show flashes of his pro-bowl form.
3) I love Danny Woodhead