It wasn't pretty, but the New York Jets saved their season on Sunday with a crucial win against the Buffalo Bills. Sure, Mark Sanchez had some head-scratching moments in the game, primarily in the first half. The defense once again proved that it's vastly overrated especially in crunch-time, only holding on thanks to Stevie Johnson's huge drop on the Bills' last ditch drive. Mike Westhoff's special teams again turned the ball over, which is quickly becoming a trademark of this team. But the Jets did just enough to get their sixth victory of the year and ensure another week of meaningful football as they continue to try to navigate through the AFC's mediocrity and find a place in the playoffs. Before we move on to Week 13 and a date in Washington with the Redskins, here's The Good, The Bad And The Ugly of the Jets' 28-24 victory over their division rival Bills.
Give credit where it's due. The Jets' beleaguered offensive line stepped up bigtime, playing probably its best game of the year. Gang Green averaged six yards a carry and Mark Sanchez's jersey was squeaky clean. On three of the his touchdown passes, Sanchez was finally given the requisite time he needed to find the open receiver downfield. Kudos to the whole gang, and that includes right tackle Wayne Hunter.
We'll get to Sanchez's first half, but you can't knock his second-half performance. While it wasn't incredible or perfect by any stretch, the Jets' signal caller made the big plays when he needed to. He engineered a 12-play 84 yard drive late in the game and made a few big throws to give the Jets the lead with a minute left. He converted a big third-and-8 completion to Patrick Turner to keep the drive alive, and of course his 18-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes was an excellent on-the-run throw. And Sanchez did give his receiver a chance to make the biggest play of the game, on third and 11 at the Buffalo 36, which leads us to Plaxico Burress.
Burress' incredible one-handed leaping catch was the biggest play of the Jets' season. He caught a touchdown in the second quarter, his team-leading seventh of the season, and he's really been all the Jets could have asked for this season. After spending the past two years in prison, you couldn't expect Burress to put up crazy numbers. But he's proven that he's stil clutch and at any given moment can pull out a moment of brilliance. Sanchez seems to have recognized that, and Burress could be a huge factor for the Jets down the stretch.
Aaron Maybin had two sacks against his former team, which must have felt pretty nice. It was also good to finally see that Dustin Keller actually has a pulse.
This wasn't the best day for the Jets defense. They did nothing to close the game out whatsoever, letting the Bills waltz down the field on the final drive of the game. Ryan Fitzpatrick was really good except for the very, very end, as he picked the Jets apart for most of the day. If he would have fired one more good pass -- to Stevie Johnson in the end zone with 15 seconds left -- the tenor of today's Jets discussion would be a lot different. Darrelle Revis had his worst game of the year (everyone is due a bad one) allowing Johnson to catch eight balls. Outside of Maybin's two sacks, the Jets generated zero pressure on Fitzpatrick. Calvin Pace might be the most overpaid player in football, and Bart Scott is slower than...jeez I can't even think of a bad joke to insert here to describe how slow he is.
Nice two-play sequence by Antonio Cromartie in the third quarter. He muffs a punt giving the Bills the ball back with great field position, and on the ensuing play gets beat by Brad Smith, the former Jet and a guy who isn't really an NFL-level wide receiver, for a game-tying touchdown. The Jets said that Jim Leonhard, the normal and sure handed punt returner, had the wind knocked out of him on the previous play, so that's why Cromartie was chosen as the return man. Whether or not that's true, the Jets fumbling punts and kickoffs this year is a troubling trend that needs to be addressed. Cromartie has proven that he's a major liability as a return man. It's on Westhoff and the rest of the coaching staff that the Jets can't seem to find return men who can hold on to the ball.
And now we get to Sanchez's first half, which is as bad a half of football you could play as a quarterback. Sanchez looked clueless for much of the half, consistetly trying to force the ball into double and triple coverage and missing some wide open receivers. He surely looked hungover from the Week 11 loss to the Denver Broncos. Sanchez's day was incredibly strange. He threw about six or seven really nice passes, three of which were for touchdowns (the short touchdown to Keller was an easy toss), and the rest of his performance was rough to watch.
But the bottom line is that Sanchez got the job done when it mattered. He stepped up in a big way and led the Jets to victory. That's the truth. The Jets' defense and special teams certainly didn't. On the biggest drive of the season, when the Jets absolutely needed to score, Sanchez made plays and got the job done. Everyone around the country is going to keep praising Tim Tebow (rightfully so) for finding ways to win late in the game. That's what Sanchez did on Sunday, and if you're going to talk up Tebow for it, you had better do it for Sanchez too.
And yes, Stevie johnson dropped the ball. He also made a joke of himself with his taunting of Burress and Holmes on his touchdown celebration in the second quarter, which indirectly led to a Jets touchdown. Fitzpatrick missed Johnson open in the end zone at the very end, when a good pass would have killed the Jets season. But the Jets don't need to apologize for winning Sunday's game. It's hard to win in the NFL. The Cowboys have beaten the Redskins and Dolphins by a combined four points in their last two games. The Steelers beat the Chiefs, led by a backup quarterback, by four points on Sunday. If the rest of the league isn't apologizing for their wins, the Jets don't need to either.
They just have to keep winning, and yesterday they did just that.