A few observations from the Jets divisional playoff victory over the New England Patriots.
-Go ahead Jet fans, get excited. You deserve it. You do. Rex Ryan deserves a ton of credit for a few reasons. First, the game plan on Tom Brady was excellent and make no mistake, the game plan was against Tom Brady. Take out the head and the rest of the body basically crumbles and that’s precisely what the Jet defense did. Peter King reported that the Jets dressed 11 defensive backs. Prior to the game the Jets injury report had Drew Coleman and Brad Smith on it. Coleman was declared active by game time and I thought that not having Brad Smith would be a much bigger loss than having Drew Coleman in the game but turns out, for the game plan to work, they needed the extra corner out there. We’ll get to the game plan later.
Second, much has been made of Rex Ryan and his press conferences, but give the man credit. An underrated part of coaching is going beyond the X’s and O’s and being able to motivate his team and making them believe in what you’re preaching. Rex has the undivided attention of his players and their undying loyalty and by making all of the pre-game bluster about him and his antics, it takes a lot of the pressure off his second year QB who may have too much expectations heaped on him now that he’s entering his second consecutive AFC Championship game. On a defense that he’s constantly called the best in the game. On an offense that he thinks is Super Bowl caliber. All of the pressure is put mainly on his wide back. Good thing he’s built the way he is, that’s a ton to be carrying around on the lonesome.
Interesting side theory that was brought up recently on the Bill Simmons podcast where Cousin Sal said perhaps the whole foot fetish video was staged so that the opposition would use it to tease the Jets which in turn would motivate the Jets more to catch their coach’s back which actually worked. Wes Welker’s backhanded shots at Rex Ryan’s expense was not received well by the Jet locker room (Bart Scott replied by saying his days in a uniform were numbered) OR the Patriot locker room (Bill Belichiek held him out of the first drive of the game). I don’t think it was that underhanded but if years later Rex writes a book and admits to it, just know that I acknowledged the actual person who made the suggestion.
– Brady’s discomfort was so evident all day. Every single drive had no fluidity to it. They weren’t marching up and down the field like they were during their 8 game stretch where they looked unbeatable. Watching the game for a second time I came to one conclusion: a major reason the Patriots lost was because of Tom Brady. He saved his worst throws for the most important times. Check this out:
8:02 left in the 1st quarter- Brady on a double fake tries to throw a screen pass to the law firm, BenJarvis Green-Ellis and shoots it about 4 feet over his head. Phil Simms, like most broadcasters will do in his position so I won’t kill him for it, said that Calvin Pace’s arm being raised made Brady re-load and throw it higher, but I watched it and No it didn’t. I’m not going to kill Phil Simms for 3 reasons: he’s a former Giant, he’s one of the best in the business at getting right to the point, and in the midst of action I’m sure that’s what it looked like. But Brady just straight overthrew the football to a cutting David Harris who was going for the tackle until he realized the ball was coming to him. He caught the pass and if he had any kind of speed- the Jets would’ve been up 7-0. Also if you look at the pass, Ellis immediately gives up on the play and just watches the ball sail over his head not even trying to make an attempt at the catch which tells you how high the pass was- so Brady just threw a terrible pass.
2nd quarter- 8:58 left- 3rd and 2- The Jets just scored and now lead the game 7-3. Pats are on their own 34. Brady only has a 3 man rush and can’t find a man open. Looks for Gronkowski after he comes out of his blocking assignment and he throws it 3 yards behind him. Terrible throw on a sure-fire first down which would’ve extended the play, instead its a 3 and out.
2nd quarter- 1:24 left- 3rd and 4- Jets show 7, bring three. The Pats run their patented pick play but Dwight Lowery wisely goes over the top to pick up Rob Gronkowski as the pass sails right by him by about four yards. There wasn’t pressure in Brady’s face, Brady just hurried the throw and made a terrible throw. This led to the miffed fake punt play. No one has yet to take credit for making the call here to run this play. Its one of those if it works then we’re geniuses and if it doesn’t we’re idiots so I’m not going to completely crap on the Pats for making the play call with such little time, but the Pats aren’t usually this sloppy in execution.
4th quarter 5:30 left on the Jets 34- Brady looking through his progression not once but twice (That’s how much time he had- of course Shaun Ellis being out of the game and the Jets going with max coverage may have had something to do with that) and patting the ball 5 times throws it into triple coverage for Woodhead and it went in complete. Just a terrible decision. He had Brandon Tate going on an out route and he could’ve not only caught the pass but stopped the clock which for some strange reason the Patriots had no interest in doing considering they were down 10 with about five minutes left to play in a game that they had been outplayed up until that point.
4th quarter 5:18 left on the Jets 34- They go for it and forego the opportunity for a 52 yard field goal into the wind which I understand. Revis is not in on this play and the person he’s been covering all game Deion Branch has Cromartie on him, so naturally on such a crucial play Brady is going to go to his safety valve, the guy he knows can make a play and he would’ve converted had he made a good throw. The pass goes to the wrong shoulder- a terrible read by Brady who normally converts that pass. Brady was blitzed on the play, but it was the cumulative effect of the entire day- receivers not being open, the Jets getting pressure with just three guys and the overall lack of sync on offense- The Jets never let him feel comfortable and he just could never get anything going.
– I always kill Brian Schottenheimer for terrible play calling but beginning with the 3rd quarter of the Wild Card round against the Colts, he has been very good. Now, I’m not going to say that he’s been a genius because he went to a game plan that I think 90% of the fan base was yelling at him to go to anyway: GROUND AND POUND. But credit Schotty for putting Mark Sanchez, his second year QB, into manageable situations. Sanchez faced a 3rd and long (over 10 yards) only ONCE in the game. That was in the first quarter after the Jets had taken the interception down. Initially I criticized their third down play call of running the football on 3rd and 18 as typical unimaginative Schottenheimer, but it being early in the game, the Jets did NOT want to rattle the young QB’s confidence and allowed him to be comfortable fro the rest of the game and not force him into a situation where he felt the onus was on him to make a play. Smart decision.
To go further consider the 3rd down plays that Mark Sanchez, Brady’s counterpart DID make:
2nd quarter- 3rd and 5 with :39 left- Sanchez shoots it right to Braylon Edwards and he does the rest, muscling Devin McCourty AND Brandon Merriweather into the end zone. Two of the Patriot Pro-Bowlers by the way.
4th quarter- 3rd and 4 with 13:00 left- Sanchez lofts a beautiful pass as Holmes does his now patented toe tapping corner of the end zone touchdown catch. That’s a huge TD pass after the Patriots score and make it a field goal game.
– The Jets did a fantastic job of answering EVERY single swing of momentum the Patriots had.
1st Q- 1st and 10 on their own 22- Brady gets sacked by Shaun Ellis for the first of his 2 sacks on the day. This immediately followed the Jets losing any momentum after getting the interception by missing the FG attempt by Nick Folk. Ellis played like a man possessed. Loss of 8. Were it NOT for a facemask penalty that would’ve been a likely 3 and out but the Patriots were able to move down the field like they seem to always do when given new life. Shaun Ellis comes in and sacks Brady for the second time on the drive to force them to kick a field goal which is huge because the Pats were on the doorstep of scoring and had an opportunity go right through Alge Crumpler’s finger tips. Sometimes luck is necessary, but the majority of this rally stuffer was provided thanks to Shaun Ellis’ fantastic performance.
4th quarter- 15:00- After the Patriots score and convert the two point conversion, Sanchize throws to Jerricho Cotchery who sits in the hole of the zone defense the Pats were playing and he goes for 58 yards putting the Jets deep into Patriot territory. Three plays later, Sanchez connects with Santonio Holmes for his third TD pass and yet another clutch catch by Holmes.
– Many people want to assign specific heroes to this Jet victory and will likely gawk over Santonio Holmes’ catch or Sanchez’s numbers (3 TD’s, 0 Picks) or Bart Scott’s interview with Sal Paolontonio. But Eric Smith, the guy who took over for Jim Leonhard, had a huge game. I agree with Peter King that he made some of the most crucial tackles in the game.
2nd Quarter- 1:14- Smith lines up on the left side of the formation and comes off the edge and Jim Nantz opined that Patrick Chung was perhaps distracted by Smith’s presence speeding around the edge and he took his eyes off the ball long enough for it to shoot off his stomach, land on the floor, and destroy any chance of it succeeding. Of course Smith’s role doesn’t end there because as Chung is trying to get the first down, Smith spins past his defender and smacks Chung down short of the line of scrimmage for a loss and gives the Jets fantastic field position. Position they would use to score and go up 11 heading into the half. So credit Smith for the fumble AND the tackle.
2nd Quarter :33 left- Jets kick off to the Patriots and Brandon Tate, gets the ball and gets a seam, and he’s a full head of steam and he just needs to beat one man to take it to the house. Eric Smith of course is that one man and he tackles him at the 45. Consider the change of momentum that might have occurred had Tate beaten Smith. The Patriots score a touchdown in the final 30 seconds of the first half. They shift all of the steam back on to their side and they get the ball back to start the second half. Suddenly the Patriots have negated a first half full of idiotic moves so yeah, HUGE save by Smith.
Drive of the game:
I loved the opening drive of the 2nd half by the Patriots being stuffed by the Jets especially after a first down play netted them 8 yards making it a 2nd and 3rd and short. The Jets came up huge but my drive of the game goes to the final drive of the first half by the Jets. They force the second turnover of the game thanks to a rare miscommunication from the Patriots and they get the ball at the New England 37. They forced Brady’s first interception in 405 pass attempts earlier in the game and hadn’t turned that into points. In fact, they gained 0 yards in 3 downs and Nick Folk missed a 30 yard field goal. With the Patriots giving up the ball a second time on a mistake, the Jets HAD to score on this drive and they did just that.
1st-10, NE37 1:06 L. Tomlinson rushed up the middle for 16 yard gain- Huge to start off the drive by moving the ball on the ground like that. LDT shot out like a cannonball and gained 16 yards.
1st-10, NE21 0:50 L. Tomlinson rushed to the right for 6 yard gain- A great run to the right edge to gain 6 yards and make it a manageable down and distance.
2nd-4, NE15 0:45 M. Sanchez incomplete pass down the middle. Bad decision to throw here when the running game was working so well and clearly momentum was going the Jets way.
3rd-4, NE15 0:33 M. Sanchez passed to B. Edwards to the right for 15 yard touchdown. This was all Edwards after the catch as he muscled his way into the end zone but great read and throw by Sanchez. McCourty was ALL OVER Edwards, but being 6’5 and that big can be a useful weapon on those inside slant routes that the Jets offense uses so much and New England, thus far into the game, had done such a great job in negating.
Jets needed points here to take advantage of the New England turn over and they did just that.
What I thought was the most crucial play of the game: 1:57 left in the game- Patriots onside kick the football down the middle. Perfectly executed, the Jets had only Darrelle Revis who almost made a disastrous play by trying to scoop up the football. Due to the tackle on him by the Patriots special teams, the ball gets kicked all the way out to Antonio Cromartie who had been a special teams demon all day on kick returns and he takes it 23 yards to the New England 20. Now, of course all the Jets needed to do was to run the clock out at this point. The Patriots had two time outs. Shonn Greene runs it in for a TD. Most people suggested that Greene should’ve downed it at the one, forcing the Patriots to use their timeouts and still be down 7. The Jets would have the first down, the Pats would be down to one timeout. The clock would’ve been stopped at 1:41. Now if the Jets just kneel with the football and force New England into their final timeout, they could’ve wasted about max 3 seconds so it would’ve been stopped at 1:38. You kneel down the rest of the way and the game is over 21-14. Which of course brings up did the Jets run up the score by scoring that final touchdown when strategy wise it would’ve made more sense to down it at the 1? I think when you consider how soundly the Patriots beat them, the Jets deserved to rub it in a little. Of course, the Patriots made a go of it and as any proud champion would do, made one final push but it was too late.
The unsportsmanlike conduct provided us a perfect opportunity to bring up the constant argument that goes on between those in the rigid conservative sector of football who scoff at any kind of emotion being shown after scoring a touchdown (Jim Nantz) and those who don’t mind a bit of celebration (Phil Simms). Nantz talked about how the penalty gave New England some sort of life (which he was absolutely correct about)
Nantz: “I’ve never understood the absurdity of all this self aggrandizing, now your’e going to cost your team 15 yards on the kick and you’re going to give Brady and his unit a little something.”
Simms: “I’ll tell you this, there’s a time to celebrate and Jim- that was it. What a job by the Jets. Sometimes you can’t control yourself.”
Two polar opposite viewpoints on the subject and I must agree with Simms. Forget the fact that Nantz is absolutely correct in the point he was making. Strategy wise, like I said before, its a poor decision by Shonn Greene to go in for the touchdown and something his coaches should’ve been telling him about. Should he get the opportunity, his role was to bleed the clock to :00 left. But given the circumstances and given the nature of the rivalry and the fact that they were blown out by 42 points and had their noses rubbed in by the Patriots who everyone viewed as the classier organization because they seemed to hide their evil nature better (see Spygate for more information). The Jets came in as the loud mouths with their chests poked out for no reason, and they left with a huge smile and vindication most importantly. For their belief in their game plan and the joy of leaping over a huge hurdle: the Patriots. A team for so long that had blocked the path is now just another victim of Rex Ryan’s bunch.
Look at the numbers since Rex has come into this rivalry: Jets and Patriots have won 23 games. The Jets have won 4 playoff games to New England’s 0. This must be an alternate universe in which Bill Belichiek, the master of his domain is being outsmarted by a loud mouth coach who only gets credit for his wit on a stage in front of a microphone. What we learned this weekend is that he’s more than just feet and a mouth. He designed two excellent defensive game plans to effectively shut down the two best quarterbacks this league has. CBS showed us a ridiculous statistic: NO TEAM had ever defeated Manning and Brady in consecutive weeks since 2001 when Tom Brady graced us with his magnificent presence. Of course since 2001 only two other teams had the opportunity to accomplish such a feat, and that would be the 2007 San Diego Chargers but if you’ll remember, Brady and Co. were on a historic run through the playoffs that year and the 2009 Baltimore Ravens. Indy knocked out the Ravens that year after they destroyed the Patriots at Foxboro.
What does this all mean for Belichiek and Brady’s career if they haven’t won a Super Bowl since the Spygate Scandal broke? Does it offer up some kind of evidence of wrong doing on their part? That perhaps their success was a byproduct of all their underhanded dealings? That there is no genius residing in that brain of Belichiek’s? That Brady’s post season success is built upon an unfair advantage that he had? Is it a coincedence that since the Spygate scandal, the Patriots are a very human 2-2 in the playoffs?
I don’t think you should read much into all of that. Belichiek’s coaching job this year will get him a Coach of the Year Plaque and Brady HAD to play lights out for this team to be 14-2 like they were. Tom Brady played perfect for almost an entire season throwing for only four interceptions and in the one game that he cracked under the pressure, it just so happened to be the one game he’ll most likely regret losing. Because he didn’t lose to some non-divisional team, he lost to the team he hates the most. The team that won’t shut up and the team he now CAN’T SHUT UP. God forbid this team wins the Super Bowl; will Tom Brady lose it? What will he do? Who knows? This Jet story has some legs and let’s see how far it runs. If it runs to Dallas, Brady may need some psychological counseling for all the mistakes he made that led to this ugly loss to the hated Jets because make no mistake, Tom Brady lost this game with his ineffectiveness.
I’m no Jet fan or claim to be, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t end this off with THIS CLIP and THIS ONE to close things out with THIS CLIP.
BRING IT HOME JETS!