So the New York Jets have survived another week in the "Who's More Mediocre?" contest otherwise known as the AFC Wild Card Race. For 55 minutes they were in a rough and tumble, grind it out game against a 4-7 team with zero to play for (although the way the Giants and Cowboys are playing, maybe 7-9 wins the NFC East?). Jets fans should be happy since their team got another win under its belt and with a favorable schedule ahead, have the opportunity to make a push and end up in the playoffs. But let's get something squarely straight: the Washington Redksins are a bad football team. And with five minutes left to play, the Jets trailed by three points in a game the Jets desperatly needed against them.
The last five minutes were very good for the Jets, and the defense overall in the second half was much more like it. But the offense sputtered just about all game, and the special teams gave away three points with another fumble on a return. Maybe the 2011 Jets are simply a team that wins ugly, and winning is all that counts. But boy, for most of the afternoon, it was pulling-your-teeth ugly for Gang Green.
The last five minutes of the game looked like exactly how the Jets want to pay football in 2011. Mark Sanchez hit a big play to Santonio Holmes for a touchdown. Shonn Greene ripped off a few big runs for scores. The defense came up with a huge play when Aaron Maybin sacked Rex Grossman and caused a fumble, leading to a score.
Sanchez did not play very well again. It was a very similar to his game last week against the Buffalo Bills minus the, you know, four touchdown passes. Sanchez really made two huge plays in the game, but they were big ones nonetheless. On a 3rd and 4 in the fourth with the Jets trailing 16-13, Sanchez did well to shift away from pressure and squeak a ball in to Greene to move the chains. Two plays later came the 30-yard touchdown to Holmes on a double move by the receiver and a perfect chuck by Sanchez. It's about time the Jets went for the end zone from somewhere outside the five yard line.
For the second week in a row, Sanchez didn't get sacked. The offensive line did a decent job in run blocking (more on the mirage of the Jets' "improved running game" in a second), but they have made leaps and bounds in pass protection the past two weeks. If they can continue to keep the opposing front seven off of Sanchez, the Jets will be much better for it.
Excellent job by Rex Ryan on challenges, winning two big ones. He succesfully reversed a long completion by Fred Davis, where he wasn't able to get both feet in bounds along the sideline. And in the third quarter, Roy Helu fumbled but was judged down by contact. But a look at the replay clearly showed that the ball came out early, and Ryan threw the challenge flag in time.
Greene's numbers of 88 yards and three scores are a bit skewed. His final 25 yards run and score happened when the game was already over, and actually shouldn't have happened at all. The smart play would have been for Greene to take a knee at the five yard line and the game would have been over. So let's take away that run and score: his stat line goes to 63 yards on 21 carries. Let me spell something out for you: that isn't any good. The run blocking wasn't great, and the Redskins have a talented and well-coached front seven. But if you don't think the Jets, who want nothing more than to "Ground and Pound", whiffed on the notion of Greene as an every down, top-flight starting running back, then I'm not really sure what you're watching. He cannot make a traffic cone miss, and he rarely hits the hole with a lot of gusto. A big reason the Jets are having trouble scoring points is the lack of consistency from the running game.
The defense adjusted well, but they looked very poor to start, letting the Redskins march down the field on their first two drives to put up 10 points. The Jets got burned with tosses and outside runs, and I was shocked that Mike Shanahan got away from that as the game went on. Rex Grossman throwing 46 times in a game that was within one score for 55 minutes in criminal. The Jets got bailed out bigtime by a coach who seems to have lost his way.
What Nick Folk giveth, Nick Folk taketh away.
When you credit Mike Westhoff when Joe McKnight returns a kick for a touchdown or when someone blocks a punt, then you have to blame him for the repeated fumbles by the return teams. That's six overall and one in each of the last four games. Jeremy Kerley's third quarter fumble led to three automatic points for the Redskins. For the rest of the game, the sure-handed Jim Leonhard was the return man. He should be the guy for the rest of the season.
The Jets next host the 5-7 Kansas City Chiefs, who will likely be quarterbacked by Tyler Palko. It's another must-win game for the Jets against a bad team that has little to play for. Will they struggle early again and engage in another dogfight? Or will they finally jump on a bad opponent and go for the kill? Jets fans hope it's the latter, but the way they've been this year, the former seems much more likely. But if they win, we suppose that's all that matters.