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Reactions from the Jets opening game

Posted by Chase Stuart on September 14, 2010

It was hard to contain my excitement. Amazing seats, on Monday Night Football, for the Jets in their new stadium, against one of the best teams in the league. And after one of the craziest, most intense games I can remember, I'm left with nothing to do but blog.

First, let's good the good plays out of the way.

Darrelle Revis is back. Sure, Joe Flacco threw for 248 yards, but not a single one of those came against Darrelle Revis. He was flagged for a penalty away from a play early in the game, which was declined as the Ravens converted a third down pass to Anquan Boldin. Later, he allowed a reception on a play that was nullified by penalty. He was targeted a couple of times later, and the ball fell incomplete. And that was pretty much it for Revis. If nothing else, Jets fans can feel confident knowing that Revis looked in mid-season form today, and as long as he continues to do that, the Jets should be in very good shape.

Incredibly, the run defense was dominant again, even after NT Kris Jenkins went down with a serious injury in the first quarter. The Ravens were held to just two rushing first downs, with one being a six-inch sneak by Flacco in 3rd and inches. Baltimore averaged an anemic 1.4 yards per carry, and Ray Rice's 62 yards from scrimmage was lower than half his average output per game in 2009. Bryan Thomas had 9 tackles and 1.5 sacks, while Sione Pouha recovered two fumbles.

And that's about it. The biggest goats for much of the game -- at least, if you were expecting the Jets to play like the Jets -- were Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson. Sure, Wilson has some excuse as a rookie corner playing in his first NFL game. Cromartie has no such excuse, after being burned by Ravens receivers for most of the night. While he did turn in a highlight reel interception, you mostly heard Cromartie's name after the play. Like the 28 yard pass interference call against Derrick Mason. Or the defensive holding against T.J. Houshmandzadeh. And the defensive holding against Anquan Boldin. If nothing else, he spread his penalties around, even throwing in an offside penalty on the lone extra point of the game. Fortunately, Cromartie's play inspired some of the funny tweets of the night. Courtesy of Bill Barnwell: Antonio Cromartie might turn Darrelle Revis into Nnamdi Asomugha. And then, after one of the times Cromartie got flagged, Sam Farmer killed it with this one: Revis Island on one side. Gilligan on the other.

Kyle Wilson didn't look any better. The Jets were without S Brodney Poole, but the front 7 and Jim Leonhard played a fantastic game. Ten of the 12 key defensive players for the Jets had fantastic games, making it even more embarrassing for Cromartie and Wilson that Flacco was able to account for well over 300 yards once you include the penalties. The lowlight for Wilson came on an inexcusable 3rd-and-28 holding penalty, ten yards from the line of scrimmage, away from the play, giving Baltimore an automatic first down.

Of course, if you want to compare the Jets to an average team, there was no bigger goat than the entire offense. Sanchez didn't turn the ball over, and (at least until the 2 minute "drill" at the end) didn't make any glaring errors. But he managed to not only average just 7.4 yards per completion but also to complete fewer than 50% of his passes. With 4:58 to go in the 2nd quarter, Sanchez completed a 5-yard pass to Jerricho Cotchery, the first completion to a wide receiver in the game. The second completion to a wideout came on the last play of the third quarter. For the game, Sanchez completed five passes to his running backs, three to his receivers and two to his tight ends. After the game, Jim Tressell called him and told him he thought he was playing too conservatively.

As bad as Sanchez was, the main story was the Jets incredible 14 penalties, including 10 penalties for 100 yards in the first half. In 2009, only three teams got flagged for 14 penalties in a game, including this disaster of a performance by the Jets and Mark Sanchez against the Bills. I wasn't watching the games on television and didn't have the benefit of instant replay, so I don't know what to make of most of those penalties. Two of the biggest ones came on the Ravens only touchdown drive of the game, and seemed particularly questionable: Braylon Edwards' running into the kicker on a field goal attempt to extend the drive, and Kyle Wilson's pass interference call on the goal line on a 3rd and 10 pass.

As a Jets fan, this game was particularly painful to watch. The Jets forced three first half turnovers, but only came away with six points. The Jets sacked Flacco on Baltimore's first play from scrimmage, and recovered the fumble on the 11-yard line. But the Jets settled for a field goal after failing at the five-yard line. Then, the Jets chose to kick a field goal on a 4th-and-1 from the 10-yard line, eliminating the Jets second best chance at scoring a touchdown. The Jets defense kept making play after play, that it seemed inevitable that at some point, the score would flip. So have I come away from the game depressed and frustrated? Somewhat. The offense looks miserable, and the offensive line played worse against Baltimore than it did at any point last season. Hard Knocks star John Connor didn't have any impact on the game -- I'm not sure I saw him on a single play from scrimmage. The running game, and running back Shonn Greene, was unimpressive. Greene's two early fumbles earned him a quick hook, and I'm curious to see how he responds next week.

The play-calling, as you'd expect in a game where the team holds the ball for only 21:28, goes 1-11 on 3rd downs,gains only 6 first downs and 176 yards from scrimmage. During the Jets playoff run, it seemed like the key to getting the best out of Braylon Edwards was getting him involved early in the game; without doing that, he would often lose focus. Well, Edwards did catch a 9-yard pass to convert the Jets first third down play of the game. The bad news? It came with 1:03 left in the game. Dustin Keller, who appeared ready for a break out season based on his strong training camp, was the target on only one of the Jets third down attempts. The Jets threw the ball down the field only once all game, to their least explosive playmaker, Jerricho Cotchery. After keeping Shonn Greene on the bench for two quarters, he was inserted into the game in the 4th quarter, and targeted on a swing pass, which he promptly dropped. I'm not excusing him for the drop, but it seems odd to keep a guy with hands of stone on the bench, insert him in a crucial situation, and target him.

But then, there were some bright spots. And none, for me, were brighter than the Jets defense at the very end of the game. The defense, playing without three starters once Jenkins went down with injury, forced three turnovers and had to overcome and incredible amount of adversity. Despite having to deal with (from their perspective) a myriad of defensive penalties, and an offense that was completely ineffective, the Jets held the Ravens to just 10 points through three quarters. Then, the Jets stopped the Ravens on two fourth quarter drives. After the second stop, the Jets offense promptly lost two yards and punted. The Jets pounced on the Ravens again, giving up a heartbreaking first down on a Flacco sneak with 2:00 to go in the game. If ever a defense would be defeated, that was it. But after the two minute warning, Bryan Thomas and Mike DeVito pushed Ray Rice back for a two-yard loss. Then, Jason Taylor short through the line and knocked Rice in the backfield for a five yard loss, knocking the Ravens out of field goal range. Finally, the defense forced a Flacco incompletion, allowing the Jets to keep their final timeout as part of their last ditch hope to score. The Jets defense (minus Cromartie and Wilson) played every bit the part of champions, and that was very inspiring.

My brother, playing the role of optimist, tried to spin the game as the Jets version of the Giants-49ers Monday Night showdown in 1990, a game I blogged about here. That was a game featuring two defensive powerhouses, and the 49ers edged the Giants, 7-3. But when it mattered most, in the NFC Championship Game, the Giants won 15-13, without scoring a touchdown (now this is starting to sound like a recipe the Jets could follow). And in a lot of ways, this game seemed, in person at least, to have a playoff like atmosphere among two powerhouses. This could easily be compared to some of the Ravens-Steelers slugfests over the past decade. On more than one occasion I had flashbacks to one of the best playoff games I've ever seen, the Ravens-Titans battle in the 2008 post-season. As a Jets fan, it's easy to paint this as a toss-up game against one of the very best teams in the league -- is it really so bad to go head to head with the Ravens and come up a point short (in a game where the Jets didn't appear to play their best)?

But, on the other hand, the problems with Cromartie and Wilson don't seem to be going away. And until Santonio Holmes returns, I don't know how much hope the offense has. In five days, the Jets will get a very different test, facing the high-octane Patriots offense. If Wes Welker is matched up against Antonio Cromartie, Tom Brady's head might explode. And if the Jets can't pass on the Patriots mediocre secondary, is there any hope at all for Sanchez this year? A month ago, we talked on this podcast on what an 0-2 start might mean for the Jets; the Jets are halfway there towards making that a reality. The Jets held Baltimore to just 10 points -- and maybe fewer if not for Edwards' running into the kicker -- despite allowing 6 first downs via penalty, and playing with an ugly offense that kept them on the field for over 38 minutes. Can this defense challenge the '00 Ravens for fewest points allowed in a 16 game season? If they can hold New England under 17 points, the sky is the limit on what this defense can accomplish. And as bad as the offense looked, at least part of that can be chalked up to going against perhaps the league's 2nd best defense.

So, to those still reading here, what did you think? I had fantastic seats to watch my favorite team play at night in an incredibly tense game. So I enjoyed it. But I could easily see the majority of the audience tonight thinking this was about the ugliest game ESPN could have ever showcased. I can't even imagine how poor the Jets offense looked on television to the casual observer. So was this a brutally boring, painful game to watch, or an intense streetfight of defensive powerhouses that was a rare September gem? Did the Jets look like a team that was in way over their heads and couldn't back up the hype, or a team with a dominant defense that can compete with any team in the league? Despite sitting through that gut punch of a game, I have hope that the team in January -- with Calvin Pace, Santonio Holmes, and hopefully a healthy Kris Jenkins and a capable Mark Sanchez -- will be well built to win. Do I have green goggles on, making this a homer-ific post worthy of the "rant" category? At least I'll admit this: all bets are off until the Jets win their first game. And that may be awhile.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 at 12:19 am and is filed under General, Rant. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.