After the Jets crushing loss to the Patriots on Sunday, all Jets fans seemed to fit squarely into one of two categories: Either you were happy with the way the team played, showing fight, never quitting, and going toe-to-toe with the Patriots in Foxboro, OR you pulled the “there are no moral victories!” card, bashed Mark Sanchez for his costly fumble, and said a loss is a loss is a loss, no matter what. I don’t think things have to be quite so black and white, and the appropriate way to feel about this Jets team right now is somewhere in the middle.
The game was right there for the taking, and there is no question the Jets should have pulled it out if not for a curious lack off aggressiveness when it came time to step on the Patriots throat and put them away. The offense played for 3 instead of 7 and then the defense unsurprisingly was unable to hold Tom Brady when it mattered most. We all know what happened by now. It was about as painful of a regular season loss as I’ve seen from the Jets in years. HOWEVER, there is plenty to be happy about with this team and the way they played. Let’s take a look.
BUY: Mark Sanchez & Dustin Keller – It’s amazing how much better the offense looks when Dustin Keller is on the field, isn’t it? He clearly has the most rapport with Mark Sanchez out of anyone on the roster and it really shows. In fact, in the 3 games Dustin has been on the field this year, here are Mark Sanchez’s passing numbers:
58-86, 67.4%, 676 yards, 6 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
Those are excellent numbers no matter how you slice it, and it really speaks volumes. Mark Sanchez is not perfect by any stretch, but the kid is a GOOD quarterback. For the majority of the season his top targets were Jeff Cumberland and Chaz Schilens. Think about that. Nobody can thrive when put in that position, but now that Jeremy Kerley is emerging, Stephen Hill is coming along, and Dustin Keller is getting healthy, Mark is playing some of his best ball. Unfortunately, there are fans out there who won’t give #6 any form of credit no matter what he does, and that is a disgrace. (I even tweeted about this during the game.) The bottom line is this: Mark Sanchez played an excellent game on Sunday, making great throws to Keller and Kerley all over the field and all anybody wants to bring up is the fumble and the admittedly horrible interception in the end zone. Other than that, he was pretty much flawless, and when he left the field with just over a minute to play in the 4th quarter, his team had the lead. Everyone wants to pile on and trash him when he makes a bad play, but lets give him credit when it’s due.
SELL: The playcalling – We’ve been over this ad nauseam since Sunday so I won’t beat a dead Sparano, but that sequence of plays when the Jets had the ball at the Pats 4, 3rd & 1 and a half or so, you’ve got to have Tebow in the game to plow forward. The slant to Chaz Schilens is a terrible play call anywhere on the field and that situation was no different. Just had to mention this. Again.
BUY: Shonn Greene & Joe McKnight – Shonn Greene is another guy Jets fans love to hate, but his performance on Sunday was really great to see. He ran for the tough yards all day against a stout Patriots run defense, and contributed 6 big catches to move the chains and give the Patriots something else to think about on defense. And let’s be real, Shonn Greene is A MAN. There’s no other way to really describe him. After seeing him bounce back up after that crushing show from Brandon Spikes, then return to the game because the team needed him, well it was pretty awesome.
Same goes for Joe McKnight, who had his typically tremendous day in the kick return game and managed to grind out 7 carries for solid yardage after Greene’s injury, despite hobbling around on one leg and looking like he was in a great amount of pain all game. When Bilal Powell returns from injury, the Jets will have a pretty solid little trio of backs, especially when you throw Lex Hilliard into the mix. They’re not the most talented group around, but they can definitely get the job done.
SELL: Matt Slauson & Brandon Moore - Yes, our guards are now officially bad. Matt Slauson was beat several times during the course of the game and actually had me calling to see more Vlad Ducasse. Yes, that Vlad Ducasse. Brandon Moore’s struggles are tough to watch, because he’s been such an underrated and key player of this team for so long. Last year, his run blocking slipped noticeably, but was still excellent protecting the quarterback. This year, not so much. He’s still serviceable, but we are likely seeing the last few games of Moore’s very good career. Look for an overhaul at the position in the offseason as both starters are likely to be replaced.
Fortunately, Nick Mangold is as good as ever and D’Brickashaw Ferguson is looking more like the 2010 version than 2011. If Chandler Jones had been playing, I’m sure Brick would have had a much worse game, though. Oh wait, Jones did play? And he did nothing? Weird..
BUY: Mo Wilkerson & Quinton Coples - Chandler Jones may not have made a peep all game, but Quinton Coples sure did. Coples was routinely getting pressure in the Pats backfield, and should have recorded his 3rd sack of the season, but David Harris cleaned it up and got the credit. Chris will cover this more in his defensive breakdown, but there is little doubt Coples is going to be an excellent player for the Jets. As for Wilkerson, he’s really starting to come into his own as the dominant force on the defensive line we all expected this season. He was double-teamed nearly the entire game and still managed to almost single-handily disrupt the Pats run game as well as get up into Tom Brady’s face. Throw in Kenrick Ellis, and the Jets defensive line is looking like a major strength for the next few years.
BUY: Demario Davis & Antonio Allen - It was great seeing Demario Davis play so much this week and to make such an impact. When he knifed his way through the line and made a stuff in the backfield, I could hardly believe my eyes. It had been so long, I forgot a linebacker was allowed to do something like that. Davis is far from perfect, but he’s super athletic, fast, and he can lay the wood. The same goes for Allen, who played a lot in the Jets “big nickel” defense, to slow down the Pats tight ends while keeping an eye on the run game. For most of the game, it worked very well. New “hybrid” defenders like Davis and Allen, along with perhaps Marcus Dowtin, are the new breed of defenders in the NFL and will be key for the Jets going forward defending teams like the Patriots. More Davis and Allen, less Bart Scott, Bryan Thomas, and Eric Smith is a great thing.