The New York Jets finally did on Sunday what their fans have been clamoring for. They jumped on a lesser opponent early, and allowed the fanbase to breathe easy in the second half. The cooperating party was the lifeless Kansas City Chiefs, who played as bad a game of football as you could possibly play in Sunday's 37-10 whitewash for Gang Green. The win was an important one for the Jets, who coupled with losses by the Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans and Oakland Raiders, moved into sole possession of the final AFC Wild Card spot. The Jets' remaining three games are all going to be tough, but they couldn't have asked for a better position. If they win all three, they'll make the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
It wasn't the most exciting game of football, but let's get to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of the Jets' blowout win over the Chiefs.
The first half was probably the best and most complete 30 minutes of football the Jets have played all season. Yes, I know, the Chiefs are bad. But they are a team that has played very good defense over the past few weeks against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears. You have to give credit to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who called a very good game. The Jets screen-passed the Cheifs to death, hitting on big ones to Shonn Greene and Ladainian Tomlinson (Tomlinson's went for a score). Mark Sanchez had an efficient first half, completing 13 passes with a quarterback rating of around 140, while also passing and running for two scores apiece. Again, Ben Roethlisberger put up only 13 points at home against this defense just two weeks ago, so while Sanchez wasn't liting the world up, his very good first half isn't something you should just throw aside.
Tyler Palko was playing quarterback for the Chiefs, and if you just started watching the NFL this week, I have something to tell you: he's really bad. But still, the Jets defense did what it had to do. It bottled up the run and forced Palko to pass, which he isn't very good at. Jim Leonhard intercepted Palko in the second quarter when the score was 7-3, but it was a very costly play (as we'll get to in The Ugly). Bart Scott, who has been extremely silent this season, had a sack and looks as though he's starting to come around with some solid play in the past few weeks. Sinoe Pouha was in the backfield all day, and added a sack of his own. The Chiefs had as many first half yards as the Jets did touchdowns -- four.
The Jets needed to call a timeout on the first play from scrimmage to avoid a delay of game penalty because they couldn't figure out their personnel. You have ALL WEEK TO CALL YOUR FIRST OFFENSIVE PLAY. It didn't end up being any sort of big deal, but, let's hope this doesn't happen again.
On his interception, Leonhard suffered a torn knee ligament as is out for the rest of the season. Leonhard isn't a world beater, but he's leader (that was Clyde Frazier-esque on my part), and the Jets will certainly miss him on punt returns, as he seems to be the only guy on the roster who can catch a punt. The Jets lose Leonhard last year and still made it to the AFC Championship game. It will be a big loss, but its not crippling. It probably means even more Eric Smith, which isn't a great thing.
The streaky Jets are on one of those streaks, winners of three straight, Next up is a date with the Philadelphia Eagles in The City of Brotherly Love, a game that is going to be really, really tough. As is the Christmas Eve game with the Giants. And the season-ender in Miami. The Jets will make the playoffs if they win them all. That would mean they'd have won their last six games of the regular season. It's certainly possible, but it's also entireply plausible that they could lose all three. It's going to be an exciting last few weeks of the year, whichever way it goes.
But the bottom line is, the Jets have put themselves in a position that they could have only dreamed of just three weeks ago. Now we'll see if they're up to the task to actually take advantage of it.