First off, apologies to all the Jet fans torturing yourself reading this post game recap of the Jets loss at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
IF it makes you feel any better, Brian Schottenheimer is coming back as offensive coordinator according to Rex Ryan.
Oh, that didn’t make you happy? You’re going to do WHAT with that knife to your arm?
Oye. Yes, all the air of the Jets bandwagon tires have been sucked out and suddenly the party is very much dead but there are a few reasons to be optimistic and I’ll give you two:
Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan- they don’t appear to go anywhere. I agree with Rex- you don’t get to two AFC Conference Championship games without being good. In fact the last team to accomplish such a feat were the 2006 and 2007 New England Patriots. The team that lost to the Manning brothers in the AFC Championship game in 06 and Super Bowl in 07. Of course since then, they haven’t won a playoff game. Ok so that news didn’t make you feel better either, but Mark Sanchez’ performance should make every single Jet fan proud that they have a 25 year old QB who ONLY has better days ahead of him.
Unfortunately yesterday’s performance wasn’t enough. Lets get to it shall we?
– The Steelers set the tone for the game with their opening drive. The Steelers went 66 yards in 15 plays and held the ball for 9:02 seconds. Incredible. Also remember that on that drive Markice Pouncey, their rookie Pro Bowl Center, had his leg rolled over and was taken out of the game and never returned. On that drive, it went 10 running plays and 5 passing plays. Also, add to the fact that Ben was injured on said drive and you have everything you need to know about the Jets first half ability to stop the Steelers. No matter what ill fell upon the Steelers, they seemed to overcome it and get stronger. The Jets couldn’t stop a single thing the Steelers were doing.
– The hero of that drive, which is also the drive of the game was Rashard Mendenhall who ran like a man that got called out by Rex Ryan in a press conference. Every single time he ran the ball in the first half, he got met 2 yards in the back field and yet managed to always eke out 5 yards or more every single time. Twisting, stopping in full stride, changing direction, just a lot of tackles being broken. The Jets just could NOT stop Mendenhall who ran behind a very inconsistent offensive line and played the same way. I’m not going to say that ALL 22 teams that drafted ahead him in the 2008 NFL draft will regret letting him pass by but THIS is the kind of game breaking ability the Steelers expected when they got him.
– Heath Miller’s blocking was an underrated aspect of the Pittsburgh offense that was missing from the previous game. His presence was more important to this game than Troy Polamalu’s which may surprise those of us who sat and watched that long drive of the Jets that resulted in 0 points. We will get to that drive in a minute.
– Last week after playing a terrible first half, the Steelers completely turned the momentum of the game by opening the second half by forcing the Ravens into a fumble, punt, INT and Fumble which led to 17 points- all off turnovers. The Ravens had drives of 3, 3, 1, and 2 plays during that 3rd quarter for a grand total of -4 yards. Yup MINUS four.
Last night, during a crippling 2nd quarter the Steelers scored 2 touchdowns in 47 seconds. This after the Jets had held them to a field goal to go up 10-0 only. I say only because if you saw how easy it was for the Steelers to go up and down the field you’d agree. In a manner of 47 seconds the Jets lost the game. The deficit jumped from 10 to 24 in the blink of an eye and you just knew that the Steelers were NOT going to lose this lead.
The game was a tale of two halves. The first half the Steelers domination really was on old school Steeler football: defense and running the football. They scored more points in the first half (24) than Jets had run plays (22). One rushing yard by the Jets compared to 135 for the Steelers and the most telling stat of them all: Time of Possession in favor of the Steelers: 21:04 to 8:56 thanks to that opening 9 minute drive. Thankfully the Jets shut out the Steelers in the second half and played alot better to make a game of it but the Steelers made the plays when they had to.
Missed opportunities were plenty for the Jets and there are three that I want to highlight that could’ve changed the complexion of the game.
1. Second quarter and the Steelers are once again driving down the field with relative ease. The Steelers call a timeout after getting to the Jets 2 yard line and its 3rd and goal. Roethlisberger is in shotgun formation and looks for Emmanuel Sanders who runs an inside slant. Eric Smith makes a terrific bat of the ball on first glance but replays show that had he NOT touched the football, Darrell Revis would’ve made the interception and who knows with his athleticism if he could’ve ran the field to score a touchdown. The replay clearly shows that the ball’s trajectory would’ve landed right into Revis’ lap because Revis was initially on Hines Ward who came on motion to the right side of Big Ben. Revis sniffed out the inside slant and guessed correctly as usual and got off Ward and went to Sanders. Instead of the interception, the Steelers get 3 and go up 10-0. The Steelers momentum was slowed but only momentarily. With the ebb and flow of games like this- the bounce of the ball NOT going the Jets way was more evidence that the football gods did NOT want the Jets to win this game. Would that have stopped the strip sack and fumble and run in for the touchdown? Who knows, but if Revis gets the pick, the Jets start off on the 20 and its only 7-0 if Revis doesn’t get a single yard on the run back. That’s a huge swing of momentum for the Jets defense which up until that point had NOT been good.
2. 3rd and 2 with 10:41 left in the 3rd quarter. The Jets have JUST scored a touchdown to make it 24-10 and they are slowly building momentum. Bruce Arians, the offensive coordinator of the Steelers inexplicably decides to go empty backfield on 3rd and short since, you know their running game was so atrocious in the first half. Roethlisberger tries to zip one in to Antonio Brown who doesn’t fight through the Jets rookie corner Kyle Wilson and the ball smacks Wilson right in the face. The pass went right to Wilson because he stepped in front but never made a play on the ball and it hit him in the face. If he makes the interception there’s a great chance he goes to the house and suddenly its 24-17 and just as quickly as the Steelers scored two touchdowns, the Jets have a chance at matching them and making this a game. With the way the Jets were driving on the Steelers in the second half- who knows. Can’t drop those passes son. Ya just can’t.
3. 4th quarter 7:44 at their own 1 the Steelers take the ball after holding the Jets on fourth down. Last time these two teams played the Jets got a safety in a similar scenario and then went on to win the game. This time, Roethlisberger mishandled the snap and he pins the ball to his leg and goes down and takes the safety. If the ball had just bounced, one more time the Jets players may have had time to recover it and it would’ve been the touchdown they needed.
– The drive of the game on the Jets side is probably the one that’s most difficult to revisit but we will.
Start of the drive: on the NYJ 19- :50 left
1st-10, NYJ19 0:50 M. Sanchez passed to B. Edwards down the middle for 18 yard gain- That was Braylon Edwards FIRST catch of the game.
1st-10, NYJ37 0:15 L. Tomlinson rushed to the left for 5 yard gain
2nd-5, NYJ42 15:00 M. Sanchez passed to D. Keller to the left for 19 yard gain- I can’t say enough about what a great TE Dustin Keller IS- not becoming. The guy is a match up nightmare and continues to be one. He’s overlooked in so many of ways but the guy makes important catch after important catch and is crucial to this offense. Very underrated portion of his game that has improved by leaps and bounds: his ability on the running game.
1st-10, PIT39 14:32 M. Sanchez incomplete pass to the right- Went for the homerun ball with Braylon Edwards having single coverage on him. But Randall Gay gave him very little space.
2nd-10, PIT39 14:26 M. Sanchez passed to J. Cotchery to the right for 6 yard gain
3rd-4, PIT33 13:53 M. Sanchez passed to D. Keller down the middle for 6 yard gain- ANOTHER huge catch for a first down.
1st-10, PIT27 13:18 S. Greene rushed up the middle for 1 yard gain
2nd-9, PIT26 12:38 M. Sanchez rushed up the middle for 6 yard gain- The Giant fan in me was yelling DONT SLIDE HEAD FIRST!
3rd-3, PIT20 11:53 S. Greene rushed to the left for 2 yard gain- Toughest two yards I’ve seen in a while. Clearly this was a helmet to helmet on James Farrior yet it wasn’t called despite the fact that it was right in the referee’s face. If the NFL is to enforce this rule then clear cut examples of it should be called. This is also the point that I knew that LDT was NOT the man for this game and Shonn Greene had to take over and his physical presence is what the Jets were without in Indy last year. Greene ran tough and showed that he was the better back in this game.
4th-1, PIT18 11:19 S. Greene rushed to the right for 2 yard gain- First of all this is the right decision and I think 99 out of 100 football fans would agree so let’s end the argument right here about whether the Jets should’ve gone for it or kicked the field goal because saying field goal in hindsight is stupid. Here is what irks me about this drive. 4th and 1 and WHO is in the backfield? That’s right- Shonn Greene. The more physical runner for a grind em out play that needed toughness. He got the one yard they needed. Remember this later on in the drive.
1st-10, PIT16 10:31 M. Sanchez rushed up the middle for no gain. M. Sanchez fumbled. M. Sanchez recovered fumble
2nd-18, PIT24 9:57 S. Greene rushed to the left for 16 yard gain- Toughest run to date. Greene once AGAIN runs over Ryan Clark which was like watching the same scene over again whenever those two met on the field. Clark got run over and Polamalu got hit too but he held on to the leg to slow him down in time for reinforcements to come and hold him from any more gain. If he slipped past that tackle he would’ve had room for maybe 3 more yards and a first down. Greene looked like Rashard Mendenhall in the first half- tough, physical- and it took multiple Steelers to bring him down and multiple tackles seemingly were broken with each run.
3rd-2, PIT8 9:20 M. Sanchez passed to J. Cotchery to the right for 6 yard gain
AND HERE Is where the Jets lost the game. I have NO problem with the first two play calls by Brian Schottenheimer. None. This is four down territory. IF you take all four downs you want to pass on ONE of these downs and the safest down to pass is second because now you’ve put the element of surprise into the defense’s mind: we are a running team but we WILL pass on you if necessary. But if you throw it on second down from the two and you dont make it, you run on the next two. You don’t pitch it or do anything fancy: you give it to your most physical back who’s been the steadying hand throughout the drive: who was that? Shonn Greene. You put all your fattest guys in there and as a top 5 running team with a very good offensive line you trust that your guys can get that one yard. So let’s see what the Jets do:
1st-2, PIT2 8:39 S. Greene rushed up the middle for 1 yard gain- Absolutely correct play call.
Prior to the next play call, Sanchez was having problems getting the play into his head set which was something he complained about after the game. By the time he lined up there was four seconds left on the play clock and without any time to spare, the Jets snapped and the play got off.
2nd-1, PIT1 7:56 M. Sanchez incomplete pass to the right- Don’t get me wrong, Keller could’ve caught this. But the entire feel of the play was very shaky with Sanchez being unable to hear the play call and just the rushing up to the line and Sanchez not having anytime to do any pre snap reads. It was just a messy play call and yet you feel as though if this were run in normal game speed without the rushing or hurrying, Sanchez would’ve hooked up with Keller who had been stellar till that drop.
Prior to this play- Phil Simms even said it “If I were the Jets, two running plays.”
3rd-1, PIT1 7:53 M. Sanchez incomplete pass to the right- The pass was nearly intercepted by Lamar Woodley who was playing coverage the whole way. First of all, Shonn Greene was out of the game, but LDT should’ve still had an opportunity to try and punch it in but again, terrible play calling by Schottenheimer.
4th-1, PIT1 7:44 L. Tomlinson rushed up the middle for no gain- Did you expect any other result? When I saw LDT in the backfield on this play I knew they wouldn’t get it. You need your young horse in there. Why on EARTH do you have a 30 something year old running back in there? Experience? Its one yard and you need someone who can push the pile into the end zone, not someone who can finesse his way in.
All in all it was four crushing downs, two of which were absolutely crushing. Here’s what I’ve never understood about Schottenheimer’s play calling: you have the horses to play the game one way and yet you continue to want to play it a totally different way. Why? What’s so wrong about your running game in that situation? All year you’ve been one of the best and yet you decide you’re not only going to throw it on two of the four downs that you’re going to have Shonn Greene you’re best option at the goal line on the bench for the critical fourth and 1. Call it fourth and season. THIS is where the Jets lost the game. They matriculated down the field in Jet fashion for 8 minutes and 12 seconds with a punishing running game that had on 9 plays been fantastic. Their ratio may have pleased stat mavens but in the end it should’ve been 10 running plays and 7 passing plays.
The entire season THIS was my biggest complaint: why are the Jets and specifically their offensive coaching staff running away from their identity? They are a running team. They RUN the football very well and yet on the most crucial two downs of their season they pass and run. It should’ve read run and run and this is not based on hindsight. If the Steelers had stuffed them on both then fine give them their kudos. But I contend and so will Jet fans that if they had handed off to Shonn Greene with Tony Richardson leading the way for two straight downs, ONE of those would’ve resulted in Shonn Greene in the end zone. Yet for some reason, once again the Jets decided to PASS UP their strength. Good job Schotty.
Isn’t it ironic that the second generation of Schottenheimers are killing their teams with the pass instead of the run? I bet the Jets would love to see Marty Ball on that sequence. Marty Ball would’ve gotten us the touchdown. But then again I suppose that NO Schottenheimer coached team will get to a Super Bowl- its their curse to endure.
-Consensus opinion after the NFC Championship game was that Jay Cutler quit on the Bears after leaving the game at the half with a knee injury. That wasn’t the case with the Jets and their franchise QB Mark Sanchez. Before the Patriots game the knock on Mark was that he was a California kid who didn’t play well in cold weather games but after two consecutive performances in cold weather games, we can put that conversation to rest. On the fumble, Sanchez definitely injured his arm and surely every Jet fan must’ve felt a sense of surrender at this point. But for Sanchez to come back and lead his team down for a field goal and get his team SOME kind of points before the half and before they got the ball back, Jet fans can say proudly that their QB has some guts and heart. His stat line won’t make your eyes pop but consider that prior to his field goal drive to get the Jets on the board he was 3 for 9 for 24 yards with a sack and a fumble. He went 17 for 24 for 209 yards the rest of the way, including two touchdowns. He outperformed Ben statistically and was much more comfortable as the game wore on.
Think about what that opening drive on the second half and scoring a touchdown on a great rollout and throwing off balance to Santonio Holmes for the touchdown must have done for the Jet sideline. After being thoroughly dominated during the first half for Sanchez to pull that off- it was one of those moments where Jet fans were the proudest. Watching a young QB doing what he needed to do. Credit Sanchez for coming back and keeping his team in the game. There is no one in the Jet locker room that doubts him. Like I said, he’s 25 and he’ll ONLY get better.
At the end of the day, the Steelers had to make ONE play the ENTIRE second half to end the game. That’s all. They had built up such a big lead and had such a good defense that all they had to do was make ONE play and there it was 3rd and 6 with 2:00. Jets are out of timeouts. Sure, they can run it and then give the Jets the ball back with a little under 1:20 left. That’s plenty of time. The Jets have to score a touchdown remember, but its still plenty of time and this season there’s been evidence that Mark Sanchez can lead game winning drives when called upon to do so and if I’m a Jet fan I’d like to think fear played a little bit into the Steelers decision to have Ben throw the football to get a first down.
The Jets had played stellar defensively in the second half. They put up a goose egg in the second half but too much damage had been done in the first half and all it came down to was ONE play.
Having the two minute warning helped so that the Steelers could pick the perfect play out but even in the back of their minds, they knew this was typical Ben scrambling out of the pocket and making a play. This is why he won’t ever win an MVP or be in the discussion of greatest QB’s in NFL history just like Terry Bradshaw, another proven Steeler QB won’t. They dont wow you with stat lines, and in fact this playoff game was probably his worst since Super Bowl 40, but that ONE play made you forget about that.
Ben scrambled out of the pocket and found one of his young rookie receivers, Antonio Brown and just like that the game was over. This was about the game being placed in Ben’s hands and Ben once again, whether you like him or not, proving he was a winner and making a play. That’s all the Steelers had to do in the second half. MAKE A SINGLE PLAY and they won. Consider the risk involved: if its incomplete the Jets get the ball back with 1:51. I’d like to think however that Roethlisberger would’ve taken the sack and let the play clock dwindle. He’s a smart guy and more importantly a winner- he knows not to tempt fate by trying to make a play when its not there.
– How crushing a loss is this? Consider that the Jets have 8 players of importance who will become free agents and without any knowledge of the new CBA it will be difficult to say who will be brought back. If Rex Ryan is so beloved by his players imagine the fall out if the team doesn’t invite certain players. Is this the end for guys like Jason Taylor and LaDanian Tomlinson? Taylor sounded unsure about his playing days while LDT said he would love to come back. What about Shaun Ellis? The longest tenured Jet had a huge week last week against New England and has been here for it all- it would be injustice if the Jets reload and win a Super Bowl without him on the roster. What about Antonio Cromartie? Do the Jets dump him and go after Nnamdi Asomugha who has already put the Jets on his rumored list of teams he’d love to join which would form the greatest corner tandem the league has perhaps EVER seen. Think Rex is having hard ons about having those two guys? What about Santonio Holmes? He threw Schottenheimer under the bus after the game complaining about his lack of touches. He caught two passes and one of them was for a touchdown. What about Braylon Edwards who’s inconsistency is still an issue but not to the extent that you would automatically dump him? This was their year if the rumor is true that there will be a cap. Woody Johnson spent a lot on this team and the Jets were unable to bring it home. How will Mike Tannenbaum recover and regroup? No one knows until after the labor process clears up and things become clearer.
Till next year, its another long offseason for Rex who seemed emotional after the game, naturally. A guy like that always leaves everything out in the open for the world to see. Not everyone has the stomach for him but if you’re a Jet fan you love him. He gives an emotionally scarred fan base more swagger than they’ve EVER had. They are a good football team but consider how well this team played WITHOUT Kris Jenkins their beast of a nose tackle who will be eligible to come back next year but who knows if the Jets will. Again, there are more questions to this team than answers, answers which will only come once the labor process is cleared up. Either way, does anyone doubt Rex when he says that he won’t ever stop chasing that ring? Does anyone doubt that at some point he will reach the mountain top? Jet fans hope to see that day soon.
Until then its another year and another long offseason.