Week 6’s battle for first place ended in the worse way possible — with the game’s final result overturned by a replay crew on Park Avenue. It will be difficult for the New York Jets to put this one behind them but they must move on.
You have every right to feel angry, New York Jets fans. CBS-TV announcer Dan Fouts called the reply booth overturn of an Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ late fourth-quarter touchdown, “one of the worst calls that I have ever seen.” ESPN’s Mike Greenberg tweeted exactly the same. Even former VPs of NFL officiating Dean Blandino and Mike Periera said the play should’ve stood as called. Where was the indisputable evidence necessary to overturn the referee’s precedent on the field? It was such an egregious abuse of instant reply that one must question the allegiances of those in the replay booth. Face it, we wuz robbed!
Gang Green were huge underdogs going into this game. Nobody expected them to win three games this season, let alone be competing for first place six weeks since the start of the schedule. But what was the bigger surprise, the Jets at 3-2 or the Pats at 3-2?
The changing of the call on the MetLife field from a touchdown to a touchback back was not just an awful call — it was a momentum changer. Todd Bowles and his troops remained tight-lipped after the game, and they said all the right things. And they were all correct in repeating the mantra that one play does not decide a game. But they are also trying to emotionally move on from that call, and prepare for the stinkin’ Fish in Miami. So it was comforting to watch Morris Claiborne‘s post-game tirade, calling the decision terrible, and how it did affect the final outcome.
That abomination aside, the Jets got dominated. They flat-out got beat up front on both sides of the ball. The Pats stuffed the Jets running game (74 total yards on the ground), and dominated the passing game (257 yards), with serious YAC (Yards After Catch) over the middle. The Jets knew that they had no room for mistakes. But yet they made plenty of them.
At the end of the day, Gang Green hung in tough and fought toe-to-toe with the Super Bowl champs — a team that’d beaten them 25 of 35 times in the Tom Brady era. Every week the Jets are gaining confidence and proving to the world that they are pretty darn good. Here are five positive signs going into the final 10 games, starting this weekend on the road against the Dolphins.
Next: 5. Rock 'Til You Drop
5. Rock ‘Til You Drop
These Jets play hard and give their maximum effort for Coach Bowles. But if you can’t get serious pressure up the middle, you’ll never stop a wise QB like Tom Brady. You can’t fool him with blitz packages cuz he eats ’em for lunch. That’s what you witnessed throughout the Patriots’ second and third quarter scoring barrage. Brady had so much time in the pocket, he could’ve had coffee and dessert with that lunch.
New York’s defensive line continues to let down the rest of this inspired “D.” The Pats repeated a tried and true scenario of teams double-teaming Leonard Williams because they know they can still fend off the $86 Million Man Muhammad Wilkerson. A deciding moment was during that drive where the Pats took the lead for good, 21-14 — when Williams whiffed on a key third-down sack that would’ve been the All Pro’s first off the season. But Brady spun away and hit Brandin Cooks over the middle for a big gain. A sign of Mo’s fading star was that right after his only nasty play of the game — a fourth-quarter second-down run stuff — he got pulled from the field in a key third down situation.
Thanks to the addition of Kony Ealy — who was chomping at the bit for a chance against the Patriots who humiliatingly cut him — the Jets lead the league at batting down passes at the line of scrimmage. Ealy leads the NFL in that individual category — with his fifth halting a big Brady drive, and then his sixth stalling another. This was yet another week where the former Missouri Tiger outhustled and outperformed Wilkerson.
Buster Skrine missed on an early second quarter INT that you could’ve easily been run back to the house. But his late second quarter INT on a Brady bomb to Phillip Dorsett was huge. Jamal Adams and Darron Lee played strong games, but there was only so much they could do against behemoth future Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski. There were a few plays where Gronk’s size purely dominated, and it was not due to a lack of effort or technique. Calls against the smaller Jets secondary men for holding and pass interference were just part of a nasty back-and-forth battle for the ball going on all game long. Also in terms of this conversation, Jordan Jenkins‘ personal foul on Danny Amendola was no dumb cheap shot; he just didn’t realize that the receiver was called down.
The Jets have a lot to work to do if they plan to reset their defense for a revitalized Jay Cutler-led Dolphins. The defense really has to show up Sunday afternoon. But it all starts upfront, and if the Jets can’t generate any more of a pass rush than Kony Ealy alone, they are in serious deep water.
Next: 4. All For One
4. All For One
Against the Patriots, Jets fans saw the very best and very worst of Josh McCown. On display were the strengths and liabilities of a starting a 38-year-old journeyman quarterback.
Josh took what the defense gave him, and delivered a few excellent drives that included some nice scrambling runs. But he spent most of the game avoiding pass-rush pursuit. You also saw the limitations of his game, locking into his current favorite receiver Robby Anderson, so clearly that it resulted in a game-changing interception.
The Jets’ opening drive (13 plays, 88 yards) was a thing of beauty. They honestly couldn’t have scripted their first opening drive touchdown of 2017 any better. McCown did a nice job of spreading the ball around. His budding relationship with Anderson worked on a 3rd and 10 pass for 22 yards. Equally impressive third down conversions in that drive were Josh’s 16-yard scramble, 16-yard swing pass to Matt Forte, 29-yard lob to Jeremy Kerley down to the five-yard-line, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins‘ second two-yard TD of the season.
Bilal Powell is a legit NFL talent, but he can never be a feature back, with all the nicks and bruises that have stunted his seven-year career. It was as surprising as it was serendipitous to witness the return of a turf-toed Matt Forte, who showed up with his best game ever in green and white. Elijah McGuire has a future with this organization, but he is still a work in progress.
Travaris Cadet did not disappoint in his reputation as a smooth-handed running back. Offensive coordinator John Morton seems comfortable working the into rotation his former Saints RB, who had 40 catches for four TDs with Drew Brees last season. Cadet snared three nice McCown passes for 26 yards against New England.
If the Jets plan to make their mark in Miami, they need to create confusion on the offensive line by must moving the pile and shortening the game. That’s what the Jets successfully did against Jacksonville, and unsuccessfully against New England,
Next: 3. Extract the Action
3. Extract the Action
One of the negatives about Todd Bowles is that he still has a long way to go in terms of in-game adjustments. That issue reared its ugly head again against the Patriots, as his team wasted two key timeouts, and surprisingly moved away from a successful offensive game plan.
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In terms of the defensive line, at a certain point, you have to question the alignments for the zero sacks. And if coaching is about instilling discipline, why still all the back-breaking penalties? But in defense of his defense’s complete inability to cover big tight ends over the middle — no other NFL team has mastered that either.
You know that Coach Bowles was steaming over that hellacious non-touchdown. But he did a nice job of covering for it all. You sure as heck hope that he’s got something to prove, especially going back to Miami (where he once served as interim coach).
And for the record, general manager Mike Maccagan got excoriated for the way in which he waived veteran linebacker David Harris. His signing by New England has not worked out to date — so much so that he was inactive for this game. Patriots announcers were saying that Belichick loves Harris, particularly his ability to fill the leadership void left by the retirement of Rob Ninkovich and that the former Jet will play an important role later this season. But that remains to be seen.
There’s plenty of opportunities for this 2017 Jets team — chances to prove the players right, or chances prove the critics wrong. The next ten games will be a real gut-check for Gang Green moving forward.
Next: 2. The Pack Is Back
2. The Pack Is Back
Football is a battle for field positions. Most important in establishing that field position edge come with special teams play. In that regard, the Jets are displaying week-by-week development.
Special teams put them in a big hole from the start, after ArDarius Stewart returned the opening kickoff to just the 12-yard line. Luckily, McCown marched his troops down the field 88 yards for a touchdown. Stewart seems like he’s hit a bit of a wall. But it was nice to see the Alabama product starting to earn field time, with a nice six-yard end-around run later in the game.
In the second quarter, Lach Edwards’ 41-yard punt put the Pats on their 7-yard line, his 12th punt of the season nailed inside the 20. Of course, Tom Brady marched down the field for a nine-play TD. But the Aussie former rugby star had another stellar game (four punts, 46.8 yard average, with a long of 51).
On the receiving end of the punting game, Jeremy Kerley has stabilized a volatile situation so ably that the team boldly waived Jalin Marshall after his four-game PED suspension. Undrafted free agent Xavier Coleman got called up this weekend from the practice squad, and promptly made a costly penalty on a Kerley punt return, but expect big things from the kid outta Portland State.
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Before the season, there were rumblings Chandler Catanzaro wouldn’t last the season. Now he feels like a gimme. And the move to jettison Nick Folk (currently bombing in Tampa Bay) looks genius. The ex Clemson star delivered with two PATS and dead-center 28-year yard fourth-quarter boot.
Next: 1. Lay Down The Law
1. Lay Down The Law
In the days before this game, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick could barely keep straight faces as they extolled the rising Jets — so as not to provide any bulletin-board fodder. At the end of the game, they were damn lucky to come up with a win. You know that Todd Bowles boys will no longer be the butt(-fumbles) of another New England joke. No one’s laughing now.
Despite it all, the Patriots still seem odds-on favorites to win the division and to win it all. The Dolphins are not nearly as imposing an opponent, but they will be a tough and difficult test for Gang Green.
The Jets go into Miami with a huge chip on their collective shoulder. It was not so much losing to the Patriots, it was the heart-strangling way in which they lost. If this dog day afternoon doesn’t provide inspiration, nothing will. In fact, it will be interesting to see what the league will have to say about this whole replay booth fiasco.
Miami fans are back aboard the Fins train after their impressive comeback over a listless Falcons squad in Atlanta. This game will be nothing like Week 3’s Fish Fry at the Meadowlands, where Jay Cutler looked like he wished he remained in retirement. Expect a dirty rumble in the Everglades, as the Jets hook the Dolphins.
In terms of the rebuilding this franchise, it will still be long and arduous. There’s no legitimate reason to believe that the Jets can still win enough games to make the playoffs, nor any reasons to think that they can’t. So strap yourself in, Jets fans, and enjoy the ride!