There probably isn't a team in the NFL who could have used a 48-28 win over a division rival in Week 1 more than the New York Jets. The hangover from last season's meltdown and the controversy brought on with the offseason acquisition of Tim Tebow put big targets on the backs of Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum. It's only one game and there's a tough one on the docket for Week 2, but on Sunday they Jets answered many questions and looked like a team that has a chance to contend for a playoff spot.
Most weeks, there won't be so little material to fill out "The Bad" and "The Ugly" sections of this weekly recap (we found a few things, however), so enjoy it now Jets fans.
Everything starts with Sanchez. Just as the Jets could be most positively impacted by a great Week 1 performance, the same can be said about their starting quarterback. Sanchez simply needed to get off to a good start this season to help ease the Jets' fanbase and avoid a major mess with Tebow in tow, and he got off to a flying one. Sanchez threw for three touchdowns, two to rookie Stephen Hill and one to Jeremy Kerley. The strike to Kerley and the first to Hill, specifically, were good signs for Sanchez. On both he showed a great pump fake and the ability to drop the ball over the cornerback and to where only his receivers could make a play on it. Additionally, Sanchez averaged nearly 10 yards per completion, something previously unforeseen for Sanchez. For whatever reason, Sanchez actually seems to fair better when he throws to ball downfield and in the intermediate range. He spread the ball around well, hitting seven different receivers. You couldn't have scripted it any better for Sanchez. Even on his misses he was good (see Santonio Holmes' catch in the end zone where he barely couldn't stay in bounds - great throw and incredible would-be catch).
Kerley and Hill both had banner days with two touchdowns apiece. Kerley opened the scoring with a 12-yard score from Sanchez, and had a huge hand in making this a laugher early with a 68 yard punt return TD in the second quarter to put New York up 21-0. Hill, who struggled in the preseason with injuries and drops, led the Jets with five catches, 89 yards and two scores. On his 33-yard touchdown catch, he showed the ability to get behind the defense down the field and make a play on the ball in the air. It was an encouraging day for the Jets' two young receivers.
You can't throw the ball downfield with any success unless your quarterback has time, and the Jets' much-maligned offensive line showed up big. New right tackle Austin Howard wasn't noticed out there, a good thing for an offensive lineman and something his predecessor Wayne Hunter could never figure out exactly how to do. The Bills' prized free agent addition Mario Williams was a total non-factor.
Quite simply, the defense dominated Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills early on. After Sanchez's early blunder that gave the ball to Buffalo, Darrelle Revis got it right back for the Jets with an acrobatic interception along the sideline. On the Bills' next possession, Kyle Wilson came up with a pick of his own - albeit on a poorly underthrown ball by Fitzpatrick. Early on, the Jets did a good job of keeping Fred Jackson in check - it was only until Jackson left injured and C.J. Spiller took over that the Jets' rush defense struggled. And I'm not really sure what Fitzpatrick was doing when early in the third quarter he threw the ball right to Antonio Cromartie for the Jets' third pick of the day, one that went all the way back for a New York score.
Yeremiah Bell and Laron Landry, the Jets' new starting saftey duo, had solid debuts, combining for a forced fumble and recovery. Landry led the Jets with seven total tackles.
Marv Albert reading 60 Minutes promos. "Meet the Navy SEAL who shot...Bin...Laden!"
The Jets' running game and Wildcat package was lackluster for the most part. While Shonn Greene did finish with 97 yards and a touchdown, he needed a robust 27 carries to get it and only scored in garbage time. Greene looked consistently slow and unable to hit holes with any force, and he did fumble twice (luckily neither one was recovered by Buffalo). As for Tebow and the Wildcat, it honestly felt pretty force-fed. The crowd actually booed Tebow in the second quarter when, after Sanchez had marched the team down the field, Tebow was stopped for no gain in the red zone. In all, Tebow gained just 11 yards on five carries. He also lined up as a tight end on the first play of the game and went out for a pass. Are things like this really necessary? The Wildcat is one thing, but why is Tebow going out for passes now? I know, I know, he's a FOOTBALL PLAYER (as opposed to what, exactly?). Tebow does seem to have a role on this team, and I think he'll make some plays in the Wildcat, but I personally didn't love the exact times offensive coordinator Ton Sparano went to it on Sunday.
We're nitpicking a bit in this section while we can. Firstly, the Sanchez interception was just plain horrifying. Mark, just run out of bounds or throw the ball right at Rex Ryan. Even though he's lost a ton of weight, he's still a big enough target.
Spiller totally carved up the Jets' defense. I think opposing teams will take a look at that and see that the Jets lack a little bit of speed in their linebackers and will struggle to contain speedy backs like Spiller. On both of Spiller's big runs, Landry showed his less-than-stellar tackling skills. Landry is like the football version of J.R. Smith -- you just have to hope the good outweighs the bad, and if it does, you have yourself a pretty darn effective player. If not, you'll be scratching your head quite a bit while watching him.
Now it's on to Pittsburgh for the Jets' first visit there since falling in the 2010 AFC Championship Game. Visit back for full coverage.