Tag Archives: Rex Ryan

Headlines 1/9/2013

Woody and RexAfter another season of disappointment and playoff-absent football, the Jets big two of Rex Ryan, and Woody Johnson stepped to the podium finally to answer questions and the media surely got some answers.  Conor Orr of the Star Ledger writes that the sales pitch for their future was unveiled yesterday by the men in the white shirts and green ties. Gary Meyers of the Daily News says that Rex is a good enough coach that he deserves one final chance, but that’s all he should be guaranteed by Woody.  Woody’s Wrecks describes Steve Serby of the Post after hearing about the Jets game plan for next year. Ben Shipgel of the New York Times writes that the more pressing concern than rebuilding his image, is rebuilding his staff, Mike Westhoff retired, Mike Pettine is gone, and Mike Tannenbaum was fired.

On twitter, beat writers were complaining about lack of room to tweet out minute by minute updates of the press conference.  I’m sure they wouldn’t have been able to type fast enough with the way that the front office came out and put on a show.  The Jets were their usual clownish selves.  Selling the fans and the media a product that only the two at the podium can’t see because they are too close.  Yesterday was about a renewal.  It felt like Rex was being hired for the first time.  It felt like 2008.  Promises about what the Jets were going to do.  How they were going to fit the image of their head coach.  The offense will attack and nobody is gonna wanna play the New York Jets next season.  

I almost feel sorry for Jet fans who had to be thinking the same thing when the press conference was over: “we’re in deep doo doo next year”.  It almost felt surreal to hear Woody stand up there and give a full fledged vote of confidence to a head coach who has done nothing more than give him headlines in the backpages; good and bad.  Let’s not sweep the two conference championships under the rug, but I’ve said it for years now.  The Jets transitioned from that team in both philosophy (choosing to pass more without checking whether the QB was ready to shoulder a greater load) and in personnel.  They let several clubhouse leaders and veterans go like Tony Richardson, Thomas Jones, and Jerricho Crotchery and brought in guys like Santonio Holmes and unproven rookies.  In order for the QB to take on a leadership mantle, he has to set the tempo in practices and show up in every single meeting prepared and also, and most importantly, show up on Sunday ready to give his team a chance to win.  On so many Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the season, that opinion of whether Mark Sanchez gave the Jets that opportunity to win began to change.  His confidence dwindling by the minute Rex continued to bet big on him.  And as more and more was expected of him, Sanchez continued to disappoint.  His low point was the butt fumble, but I think the low point of his professional career may have been when fans were outwardly pining for Tim Tebow to take over.

I THINK, I’m a better QB option than Tim Tebow, so I dont know what Mark Sanchez was feeling.  He of the 2 AFC Conference Championship games under his belt.  Rex spoke mostly of his offense and rightfully so.  His defense held up their end of the bargain, once again finishing as a top 10 unit even without their best defensive player on the field.  They won 6 games which sometimes doesn’t even seem right considering how media folk came with pitchforks and knives like they had just went winless this season.  The Jets still have a ways to go.  They have to undo the mess they created for themselves the last two seasons.  Their defense is good enough to keep them in games.  If they have to return to the conservative offense that kept them out of mistakes and away from Mark Sanchez’ turnover issues then that’s what they will have to do.  The Jets have plenty to work on but now comes the more pertinent question: how much longer does Rex have?  Woody sounded resolute that he will have say in matters going beyond the coaching sphere.  Whatever GM gets hired, he will have to keep Rex for this season.  But its clear that whatever GM comes, will only have one year of Rex to deal with and it certainly sounds like whoever comes in had better not have his sights set on firing Rex without Woody’s blessing because that may be a problem.  Woody and Rex are joined by some voodoo black magic that doesn’t allow either to blame the other for their problems because they certainly don’t have restrictions blaming everyone else around them.  So more and more people are leaving.  Goodbye Mike Tannenbaum.  Goodbye Tony Sparano.  Goodbye Mike Westhoff.  Goodbye Mike Pettine.  Hello new unnamed GM who will certainly be starting from a point of non-favor because he doens’t fit the paradigm that Rex and Woody have created.  God bless whoever comes in.  

We won’t even get in to the tatoo conversation. 

KG AND MELO via TMZ

It seems the Carmelo Anthony/Kevin Garnett beef that escalated to Melo waiting like a school bully after school outside of the cheese bus will be investigated by the league and possible sanctions may land on Anthony for being so aggressive at, according to Anthony, “just wanting to talk with KG about what was said.”  The internet speculated about what KG said to set off such a heated response by Anthony but its understandable to assume that its something that no man should say to another man.  Tony Williams of the Star Ledger writes that Melo must keep his cool as teams now may look to take Anthony out of his game by employing similar dirty tactics.  Mitch Lawrence of the Daily News puts it best “its 10 years in the league and NOW Melo is deciding to let KG’s taunts bother him?”  Nate Taylor of the New York Times writes that Melo agreed that he played Monday’s heated game against the Celtics way out of character.

This is the fourth such game that I’ve seen a team take Carmelo Anthony completely out of it by their physicality.  Memphis, Chicago (Twice) and now Boston on Monday.  They all bumped him, grabbed him, got away with a ton of physical play and left Melo with the tab.  The only reason Carmelo Anthony didn’t get thrown out of that game, and trust me he was begging to,  was because the game was in NY.  Melo started playing defense with his hands.  He began rushing shots.  He was more focused on hitting KG and trying to set off an altercation rather than play basketball.  It was so clear that it was working and kudos to Doc Rivers for installing a game plan that would make the Knicks switch Melo to guard KG who he was not in the right mind to guard.  That’s what smart teams do.  They saw Melo melting down and went for the kill.  I know Doc had to be thinking to himself “what do I have to do to get this guy fouled out? I already got KG to say the most disrespectful thing you can think of to his wife.”   Whatever the case may be, the league may not wind up suspending Carmelo Anthony since there wasn’t any physical altercation and nothing really happened once Melo got to that area where KG was.  The TMZ clip shows more of the Melo/KG argument with KG putting his hands up as if to say “Yo, the game is over, what do you want now?”  And that’s what Melo has to realize.  KG will go to that length to beat you and after the game will forget what he did.  Its not something I exactly applaud but its the attitude that Melo has to have.  You war with the team during the game but after, its just another game.  KG has always been a trash talker of extremely low character calling Charlie Villanueva who has alopecia a cancer patient.  So this is the kind of stuff you will hear from KG.  Melo has to be tougher mentally to handle those things and tune those people out.  I found myself yelling at the TV at other Knick players to get Melo out of there but there was no one to save Melo from himself and his anger towards Garnett.  Whatever the case may be, look for more teams to try this strategy and especially in the playoffs where its win or go home.  If a game in January could make KG say that, imagine the kind of reckless conversation he’s having in May and June.  

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Headlines 1/4/2013

act_carmelo_anthonyThe Knicks had been struggling for some time on defense and needed a team to come in to reinvigorate them on that end and wouldn’t you know it, the schedule read: San Antonio Spurs!  Yep, the Knicks not only beat the Spurs, sweeping the season series for the first time in nearly a decade, the Knicks dominated the Spurs on their home court.  Al Iannazzone of Newsday wrote that this was one of the more impressive showings by the Knicks this season beating what Mike Woodson calls “the best team in the NBA.”  Nate Taylor of the New York Times writes that after watching footage from games just six weeks ago when they had the best defense and offense, they were able to put on a vintage 2012 performance for the second game of 2013.  Mike Vaccaro of the Post thinks that there are stretches within the game that make you think about what can be for the Knicks.  Mitch Lawrence of the Daily News writes that maybe Spurs coach Greg Popovich should have sent his stars home, maybe the reserves would have put up a better effort against these Knicks in their fourth game in five night stretch.

A few things about this Knick game were encouraging, first and foremost being the defense.  Certain coaches bring an identity and can typecast their team.  Mike D’Antoni certainly has a reputation of being an offensive genius while ignoring defensive principles, while Mike Woodson is known for emphasizing defense.  I don’t doubt that both preach the other side of the ball that they are supposed to be not so well versed in, but sometimes you just get that reputation and its hard to shake it unless there’s a dramatic shift in their team’s play in that other side of the ball.  But the Knicks forged a defensive intensity that you just hadn’t seen from them.  My theories, in order, were 1. Jason Kidd, 2. Tyson Chandler, 3. Mike Woodson.  These three guys have won and know that the only way to win games in May and June is on the defensive side of the ball.  Kidd in particular has impressed me because he faces quicker guards on a regular basis, but his intelligence and quick hands are great equalizers and allow him to keep up with even the quickest of guards.  

Chandler has always played defense and last year was like the lone wolf howling at the moon and the Garden faithful enjoyed watching him play.  This season he has more help and certainly stands to gain more once Iman Shumpert returns.  This season, the Knicks just seem to know how to rotate better and know how to play with each other better because they have so many leaders on this team.  Whether its Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace (one Defensive player of the Year and the other, a member of the no-name Pistons squad in 04 that won the title), or Kurt Thomas on the bench, there’s so much veteran guidance and leadership and call me crazy, but maybe this was Grunwald’s plan all along: to have as many veteran voices on the bench to plead with Carmelo to play more defense and play more efficiently on offense.  

This win also speaks to the play of Pablo Prigioni.  Last year’s clear weakness was point guard play.  No doubt it contributed to the hype that Linsanity got and maybe inflated his value, but this year, the trio of Kidd, Felton and Prigioni have been such a better unit that its hard to remember the last time the Knicks got this kind of production from the position.  Prigioni, since preseason, has been doing that sneaky steal atleast twice a game and he again got a key steal and fed Carmelo for an easy two.  Every member of that team is confident with Prigioni in there and now with Felton out for four to six weeks, you don’t feel as uncertain.  Yes, I understand the concern people have with playing 35 and 40 year old point guards major minutes in games in January, but the hand has been dealt.  Its interesting that the Knicks have been experimenting with Shumpert at the point.  Perhaps getting youthful legs in there will be helpful, but having him as a primary ball handler is all good and well, but he has to be an instinctive point guard, otherwise he’s just another Toney Douglass: the full five second too late point guard who just never had the feel of a point guard.  Are the Knicks going to pay for playing these guys major minutes like this?  I’m sure.  But the fact is this is what they have to do and the Knicks just have to make do.

BTW, does anyone object to the whole JR Smith as our third most important player?  After Carmelo and Tyson, JR’s contributions off the bench- and its becoming nightly, are a reminder of how much of a luxury it is to have a guy that can create his own offense and can also spot up and score.  You can sit Carmelo for stretches when JR is going the way he is.  Does he have a ton of irrational confidence?  Sometimes.  But to play this game and to be good you have to.

Carmelo scored 23 but the most encouraging sign of his maturity came in two ways.  He was actively looking to pass out of double teams and rarely made a bad decision when he did and even if the relationship between he and Amare may be a forced partnership, its easy to see how comfortable and assured he is that he is the franchise cornerstone and he makes the Knicks go.  He tried desperately to get Amare involved in the offense in one series in the fourth, while the Knicks were building up their lead, passing it inside to Amare, who continued to do the fifteen pump fakes before putting up the shot that usually gets blocked (which is an indicator that he’s getting old and has lost most of the athleticism that made him a star), getting the rebound and then throwing it right back to Amare.  That comes from a confidence within that this is in fact his team and there’s no real threat there and I’m glad.  The only way for this to work is for Amare to understand his role on this team and that he’s going to be a third or fourth option depending on the set.  I do like that second team of offense that comes in behind the starting five when the Knicks bring in Novak, Prigioni, JR and Amar’e into the game.  Then you add in the stretch five of Rasheed and you certainly have the makings of a deep ten man rotation that could be formidable, depending on health, come May and June.

Rex Ryan tattoo of Mark Sanchez january 4And then there’s Rex Ryan.  The Daily News this morning published a picture of tanning Rex on a beach in the Bahamas sporting a tattoo of a woman (presumably his wife) sporting a Mark Sanchez jersey and….nothing else on his right arm.  This article in the Daily News is sure to make the rounds in the talk show universe today and adds another level of weirdness to this whole Jet soap opera.   Gary Meyers of the Daily News talks out all the problems that can arise from having a specific player’s name tatooed on the arm.  Mark Cannizzaro of the Post lists several enticing candidates for the Jets GM job and lists Tom Gamble the Director of Player Personnel of the San Francisco 49ers as the guy the Jets and Korn/Ferry should target to lead the Jets.  Finally the Pro Football Writers of America are ok with the fact that the Jets will only meet with the media on January 8th as opposed to the usual schedule of 7 days after the season ends.

This morning’s commute was extra  hilarious because of this story and usually when silly things like this happen, it makes radio and sports personalities very happy because it gives them a chance to be silly and boy do Boomer and Carton love doing silly.  Look, there’s nothing left to say about this except that the Jets look to be targeted by the media and they give them every reason to be targets.  In what universe could Rex think getting a tattoo of his wife ONLY wearing a Mark Sanchez jersey was a good idea?  There’s not a good enough explanation that you can have and one that I hope that we will hear come that very anticipated January 8th press conference.  For those wondering, I think if you were to rank what the Jets brain trust should be questioned about, it goes:

1. Why Mike Tannenbaum was fired and not Rex?

2. What were they thinking about with Tim Tebow and why, in their minds, were they not successful with him?

3.  How confident are you that Mark Sanchez can be fixed?

4.  Rex are you brain dead?  Why would you get a tattoo of your wife in a Sanchez jersey?

Those should be the first four questions out of the media’s mouth come January 8th.  How its anything else is beyond me.  Anyway, I hope Korn/Ferry is a PR firm as well because the Jets could use some good advice. 

Meanwhile, not so far off Crazy Island, the Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was apparently walking around like a crazy man as he described in this interview with Mike Francesa.  Antrelle Rolle apologized for the Giant letdown of a stretch run this season.

Its always fun to see Tom Coughlin red in the face, screaming from the sideline but I totally understand his pain and frustration when having to answer questions about a team he has seen time and time again come through in big games, not be able to even offer a whimper when it truly mattered.  Like any Giant fan, I expected a win against the Ravens and I expected it to be competitive against the Falcons who I don’t think scare anyone in the NFC.  The Giants should have never been in this position and who knows if this collapse by the Giants means that Washington was just meant to win this year or if this is a seismic power shift in the NFC East and that the Redskins are coming of age so quickly under the guidance of the young padawan, RGIII.  Regardless, these are the kind of final weeks that make a team look deep into its soul.  Certainly there is the talent to win atleast 10 games a year but the up and down show of effort leaves you wondering sometimes about whether the players are either understanding the situation they are in or even motivated to play a football game late in December.  Its crazy to think that this team, this unit wouldn’t know how to handle themselves in those situations but it happened.  Which makes Tom Coughlin crazy.  Which makes Jerry Reese crazy.  Which should make every Giant hoping to return back to a championship core very very scared.  

Finally, what to watch for tonight:  Bulls at Heat on ESPN at 8, Nets at Wizards on YES at 8 (just kidding).

Later today, I’m posting my AFC/NFC Wild Card weekend Previews

For your viewing pleasure…

Enjoy everyone!

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Headlines 1/4/2012

With the Jets season in turmoil, and the media looking to get answers from somebody who may have any the Jets head coach Rex Ryan was found vacationing in the Bahamas with his wife.  Whether or not a vacation was proper or not, this soon after such a terrible season is not something I can judge.  I’m sure an island getaway was probably necessary after a season like this.  But don’t think that the media feels the same way.  Gary Meyers of the New York Daily News decided that he was going to take up the mantle of the Jet front offices and answer some questions that he would’ve like to see answered.  According to Brian Costello of the New York Post, the Jets organization debated having the press conference on Monday without owner Woody Johnson but felt it wouldn’t be fair for Rex to answer those questions about Mike Tannenbaum which is what led to the delayed press conference announced for January 8th, next Tuesday.  Then there’s Steve Serby of the Post giving his sarcastic take on how the Jets are waiting while every other team that has an opening is working hard to fill the vacancy while the lead men in the Jets organization are deciding that vacations are more important.

I’m not going to kill Rex Ryan here because the guy decided that he needed to get away like the Snickers commercial suggested.  This season must have felt like three.  But the Jets organization does have a duty to fulfill here to face the tough questions surrounding what was at times a very secret cult-ish way to run an organization.  Media members aren’t going to quickly forget the wall of players that kept them from watching the Tebow package that was so built up with speculation.  They aren’t going to just let the Jets get away with not speaking up while a major organizational retooling was happening.  They want to know why Rex wasn’t sent packing along with Mike Tannenbaum.  They want to hear the owner give reasons as to why he felt only one of the two had to go.  How is Woody going to hold Rex accountable next year?  What is he looking for in the next GM?  How are they going to handle the QB situation?  Is Tim Tebow really going to be sent packing to Jacksonville?  

With that being said, the Jets beat writers sound like a bunch of 15 year old girls who are being ignored.  They are using their space in New York City’s newspapers as one long Facebook status to air out their sour grapes at what is becoming an increasingly frustrating way to do their job.  The Jets organization has been a mess lately and the losing only invites harder questions to answer without wanting to punch someone in the mouth.  Maybe with a 9 day head start to cool off, Woody and Rex can show up calm, tanned and ready to answer some very difficult questions from a pack of wild dogs frothing at the mouth to hear their take on what the writers wrote.  

Amar’e Stoudemire made his return to a Knick uniform this past Tuesday in a loss to the Blazers on Tuesday.  He only scored six points to the media but went on the offensive Wednesday in front of a pack of reporters who wondered about the star power forward’s mental health.  Amar’e praised Mike Woodson while needling his former head coach in Phoenix and New York by insisting that this is the first time he’s ever been coached defense.  Kevin Kiernan of the Post said the best way to tell whether Amar’e is healthy is to see how he does on the defensive side of the ball with the way he rotates to defend.  Speaking of their defense, Nate Taylor of the New York Times says that the team has become flat defensively now falling to middle of the pack in categories they were leading the league in during their 18-5 start.  Meanwhile Al Iannazzone of Newsday offers this little nugget from Amar’e Stoudemire about being ok with coming off the bench if the team is winning.  The Knicks have been 5-5 in their last ten games.

The defensive lapses have been alarming but hallelujah!  We finally know why Amar’e sucks so badly on defense.  He just wasn’t ever taught how to defend OR box out and get positioning on rebounds.  Now it all makes sense.  Needless to say this didn’t sit well with me and it shouldn’t sit well with any Knick fan who has any aspirations of seeing their team do major things this year.  I knew Amare’s return would cause some kind of conflict within a peaceful ecosystem that existed but this caught me off guard.  This town loves their basketball teams having that defensive edge and for about the first 23 games the Knicks played with that kind of edge, but now with the Spurs and Celtics looming on the schedule, and the Knicks without Raymond Felton to cover the quick shifty point guards like Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker, it will fall upon the elder legs of Jason Kidd and Pablo Spaghetti to get it done. 

Am I going to fault Amare for wanting to start?  No.  He’s a starter in the NBA regardless of his allergic reaction to playing defense.  He has the kind of freak athleticism that very few players have and the Knicks are lucky to have that on their roster.  They need Amar’e to begin to “get it” on defense.  The rotations, the assignments, everything.  They need him to understand all the phases of the game and I need Mike Woodson to hold him accountable.  That he won’t just automatically get his starting job back because he has one of the most expensive contracts in the NBA.  If Amare isn’t on board with that then he doesn’t deserve to play and no matter how much bitching he does he can sit.  Or the Knicks can do what they do with Ronnie Brewer.  Play him at starting forward just so they put Carmelo at the 4, and then once JR Smith comes in have him firmly parked on the bench for the rest of the game.  A starter by name only.  By the way, ever seen Ronnie Brewer during a game when the first sub starts?  Its like Pavlov’s dogs with him, he hears the siren and he immediately reports to the bench without even looking at who’s coming in.  Poor guy.

That other basketball team in NY had a pretty good beginning to their 2013 campaign.  The Brooklyn JayZ’s went to OKC and stunned the Thunder by having, as Tim Bontemps of the New York Post describes, as one of those nights that Mikhail Prokhorov envisioned after a few vodkatinis.  The big three of D. Will Get Another Coach Fired, Need a Cup of Joe Johnson, and Laying down by a Brook Lopez  combined for 77 of the team’s 110 points in their convincing rout of the Western Conference powerhouse.  Howard Beck of the New York Times writes that this was a new year and a new look Nets.  Roderick Boone of Newsday used the word shocking to describe the team’s win.  Considering their lack of effort in their past few blowout losses, maybe shocking wasn’t too strong of a term.    Howard Beck wrote about what is ailing Gilbert Grape…i mean Deron Williams.

All kidding aside, this was the kind of performance from Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez that those in cushy luxury suites had come to expect from the expensive trio of superstars asked to build up the brand.  No matter what you may think of Deron Williams, he still has the ability to play like one of the elite point guards in the game and with his night of 19 points and 13 assists he put everyone back on notice.  His shooting has been off and he’s been moody playing in Avery Johnson’s iso offense that seemed to not suit the superstar’s tastebuds but last night’s performance reminded everyone that when Deron is good, the Nets can be a very tough team no matter what.  I continue to be impressed by Brook Lopez’ night in and night out performance.  I wasn’t convinced the guy could stay healthy long enough to show that he could play but out of that trio of centers of him, Dwight Howard, and Andrew Bynum you can certainly make the case that if you were dropped on to this planet today, you would take Brook without even hesitating.  His offense has improved and he’s been doing a good job as a big securing tough rebounds and going on the offensive glass.  He’s not a complete product but the fact is, he’s atleast earning his pay unlike the other guys who have either been questionable night in and night out or just been out.  

Ray Lewis is retiring and most if not all newspapers had a small blurb about the retirement of one of the greats at the linebacker position.  Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun writes that Ray Lewis will go down as the greatest middle linebacker in the history of the NFL.  Peter Schmuck (and I’m sure Ravens fans after reading this will be thinking how appropriate a last name) of the Sun wonders why Ray chose to make his announcement now?

I chose just the Baltimore papers to give a feel about what the local area is feeling today as Ray Lewis’ announcement has hit every medium and every Baltimore fan or Ray Lewis Fan has had time to digest the news.  The only surprising news that Ray Lewis is retiring is the fact that he announced it in a team meeting after talking about how the players should play for each other.  To drop this kind of news on the players after such an emotional and uplifting meeting has to be weighing on the team emotionally.  The timing is the only issue I had with this, but perhaps this is Ray Lewis’ last great motivational speech as a teammate and player in the league.  Maybe this is what it will take to inspire the players to go out and play for the face of the franchise.  I think a majority of people have moved on from Lewis’ stabbing rap, but this morning while dropping my mom off to work, there was Boomer and Carton joking around that Lewis hasn’t stabbed anyone lately.  Its a complicated legacy, one that Ray has done much to fix.  He’s been out there preaching his sermons of togetherness and helping each other that have resonated with so many people.  Its hard for people to let go of the fact that he was involved in a murder that answers have not been given to.  

The fact is, Ray Lewis paid his pennance (according to a court ruling) and has forged a career based on intelligence and sheer will that nobody could have expected.  Remember, three linebackers were taken ahead of him and a reality altering 100 plus middle linebackers have played in the league since his arrival to today.  Its a model of consistency and a source of strength for both Lewis and the Ravens that he has come to play and take ownership of the franchise the way he has.  He will surely be a part of the fabric of the Baltimore community for years and years just like he is in the Miami-Dade County area where he makes his offseason home.  Yes, he’s probably the greatest middle linebacker ever to play the game and will go down as a first ballot hall of famer for sure.  I still can’t help but think that not a day goes by that this man has ultimate regret that he was even in the same zip code as that tragedy.  Whether he had something to do with it or not, that’s not for me to say.  He was judged to be not guilty of murder.  He was however convicted with lying about details relating to that night’s shooting.  There is some twinge of doubt with which his detractors will always hold over him.

This weekend, a speaker by the name of Gian Paul Gonzalez came to speak at an event at the St Peter’s Church in Teaneck, NJ.  My wife was there, I was bed ridden with the flu.  She came and told me a story that Mr. Gonzalez (he of the All-In speech that inspired the Giants to their Super Bowl run last year), told to those who were there that night.  A kid came home to see his mother with marks on her face.  The son asked what happened and got no answer.  He asked his mother for a deck of cards.  His mother refused to give him a deck of cards thinking he was going to gamble to get him and his mother out of the situation they were in.  They lived in a poor neighborhood.  Her son told her that he wasn’t going to gamble with it, but promised that those cards would get them out.  He had decided that every time he would flip a card, he would do the number of push ups written on the card.  Face cards were 10, Aces were 11.  He started doing it nightly and by his senior year of college he could finish a full deck of cards without getting tired.  He did finally get his mother out of that neighborhood and away from people that could put marks on her face.  Which is why he chose the number 52, for the 52 cards in a deck.  That boy, was Ray Lewis.

That’s the sheer will to both survive and excel that people talk about when they talk about Ray Lewis.

Here’s what to watch tonight:  The Knicks vs. Spurs live from MSG tonight at 7:30.  If you’re an NFL fan gearing up for playoff weekend there’s the replay of the Green Bay vs. Minny game on NFL Network starting at 8.  The Fiesta Bowl is on ESPN from 8:30 on.

ENJOY

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Headlines 1/3/2012

Yesterday’s biggest news story was the return of Amar’e Stoudemire.  But the story turned familiar.  The Knicks came out ice cold and couldn’t buy a lay up, while the other team was hitting every open shot they were given.  At one point the Knicks went down 19 and once again climbed to within one shot of tying, but could never find the defensive stop they needed.

“You can’t keep spotting teams 20-plus leads and think you’re going to win,” Mike Woodson said. “The last few games have been a disaster in terms of how we’re starting games.”

Mitch Lawrence of the Daily News writes that Amar’e Stoudemire is in direct competition with Carmelo Anthony to get touches and therein lies the rub and the greater storyline as it relates to the rest of the 2012-2013 season.  In a more optimistic story, the New York Post’s Kevin Kiernan writes that if Carmelo and Amar’e learn how to work together, and the fans are patient, a bigger reward awaits the Knicks. Zach Schonbrun of the New York Times writes that Amar’e Stoudemire’s standing ovation was ripe with optimism but filled with caution.

Yesterday’s game was a pretty familiar storyline.  Fall down early, make a great comeback but ultimately fall short.  The added storyline of Amar’es return and Carmelo’s return from a two game sit out due to a hyper extended knee made this a must watch game.  Nothing about this game was pretty, despite 45 from Carmelo Anthony.  The Knicks continue to live and die by the three and yesterday they were slaughtered.  The Knicks were 10-37 from beyond the arc while the Blazers shot 11-33.  It seemed that every shot that Nicholas Batum took either went in or airballed and he didn’t airball much.  He was the high man, and also the one given the responsibility of trying to guard Carmelo.  When one on one defense didn’t work, the Blazers began double teaming Melo.  Credit Melo with finding his open teammates, but nobody ever found a rhythm that would make the Blazers go away from the strategy of doubling Melo.  

JR Smith continues to be a real Six Man of the Year candidate playing an all around game that everyone thought he could play but never lived up to, either due to immaturity or indifference.  Either way, the idea I would think, is to have Amar’e and JR come in to give the team an offensive lift when they can’t seem to score points.  At some point Steve Novak will start hitting the close to 50% that he can, and the Knicks will have a formidable 9 man rotation.  Of course, the odd man out in this rotation will be Ronnie Brewer who is known for his defense and is a starter by name only, but plays very few minutes thanks to his inability to hit the wide open corner three, once Iman Shumpert returns.  That return is still being speculated about, but expect in the next two weeks to hear an announcement from the usually tightlipped MSG office.  I found the rotations a bit weird, as this was kind of a throwaway game for the Knicks.  They were working with several line ups, but having a very quick hook with any line up that had Carmelo and Amar’e in it which was odd to me.  Its a chemistry issue they want to avoid for now until Amar’e gets fully healthy, or its something they have decided upon for the betterment of the team.  Stoudemire’s minutes were limited to 20 yesterday but while he only played 17, he seemed tentative and hesitant.  Too amped up on his first few attempts before settling down on his old familiar: the pick and roll drive to the hoop dunk.  Once he got that lead pass from Pablo Prigioni, and he dunked, there was that familiar spark in his eyes.  

On the other side, I was extremely impressed with Damian Lilliard.  I had heard he was a legit rookie of the year candidate (the lead dog IMO), but to see him in person was impressive.  He’s got that quickness and body control that makes him a poor man’s Derrick Rose.  That step back three was the kind of shot that you only see from more poised veteran guards and it tells you how much more mature beyond his years this kid really is.  A four year starter from Weber State, Lilliard is proving to be the team’s best draft selection since LaMarcus Aldridge.  Also, how in the hell does JJ Hickson dominate us EVERY FREAKING TIME?  He’s in the ALL-“ROLE PLAYERS WHO HAVE CAREER GAMES AGAINST THE KNICKS ALL THE TIME” Team.  

The Jets offseason unofficially started the day they couldn’t beat the Tennessee Titans, but their official offseason started Monday when they fired the GM, Mike Tannenbaum.  Many wrote about how Rex should have been given a pink slip with the GM.  Rich Cimini of ESPNNY writes why this plan of action, hiring a GM while keeping the incumbent coach, could be a death penalty for Rex. Ben Shpigel of the New York Times writes “No doubt the Jets’ position is appealing; only 32 of these jobs exist, after all. But whoever takes over for Tannenbaum will inherit a mess at quarterback, several bloated contracts and a roster in dire need of an overhaul, not to mention a coach he did not choose in Ryan, whose return in 2013 Johnson guaranteed.”  Mark Cannizaro of the Post writes that a curious decision was to let Tony Sparano hang on to his job as offensive coordinator, though he admits that the Jets lead the league in curious decision making.  Steve Serby of the Post writes that Rex needs to come out and talk about it.  His press conference was canceled by the team on the day that Mike Tannenbaum was let go.  The owner Woody Johnson had a five paragraph statement read.  In fact, the only member of the Jet hierarchy that did any talking, was the guy they let go: GM Mike Tannenbaum.  Finally, Manish Mehta of the Daily News, and Rex Ryan’s favorite scribe writes, “Rex Ryan, the king of transparency and accountability, isn’t talking.”

You can understand the frustration from the beat writing community as it relates to the Jets.  The team had a frustrating and disappointing season.  They aren’t in the mood to answer some difficult questions.  But the bigger dilemma becomes that the Jets organization wanted to dump everything on the lap of the GM while saving the coach who’s been at the head of much of this mess.  What I don’t know and what will apparently never be clear, is who was responsible for the Tim Tebow signing?  That was a decision made by an influential voice within the organization.  Was it Rex Ryan?  It didn’t look like it from the amount of playing time he got and the constant refusal to name him the starting QB especially in the meaningless week 17 contest against Buffalo.  Was it Mike Tannenbaum?  Maybe.  He did make the, now idiotic, decision to resign Mark Sanchez and guarantee him $20 million basically bolting him down to the Jets roster for the 2013 season.  But then why would he turn around the next day and go after Tim Tebow?  His decision to give Sanchez that contract extension was definitely influenced by the fact that he openly went after Peyton Manning and Mark found out and was upset by it, and yeah, this whole thing sounds soap opera-ish.  My guess is that it was owner Woody Johnson who has never really made a good decision since he’s taken over the team’s ownership.  

Woody has always been about the bottom line and winning the back page war with the Giants who never have had any desire to partake in that kind of thing.  This move was meant to distract everyone from the poor season they had.  Add to that, the whole building up a wall and the almost CIA Top Secret Tebow playbook and you had the makings of a ridiculous campaign that became bizarre.  Needless to say the Tebow situation was NOT the only reason the GM got fired, but the quarterbacking position was a major influence.  Add the contract, and the overall lack of depth to the roster and very few draft picks with which to fix the roster, Mike Tannenbaum leaves his successor very few avenues to go through in order to cure what ails this team.  

I know Jet fans won’t want to hear this and obviously they won’t consider this move, but the best way to get all of your draft picks back is to trade one of your best players.  Yes, if the Jets pay most of Mark Sanchez’s salary they may get a sixth round pick, but why do that deal in the first place?  My guess would be to bring in a strong QB’s coach to work with Mark.  The Jets should invest in a running game.  Steven Jackson will be a free agent soon, and he would like another chance at winning.  His price range may be too high for the Jets but they should consider knocking on that door.  They still have stars.  Maybe if they trade a guy like Muhammad Wilkerson OR Darelle Revis, they will get a bunch of draft picks back- maybe even a number one.  Remember, the Rams still have picks from their RGIII trade with Washington, and they are trying to find building blocks and Wilkerson would definitely be looked at as something they would want.  Would that be worth it? 

As it relates to media relations, this won’t get better unless the team gets better.  But even then, there are some feelings that need to be mended.  Its clear that several in the media are feeling ignored and not being given a story and don’t expect for them to continue to speculate, thereby giving the reader and the fanbase something to worry about.   Lately, the boastful and talkative Jets have gone into bunker mode.  What is the deal there?  The Jets will certainly have many questions to answer.  Once they find a new GM perhaps some of those answers will be given by an actual member of the Jets hierarchy.

While the Jets are majoring in confusion and outright non-commital, the Giants are in a different state of mind.  They were left with no answers as to why they no-showed their week 15 and week 16 contests against two playoff teams while demolishing the pathetic Eagles (there was no homer-ism in that description of the Eagles, just outright contempt.  Please note the difference).  Changes are coming for the Giants and one change that seemed imminent is now as close to official as can be: Osi Umeniyora announced on the Michael Kay show that he probably won’t be returning to the Giants and he will test the open market.  Ralph Vacchiano of the Daily News writes that panic isn’t setting in on the Giants, a team who came within one game of making the playoffs.  Paul Schwartz of the Post writes that it won’t be easy identifying what exactly happened in those week 15 and week 16 games, but it won’t be tough to know what needs to be done.  Zach Shonbrun of the New York Times writes that remorse is the word around Giants camp.  Remorse that a quality team didn’t get to defend its Super Bowl title.  Finally Ohm Yungmisuk of ESPNNY writes the same thing only with hilarious quotes from Martellus Bennett.

I’m not going to try and figure out weeks 15 and 16.  The usual flat performance that we’ve come to expect was the immediate answer following each loss, but it never seemed to accurately describe what happened.  Losing 34-0 to a Falcons team that shouldn’t have soundly beat the Giants?  Losing 33-14 to a team and a QB who had issues galore?  It just didn’t seem right.  If it was lack of focus and intensity then doesn’t some of that fall on the coaching staff?  Just trusting that a team that has done it before will pick it up automatically won’t be an easy sell to a fanbase that went into the season and especially after blowout wins against the 49ers and the Packers.  Clearly the talent is there to compete and a returning core will be a good start, but with almost two dozen players becoming either restricted or unrestricted free agents (here is a list) there will certainly be a good amount of change at the Timex center come next season.  

IF I had to guess who is definitely coming back from that list, I would say that Stevie Brown, Victor Cruz, Andre Brown (all restricted free agents), Lawrence Tynes, Kevin Boothe, Will Beatty, Sean Locklear,  Bear Pascoe, Adrian Tracy aka YOsi (young Osi), and Domenik Hixon.  Guys I would like to be re-signed but are iffy because of either price or shaky health are, Kenny Phillips, Martellus Bennett, Rocky Bernard, Ramses Barden, Chase Blackburn, and Keith Rivers.  Every other guy on that list is a goner in my eyes.  The Giants had another good to great year on the offensive line but saw too much of their health depleted.  

If I were in charge of the draft, I would try to find an offensive lineman (you draft tackles because they are usually the best athletes), before they find a pass rusher.  I think the Giants just had a off season in terms of pass rushing and Perry Fewell made the mistake of trusting that his line would apply pressure without any stunts or blitzes.  That last game against the Eagles, the Giants used a lot of stunts and linebacker blitzes and created a ton of turnovers.  That may be a blueprint for how Fewell designs pressure in the upcoming season.  The Giants line were not winning their one on ones which they were used to winning, so perhaps mixing in some pressure from the LB’s and corners along with winning some one on one match ups will help but the team needs to begin to play with more fire.  Maybe next year they won’t enter week 16 and 17 having to win games just to make it into the playoffs.  This is still a team capable of winning a Super Bowl and the window is right now open. As Martellus Bennett hilariously put it, 

“It is a big a– window, we are not talking about apartment windows on the side. We are talking like mansions.  Like [Evander] Holyfield’s house in Atlanta where he had people working the grounds for you,” the tight end continued. “I don’t think the window is closing. I think there are other guys coming in to open up another window.”

That remains to be seen.

 

What do you guys think?

 

 

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Jets post game reacts vs. the Steelers

Did one for the Giants, and now here it is for the Jets.

The Jets (1-1) lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) at Heinz Field Sunday.  Here is the boxscore.

STORYLINES:

1. The Jets started off the game hot, but then, what had happened was…  We don’t know.  The first drive of the game seemed like it was a continuation of last week where the Jets ran off to a 21-0 start before Buffalo could tighten the laces on their shoes, and yet on Sunday, the Jets failed to gain any momentum after their first two drives that resulted in 10 points.  Why?  Having two completions to a WR after the first quarter sure won’t help, the first coming at the :22 second mark of the 4th quarter with the game over with.  Some poorly thrown passes by Mark Sanchez to relatively open players won’t help either.  The fact is, after the first two drives the Jets stalled and Sanchez was afraid to throw down the field when he had opportunities to do so.

The Jets were playing this game without Darrelle Revis but the Steelers were playing with Troy Polamalu.  Both teams were without significant players to their defense and yet it seemed like the Steelers, with each passing second, gained more and more momentum and strength.  The Jets, particularly Sanchez seemed confused by the varying blitz packages that Steelers’ legendary defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau threw at him.

There were times when the offense just didn’t seem to have a flow.  They ran the ball effectively and yet couldn’t take advantage of it with the play action pass which is where Sanchez is most effective.  Sanchez’ footwork is something I’ve always lauded.  He has excellent balance and has an ability to sell the fake very well and incorporating more trick plays into the game plan could help take advantage of one of his strengths.  I’m not saying that the Jets should turn into a gimmicky offense but, let’s be real, didn’t they do that by bringing in Tim Tebow?

2. They have Roethlisberger for a sack….no they don’t.  Sanchez’ opposite, Ben Roethlisberger, does a few things VERY well.  Two things in particular were on display on Sunday.  His ability to elude defenders is by now a staple in every team’s scouting report.  And yet, teams can’t help but try and tackle him like a normal QB who doesn’t possess the ability to slide away from danger or the kind of awareness that Ben has.  This has helped mask terrible offensive lines throughout the last 6 years that he has had to play behind.  He’s able to extend plays and any defense that has to cover receivers for an extended period of time become vulnerable and it allows the Steelers to pick up so many first downs.

Many would regard those plays broken plays but at this point, you have to consider re-naming that in Roethlisberger’s case because he becomes more comfortable when the pocket breaks down.  He always manages to shift his body around so defenders can’t get their arms around his body.  Its not that he has world class speed like Vick or even his elusiveness, its that he’s so big and weirdly configured that defenders end up wailing at his hips and no one is going to grab hold of him there to bring him down.  This affords Steeler receivers to not just break from their route, but sit in areas of the zone that is not being covered.  Mike Francesa said this Monday and I want to echo it, most people figure that the Steelers are a run first team, but they transitioned from that almost 4 years ago when Bruce Arians became the offensive coordinator and are now an excellent passing team.  It was only this year when they drafted two linemen early in the draft that they addressed the weakness of their offensive line.  They scored huge with Maurkice Pouncey but otherwise its a patchwork line that will be an area of concern moving forward.  The team relies on Ben’s ability to avoid pressure because he sees so much thanks to the line, and Ben routinely makes plays when in that kind of danger.  Its as if he loves the pressure and  his teammates never get frazzled when the play breaks down because at this point its becoming second nature to deal with it.

His other great trait is his ability to make it 3rd and manageable.  So many QB’s forget that and lose sight of game situations and managing the game.  Big Ben is NOT one of them.  When he has 2nd and 10 he goes to his check down which create 3rd and short.  Execution is simple when you’re asking your receiver to go up the field five yards and turn and get a pass.  Its also very tough to defend without being called for a penalty.  Here’s also why its important to Pittsburgh’s offense and any offense: when you have speedy recievers like Pittsburgh you could be vulnerable to the double move and no one recovers from that.

By putting the team in a manageable 3rd down situation, they can go with a short pass or a run play.  They sometimes go deep in that situation too thanks to the speed on the outside of their receivers.  But Ben gets them to those positions thanks to his shiftyness and his ability to manage the situation.  When you can get in a 3rd and short in any decent offense you will convert more often than not, and Ben is right to play the percentages and get his team in that position.  On Sunday he did that time and time again.

3. What exactly IS the Jets passing game?  The story coming out of preseason was that the Jet offense couldn’t score points.  Then they dropped 48 on the Bills and the team got a good laugh at the expense of all the critics that had given them a hard time.  But against a top flight defensive unit (and that’s more on reputation nowadays), the Jets were abysmal.  We can talk about Mark Sanchez’ numbers for the game but the fact is, his receivers weren’t doing him any favors.  After the first drive where he went 4/5 for 80 yards, Sanchez went 6 for 22.  That’s like the QB-who-shall-not-be-mentioned was playing.

Two plays crystallize what went wrong.  On the very next drive, during the 2nd quarter,  with 13:04 left on a 1st and 10- Stephen Hill was one on one vs. Ryan Clark.  Sanchez threw a good ball but Ryan Clark got his hand on Hill’s hand and Hill couldn’t open his hands to get the throw.  Yes, that technically isn’t Hill’s fault but its a case of anything that can go wrong, will.

Three running plays later, Sanchez rolls to this left, play actions, and then turns and runs to his right and tries to throw off balance to Santonio Holmes who is open in the end zone.  Naturally he throws it above his head.  Sanchez had enough time to stop, set his feet and make a confident throw into the end zone but he never did that probably figuring that he would not have that kind of time to make that throw.  Again, I love Sanchez’ foot work when he rolls out and his fake, they are above average, but basics like throwing on the run and knowing that to begin with, he isn’t the most accurate of quarterbacks increases the degree of difficulty on that play for no reason.  Stop and gain balance and throw OR, tuck it and run for another first down.  Just like Ben doesn’t try to make crazy plays, Sanchez has to learn that skill.  Its a very difficult talent to grasp and Sanchez is still finding it difficult to do so.

What the Jets need to do is get them running slant patters and quick out patterns.  When Ben Roethlisberger came out of college he wasn’t given this huge playbook to learn, and make reads from a complex offense.  He was put in positions to succeed and he was coached up well.  You can blame coaching but its also putting your players in a position to succeed and the Jets did Sanchez no favors by completely reversing the course of this team by going from ground and pound to the air show.  They seemingly have come back to a combination of both creating this weird hybrid that scored 1 TD this entire preseason and then scored a whole bunch in the first regular season.  In week 2, they looked like they were building momentum but the Jet offense went to sleep and made some critical errors.  Both self inflicted and those out of their control.  Those things happen but it happens to the Jets alot which would lead me to believe that maybe they aren’t good.

4. What offensive player needs to step up? Can Step up? In my preview I put Jeremy Kerley as the guy to watch for the Jets this year and I stand by that selection for two reasons.  One, I think he can be another security blanket for Mark Sanchez, just like Dustin Keller is.  He is the guy I’m looking at to do that for the Jets and I think he can this team’s Wes Welker.

The player that stuck out in that game was Bilal Powell who many had expected to separate himself.  The worst kept secret is that they want ANYONE to step up in that second RB slot other than Joe McKnight who has been a colossal disappointment.  McKnight was supposed to be the  change of pace back but he hasn’t performed the way that the Jets would like and so they would love Powell to step up in his stead.  Powell will be important.  Austin Howard is the final player that needs to step up.  His play in week 1 was great, limiting Mario Williams to “where the heck is he playing?” status.  But going against Lamar Woodley and co is a whole other challenge that he should not feel he flunked.  He did well at times and others he looked like a guy who only had one career start.  Howard is still a better option than Wayne Hunter was so there’s nothing to be dismissive over his performance on Sunday.  He will need a few more games to get his feet set in the right places but there’s enough tape there now to see that he will be fine which for the Jets is a huge relief.  If he stays healthy, Austin Howard will be effective as the season wears on and he gets more reps.

4. Missed Opportunities- Forget all the missed tackles on Roethlisberger, the missed opportunities on defense that they had were also huge.  Here’s a sequence that took place during the 3rd quarter:

3Q, 9:45

1st and 10- Roethlisberger tries to throw it to Jerricho Cotchery and David Harris turns and bats his pass, ALMOST intercepting it.  A second later with that throw, and it would’ve been picked off.

9:40

2nd and 10- The Jets tackle Jonathan Dwyer for a 6 yard loss thanks to Muhammad Wilkerson’s ability to get a great push against Max Starks.

8:53

3rd and 16,

Roethlisberger slips away from a would be sacker.  Steps into a heave and Mike Wallace stops on a dime and frees himself from Antonio Cromartie and catches the ball while putting both feet inbounds to complete the catch.

Two plays and the Jets seem to get great momentum and the very next they get beat for a touchdown.  It shows Roethlisberger’s strength and what makes him special and why the Jets can’t afford to take a single play off.  But plays like the David Harris ALMOST interception are plays that you HAVE to make against Ben because you will pay.

 

NOTES:

– The Jets schedule reads as such, @Miami vs the Dolphins and then home for the 49ers and Texans.  I know after week 5 is when you want to make conclusions about a team but it will be extra true for the Jets as they face, arguably, two of the best teams in the NFL .  The Niners and Texans coming to Metlife will help but let’s be realistic.  Heading into week 6 vs the Colts the Jets should probably be 2-3.  So is Sunday’s game a must win for the Jets?  Yes.  The Jets must win.  Starting the season 1-4 will be tough if the Jets have any aspirations to make the playoffs.

– Shonn Greene is one of my favorite runners because he reminds me of how Brandon Jacobs used to run when the Giants were a great running team.  Tough, physical and never afraid of contact.  But he has two or three runs in which he goes head first into a defensive player and winds up missing three or four plays in succession and make you wonder if that style of running won’t affect him in the long run.  Perhaps those are the conversations the Giants had with Jacobs that eventually made him soft at the line and had him start to dance and tippy toe around the line of scrimmage, but the Jets have to hope that he can keep his health and be smarter about how he finishes runs off.  There’s no problem with going down if you know you will get hit.  Trying to run through everything won’t work and Greene needs to be taught that if he wants any longevity in the NFL.

– Safety seems to be an area of concern for the Jets.  Last year, the Giants used Antrell Rolle as a nickel corner and Deon Grant as a linebacker to pick up the tight end closer to the line of scrimmage, and it seems like the Jets are employing that strategy with Laron Landry and Yeremiah Bell who often times play in the line of scrimmage.  Bell is their best deep cover safety and that isn’t exactly a good thing for the Jets because last year Brodney Poole did a poor job for them and they still haven’t found a guy yet that gives them that back end support.  Perhaps Antonio Allen is that guy but the Jets had better hope he comes of age very quickly because the Patriots loom and there are plenty of big play threats coming up on their schedule.  Remember, they still have the Patriots twice.

– I know this is almost a “duhhh” statement but without Darelle Revis, the best defensive player in the NFL in my opinion, they were vulnerable in the passing game and it showed.  After the first quarter, the Steelers realized that Landry couldn’t cover anybody and he was in there more so to hit guys after the catch because it wasn’t like he could pass defend.  The Jets shouldn’t need Revis on Sunday to beat the Dolphins but it bears watching if they bring Revis back for this game because it will tell you how important the Jets view Sunday’s game at the Dolphins is.  Remember, the Jets destroyed Buffalo and they HAVE to win all the games that they are favored in because they face some difficult tests this season because it looks like the NFC West, at least in the early going, is a much improved division and no cake walk and if the Jets don’t get their offensive issues figured out, that schedule that many thought would help the Jets get to the playoffs may not be as easy as we all once thought.

GAME BALL

Goes to Ben Roethlisberger who continues to play effectively despite a terrible offensive line.  The Steelers were excellent defensively without Troy Polamalu and James Harrison, and the offense keeps doing its thing whether it be running or having those excellent group of receivers.

 

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Daily Rounds 12/20/2011

 

Baron Davis’ signing brought some very interesting news.  He was expected to sign for the $2.5 million exception that the Knicks had at their disposal.  But contained within this report, its now known that he signed for the veteran’s minimum of $1.4 million which gives them room to sign another free agent.  Perhaps James Posey?  Peter Vecsey writes that everyone has an opinion on the Baron Davis signing but he’s a fan of the signing.  Alan Hahn says that despite the Baron Davis signing Toney Douglas will do whatever is asked of him.  Baron Davis says that the Knicks have the pieces to contend according to Frank Isola of the Daily News.  

Forget that Baron took less money to sign with us signaling a huge shift from years past where the Knicks had to overpay to get talented players.  Its that James Dolan did the convincing according to sources.  JIM DOLAN!  Somehow, someway he has been doing things that I NEVER thought in a million years he was willing to do as Knick owner.  Not only has he given Verizon FIOS customers MSG HD so that we can now enjoy our Knicks and Rangers games in beautiful, stunning HD, he  is now proving to be quite the recruiter.  I have always said this and I will continue to say this: a motivated Baron Davis makes him a top 10 PG in our league capable of taking over games which means the Knicks would have 3 capable scorers in crunchtime.  Ideally having 3 options which the defense would have to spread itself out would be something dream worthy but if those three prove to be ball stoppers and would rather want to create their own shot instead of looking for the open man (unless they are the open man of course) then that advantage gets nullified.

I’m not signing off on this signing yet but I can promise you that the Garden’s energy will be needed everytime Baron is out on the floor.  I remember watching that Warriors/Mavs series and seeing Davis’ play rise proportional to the crowd’s noise level so there’s that element to wonder about.  The Knick crowd is an intelligent and very aware crowd.  IF you don’t show the right attitude and aren’t diving for loose balls and playing lackadaisically, they will call you out and boo you.  But this deal depends solely on Baron.  Solely on whether he comes to practice hard and play harder.  Keeping him motivated for that long will be difficult but the bigger the stakes the bigger his game gets and you’d like to think that the Knicks are positioned to be playing in several big games.

Last year the Knicks slogged through injuries and the sort to some of their top players and in the end it was Carmelo Anthony and a bunch of stiffs trying to beat the battle tested Celtics.  Conditioning will be important and that’s what’s troubling for the Knicks.  IF the Knicks hope to enjoy ANY kind of success this season keeping Baron, Amar’e and Melo away from the trainer’s table will be of the utmost importance.  Let’s see how it all plays out.

The Yu Darvish sweepstakes is over and the winner is…..The Texas Rangers.  According to several reports, the Rangers posted the winning bid believed to be in the neighborhood of $51.7 million which would make it the highest posting bid in the history of MLB.  Darvish is the 25 year old Japanese phenom that had several teams bidding for his services.  Darvish is the son of an Iranian father and Japanese mother.  Last year he compiled an 18-6 record with a 1.44 ERA and 276 strikeouts.  Jean Jacques-Taylor said that the Rangers proved, with this move, that they are indeed a big market team.  Scott Miller of CBSSports.com writes that this bid may be the start of a bigger war for the AL West between the Rangers and the Angels.  Meanwhile Jon Morosi of Foxsports.Com writes that with the Yu Darvish posting news over its time for Scott Boras to make his move.  

Darvish is another in a long line of Japanese born pitchers slated to arrive in the US and revolutionize the art of pitching.  He apparently features a 7 pitch repertoire that has people drooling.  He throws in the mid 90’s and has excellent control.  That’s the miniature scouting report.  As for what he will actually do, well that’s the question mark.  There’s NEVER a sure thing especially pitchers who come from different leagues and different hitters.  Darvish will be afforded the benefit of playing for a Rangers team that will score him plenty of runs.  The experts still put the Rangers with the best offense in that league and rightfully so.  Even with Pujols’ entry into the AL West war, the Rangers have the deepest line up in that division and pending the Yu signing will have a 6 man rotation, a problem that GM Jon Daniels (Bayside, Queens stand up) is happy to have.  Of course the Rangers are still linked to Prince Fielder though if you do the math, apparently Yu wants a 5 year contract at an annual rate of $15 million, Yu will cost the Rangers slightly more than $125 million.  I don’t know how likely it is that they sign Prince for his reported asking price of $200 million.

Prince is repped by Boras who will get the highest dollar figure and the Rangers are too smart and savvy to play that game.  So Boras may start searching elsewhere.  One team he may want to check in with?  The Toronto Blue Jays.  They attacked twitter announcing their disappointment that their team could NOT get Yu.  Alex Anthropolous the boy wonder GM of the Jays may have to make a move being so flush with cash.  Don’t be surprised if he gets involved in not only Prince (rumors are that the Jays have a ton of money to spend) but also swing a trade for Gio Gonzalez or Matt Garza.  Both pitchers are available via trade though it will cost several high priority prospects which teams may regret giving up.

The Matt Latos deal by the Padres shows that teams will have to pony up the big boy prospects in order to pry loose a young talented pitcher who has arbitration controlled years left.  Gio Gonzalez won’t be a free agent till 2016 and so his value coming off an 18 win campaign is NEVER going to be higher so credit Brad Pitt, I mean Billy Beane with trying to extract as much as he can.  Beane knows that it will be years before the A’s will be able to move to a better facility and will be flush with cash to compete with the likes of the Angels and the Rangers and so he’ll have to continue trying to turn water into wine.

An interesting note for Met fans is that the Blue Jays loss in the Yu sweepstakes opens the door for them to trade Jon Niese who’s another team controlled player that the Jays have interest in.  If it means getting Travis D’Arnaud for him it may be worth it.  As a Met fan expect very little and you won’t get hurt.  This is all depending on IF Sandy Alderson is motivated to trade him which I believe he is.  He’s listening to all offers and if it brings him back D’Arnaud and a pitcher the Mets will jump to trade Niese whom the Aldersons of the world have all but made their mind up on.

Finally, a story that should tickle your funny bone.  A sprinter who was caught tested positive for performance enhancing drugs will be trying again for his chance to compete in the 2012 London Olympics.  Story is here in the NYTimes.  He was caught thanks to a high dosage of Extenze in his system.  Yep.  THAT Extenze.  

For those interested in hearing Rex Ryan’s mouth and former Giants players response here you go.  

Finally, Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette writes that the Steelers went dark.  

Not buying the win by the 49ers.  Big Ben was hobbled and he really needs to sit out the next few games because its bad and running him out there every week is pointless.  Then again, that’s the kind of player Antrell Rolle would want to play with right?

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Jets post game reax loss to Denver

What can you say about this guy Tebow that hasn’t been said?  I’ll let the national script play itself out.  95 yards with over 5 minutes left against a Jets defense that had pretty much shut them down.  But the fact remains, that he wins and say what you will about his mechanics and how the option offense won’t work at the NFL level, but he’s a winner.  I dont want to hear anything but his 4-1 record.  Tim Tebow is singlehandedly changing the conversation from his being unable to make an NFL throw (which hasn’t changed: he can’t do it on a regular basis) and being unable to be a viable starting QB option in the NFL to making plays and being a football player.

So this morning before you ask who’s to blame and what’s wrong with the Jets, maybe the question you should be asking is: IS THIS the real Jets team?

– Those who’ve watched the Jets this season can admit this now after watching the Denver game: Mark Sanchez has regressed.  We’re not saying he’s a Tebow now, Sanchez was given the chance to  sling the rock 40 times which was twice the amount of times that Tebow threw it, but Sanchez isn’t making simple reads and throwing it four and five yards short.  I wrote this in the last postgame reax column about the Pats loss: Sanchez was NOT making the simple throws you expect QBs in this league to make.  This is his third year in this system under Brian Schottenheimer.  This is not something new and he’s not green anymore (he is literally, not figuratively), the playbook can and SHOULD at this point be opened up to him and yet Sanchez is proving week after week that he’s not ready for that responsibility.

The Jets this year forced the issue with Sanchez’ progression.  The theory was, give him another deep threat.  Put more passing attempts in the game plan and let’s watch and see.  He’s going to have career highs in passing attempts, completions, touchdowns and INT’s this year.  Well, it would go without saying that he would do these things when he’s attempting more passes but there is evidence of small incremental progress there.  But with the Jets in win now mode its difficult to really see that.  Again, here were the throws that I saw where an average NFL QB can make and Sanchez just couldn’t.

10:56 3rd quarter Bad throw on 2nd and goal, play set up beautifully but he just throws it way too high for Keller to make a catch on it.
2nd and 6 on 4:33 3rd quarter- Underthrows Plaxico Burress by five yards.
3rd and 6- Behind the receiver- TD Denver
3rd and 6 4th quarter 9:19- Doesn’t step into throw.  Rushes throw, and throws in front of Santonio Holmes by 3-4 yards preventing the Jets from getting a first down.  If Sanchez had thrown it into the middle of the field instead, where there was NOBODY, Holmes walks in for a touchdown.

– These plays are costing his team a game but again, the major difference is that Tim Tebow’s limitations are not preventing Denver from being creative.  They are finding ways to win despite Tim Tebow’s lack of making a throw.  Look, as many examples as there are for Sanchez’ ineptitude as a QB, there are plenty more of Tebow and up until that final drive EVERY TIME he went three and out in that game he was being showered with boos.  Tebow is the most polarizing figure in sports.  He does not apologize for who he is spiritually and as a person, which I find ridiculous that he has to make excuses for his overt Christianity, but he makes no excuses when he plays poorly but the guy makes plays.  At the end of the game, he knew he had to take over.  The Jets had forced Denver into 8 three and outs out of their twelve drives.  EIGHT THREE AND OUTS.  Thats not a winning formula.  So how does a team with an inept QB win a game like this?

Special teams: Out of their 12 drives, the Broncos started on the Jets side of the field 5 times.
Defense:  That pick six, on a horrendous throw by Sanchez helped alot.  But look at the Jets offense, minus Shonn Greene for pretty much the entire game and playing without LDT to begin with, only rushed for 83 while the Broncos ran for 125.  A stout defense and good special teams can ALWAYS help.

– Instead of the usual breakdown of one series of either the Jets or Giants, I wanted to get into the final drive by Tebow and look at all the tackles and missed opportunities the Jets had to clinch this game

“the only way you get beat right now is if something crazy happens.  Your defense is playing so well”- Famous last words from Mike Mayock as the Jets were punting to the Broncos

1st-10, DEN4 5:54 T. Tebow passed to E. Royal to the right for 8 yard gain- Jim Leonhard ends this game right here.  This is a safety.  Tebow makes a boneheaded play to throw a pass across the  line of scrimmage and Eddie Royal misses a tackle by Jim Leonhard and Mike Mayock says it right: “That was scary.”  –1
2nd-2, DEN13 5:25 T. Tebow rushed to the right for 15 yard gain- Tebow running the option and breaks 3 tackles and nearly escapes another, so the Jets have now missed three more.  -3
1st-10, DEN28 4:43 T. Tebow passed to D. Thomas to the left for 9 yard gain Shotgun, rolls to his left and hits his guy on an out.
2nd-1, DEN37 4:36 T. Tebow incomplete pass to the left- Empty backfield, shotgun and Tebow throws a wobbly backshoulder throw that goes 5 yards short.
3rd-1, DEN37 4:32 T. Tebow rushed to the right for 7 yard gain Tebow in shotgun takes it himself and escapes two would be tacklers but gets taken down but not before he gets the first down. 
1st-10, DEN44 3:53 T. Tebow rushed to the right for 9 yard gain Runs right by Darrelle Revis, who as Deion Sanders said so perfectly made a business decision and basically oley’d the tackle and let him go by him and then Tebow runs over another Jet defender. -1
2nd-1, NYJ47 3:45 T. Tebow rushed up the middle for 3 yard gain Empty backfield goes right up the gut himself and breaks two more tackles. -2
1st-10, NYJ44 3:02 T. Tebow incomplete pass to the left Throws it on the ground.  Tebow in the pocket and can’t seem to get a good rhythm going when he’s there.  
2nd-10, NYJ44 2:57 T. Tebow passed to D. Rosario to the left for 18 yard gain While being hit the ball comes out wobbly but hits his receiver for another huge gain.  
1st-10, NYJ26 2:31 L. Ball rushed up the middle for 3 yard gain – keeping the defense honest.  That’s all.  They are in field goal range. THEY SHOULD BE GOING VANILLA trying to get a few more yards and make it a makeable field goal.  Remember the Broncos are ONLY down 3 they don’t have to go for the TD.  
2nd-7, NYJ23 2:00 T. Tebow rushed up the middle for 3 yard gain Fakes the throw to his right and keeps it and runs into the heart of the D.
3rd-4, NYJ20 0:58 T. Tebow rushed to the left for 20 yard touchdown. Here’s where things really come unglued in Denver.  Don’t believe me?  There’s a knucklehead who comes on to the field to try and get cured of leprosy by touching Tebow’s jersey.  EVEN if the Broncos don’t get the TD, they have a very makeable FG here and the game is at the very least going into OT.  But what happens?  Jets do an all out blitz for the first time ALL GAME.  They had not called a single blitz all game, had stayed disciplined in their gaps and Tebow makes one guy miss who’s nibbling at his knees.  Eric Smith comes up WAYYY too hard and leaves the outside wide open for Tebow to go around to get the first down at the first least and then some as Tebow navigates himself through the melee going on and finds the end zone.  -1 
M. Prater made PAT

A defense can not constantly be asked to pitch shutouts against really good football players because at some point that really good football player WILL make a play.  The Broncos game plan was this: keep the score close.  Wait for Tebow to make a play.  They did their part, and Tebow did his.  That final defensive call was totally moronic.  Don’t over commit.  Why break discipline?  That falls on Rex.  The offensive game calling falls on Schottenheimer.  The playmaking falls on the players.  The Special teams miscues which continued falls on Westhoff.  This was a complete utter breakdown of the highest order and this final drive, the Jets defense finally broke and Tebow broke them.  TEBOW broke them.  They had nothing left and were incapable of making a play at that point in the game.  It was so plain to see.  As a matter of fact, it was painful to see if you were a Jet fan.

– So what do we make of this loss?  Well, let’s break this down.  The skinny?  The Jets have no choice BUT to win out.  They have to win all six of their remaining games to even begin thinking about the playoffs.  The Jets now don’t have the tie breaker within the AFC against the Raiders, Ravens, and Broncos, three teams that will most likely be with a similar record as the Jets.  The Jets have to win out and now hope some of those guys lose all their games.  Basically the Jets have put themselves in a position that is untenable.  IF the Jets want to win they MUST go back to ground and pound.  The Broncos put the ball in Tebow’s hands and don’t ask him to do anything outside of his comfort zone.  Why would the Jets expect Sanchez to?  Or maybe it would be better if the Jets lost the next two games and let Sanchez just sling the ball and get more and more comfortable being a pocket passer and get more comfortable with the recievers in real game situations.  He’s not yet in that place where the Jets can trust him in those spots.

The quick foolhardy explanation will be that the Jets defense choked.  That the offense sucks.  I’m not saying either of those explanations aren’t good, I’m just saying that the Jets need to re-evaluate what they are doing on offense.  Brian Schottenheimer has NEVER been one of my favorite Jets.  In fact, I’ve thought that his up and down play calling ability has limited Sanchez in a great way but Schotty needs to put him in those quick step slant screen options where he makes a very quick read.  When Sanchez is out there shuffling his feet, pointing at some receiver and throwing on the run, he’s in trouble.  Sanchez doesn’t know when to loft the ball or throw it soft or when to drill it in.  Its one speed with his throws and it goes back to basic quarterbacking.  Remember last week’s dumbest play in the history of football?  Those are the kind of plays that get you benched but he gets more burn virtue of being a number 5 selection in the draft.

But that slack will only go a long way.  The rest of the season in my opinion, will be Sanchez fighting for his job.  The Jets are in a win now mode and for a majority of that game, the Jets defense was more than stifling, it was Super Bowl calibre and when it came time for the final drive Tebow was in a familiar position: his team needed him to make a play and more times than not, Tebow will make that play.  I won’t say the defense choked in that spot, I’d rather more of the onus on the offense and its inability to keep the Jets defense from being in that position on the road.  Tebow was a one man wrecking crew but it was because the defense had done such a stellar job all game that it was difficult for them to continue to do so when it was clearly Tebow time.

For the Jets to make the playoffs I think they have to go 60/40 run/pass.  They have to put Sanchez into easier reads as an offense.  They need to dumb down the offense.  If you see them continue to sling it, Sanchez had better make the throws and the plays to win the Jets some games.  If not, you can bet Mike Tannenbaum will be on the phone with the Colts come draft time giving up his draft picks for the right to either select Luck or trade for Peyton Manning

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Jets/Patriots post game reax

Why I’m not waving the white flag on the season or deep in worry and the encouraging signs I saw from the Jets 3rd straight loss and their first divisional game against their hated rivals Patriots.

But first, a word from the hater:

– Much has been made of the finger pointing coming from the receivers.  We all know that Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress are not the quiet types.  Let’s be honest, you can’t blame them if they told you that they were following the lead of their coach, Rex Ryan.  But Santonio Holmes did a huge no no.  Or was it Mark Sanchez?  Sanchez responding to Holmes’ critique about his play said this was an in house matter and something he and Holmes had discussed.  Well, that was news to Santonio because when he was asked a few moments later about the talk he and Sanchez had, he knew nothing about such a meeting.  They later denied and said that things were lost in translation but I think we all speak the language of discord and that’s exactly what is rearing its ugly head.  Sanchez is the leader of this group, as young as he is, and he has to know that if he tells the media something, they will do their due diligence to check with Santonio on his side.  The damage is done now with Santonio denying the meeting ever took place which speaks to the lack of communication going on.  Or it means that Santonio is an idiot and doesn’t know how to play along OR that he refused to play along.

I’ve never been a fan of Brian Schottenheimer.  I think he holds this team back.  I think in their playoff losses he’s played a direct role in them.  I said this during the Giants post game reaction piece and I’ll say it again.  All the offenses have a certain rhythm they play to.  The defense’s job is to disrupt that rhythm.  The really good offenses continue to play the game at the pace they want.  The Jets have a built in rhythm with their run game.  That’s their strength and I will get to the idea that they are changing the dynamic of their franchise with the way they’ve been throwing the football.  They need to rely on their strength which is the run game and play off of that.  But even with the notion that your strength is in your run game and that you have an above average offensive line,  he refuses to use it with authority.  I’m of the belief that you play the game to your strength to your pace.  You allow the other team to dictate pace and game speed you will lose. As in life, if you’re not true to yourself you will eventually lose.  The Recievers dropped 4 passes including one sure fire touchdown.  If you want to blame your Quarterback for not making the proper reads, that’s fine Santonio, just make sure you’re doing your job first.

–  Ben Jarvis Green Ellis had a huge game.  And when I say huge game I don’t mean just for the Patriots.  I mean for the sake of this rivalry and also for the sake of his job he had a breakout game.  Why? Steven Ridley is an emerging running back who rushed for over 100 yards in 10 carries last week and many within the organization see him as the eventual replacement.  Aside from Welker, the Patriots have never had a physically gifted superior athlete since Randy Moss.  The kind that can change the way defenses play you and many within the organization see Ridley, a 3rd round pick, as that guy necessitating his high draft selection.  Now, a guy like Ben Jarvis Green Ellis is a workhorse, powerback but also an undrafted running back.  Guys like that respond to the challenge of a person trying to get their job because nothing has been promised to them.  They live and die each week with their performance.  Add in the spice of the Patriots/Jets rivalry its easy to see why the guy was determined to have a monster game.  The Jets need be worried about another running back gashing them which has been a terrible trend.  Its becoming clear that teams are finding running lanes within this Jets D and finally finding ways to take advantage of their blitzing packages to find lanes.  To be fair, the Patriots packages make teams run out 6 and 7 defensive backs on every play so its not fair to say that the Jet D was completely outclassed but the Patriots run the ball in the past as more of a oh by the way.  This year they are more determined to run the ball with the changes on the offensive line and the Jets could NOT stop the running game when it mattered and for Jets it has to be a sad sight to behold.  The Patriots looked the part of the more physical team at the point of the attack.  That should be something to watch as the season progresses.

– I have to say that as much as people hate on the running game I give the running game some credit.  Shonn Greene has been awful, both from a fantasy and reality perspective but Sunday’s output for him was his best showing.  Why?  Because he was running down hill.  That’s his strength and the Jets need to drill it in Shonn Greene’s head that he is at his most useful when he does that.  The funny thing is, LaDanian Tomlinson has been the much better back through the season’s first five games but the Jets continue to run the pass heavy offense.  It will be interesting how they go carry wise and how they share in the running game but LDT seems like the fresher back.  But I loved the improvement by Shonn Greene.  He just seemed to run with more purpose instead of always hitting a brick wall like he looked for the first four games.  Hopefully this game will start a string of better starts for him.

– Speaking of which, the Jets reliance on the pass is not the end all of this team.  I believe the Jets, were screwed the most by the lack of an offseason.  They have been trying to be better at the pass for quite some time with the signing of Plaxico Burress thinking this would speed up the maturation of Mark Sanchez.  This is all about Mark Sanchez by the way folks.  They believe in their heart of hearts that if you surround a young QB with enough weapons his progression will multiply and it will take shorter for him to look the part.  In some ways its true.  Sanchez has looked the part of a good NFL QB in certain times.  He’s definitely looked the part in his four road wins which are the most for a player at this juncture of his career or any career for that matter.  But Sanchez still has many moments when he’s lost and he’s making the wrong read and being a third year player we’re not going to fault him.  But this was the year that QB’s take the leap.  If they are going to be good, or great, they show it in year three and so the Jets went out and shopped for some groceries.  They were confident in the run game they had so they left that alone thinking they didn’t need lineman or anyone else.  Of course when Damien Woody retired it took them by surprise.  It was another piece of the line disappearing from the Jets.  But the Jets still had D’Brickshaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold there.  Then there were the receiver additions.  I hated the move to cut Jerricho Cotchery for Derrick Mason but the Jets did that as a poke move against the Ravens.  But the Jets thought Plaxico Burress was going to revert back to his old self and immediately propel the Jets forward.  Now, this is five games in and things can change but there’s something Jet fans need to know about Plax before you continue.

Eli Manning got vilified by Plax for not being there for him when he was going through his prison sentence.  It would be understandable for a stand up guy to be upset had he himself been there at every turn for Eli, but that’s never been the case.  How the media turned it around on him and every black journalist ran to Plax’s defense was absurd and beyond me.  This was a man who selfishly shot himself in the foot and ultimately ruined the Giants season.  He was the most fined player in Giants history for simply not showing up to meetings on time.  And when he did, he was usually asleep.  In the 80’s Bill Parcells had a similar player in his locker room.  A player he excused and treated differently because he was made so that way.  His name was Lawrence Taylor.  Who’s going to tell me that Plaxico Burress is on the same level as LT?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.  This was a man that the Giants, a team I believe is the most professional in all of football and one of the last family owned from the beginning teams in the NFL, treated like family and he went and lost his shot at that.  And now he’s the man we should feel sorry for?  He’s the man Eli should come visit in prison?  The same man who would constantly criticize Eli?  The man who’s one great postseason (and Giant fans know how great he was, and honestly I’ve never seen a receiver dominate a game of that magnitude like he did in that NFC Championship game in Green Bay) and seemingly reaching his potential as a football player was the guy we were supposed to defend and drop Eli Manning on the drop of a dime?

Now, Eli is an easy target.  He looks aloof and half the times he looks confused and we can argue whether that’s just the Southern Miss in him, but let’s rest that case because it isn’t about the Giants anymore with Plax.  His main duty is to help nurture Mark Sanchez.  Help to give him his confidence.  If I were a Jet fan, I’d be concerned.  Having Cotchery was a life saver and he was the longest tenured Jet among receivers.  He was the guy that should’ve had the job of helping Mark Sanchez out.  Instead, you have malcontent Derrick Mason.  You have a rookie receiver in Kerney.  You have Santonio Holmes with his brand new rich contract so you know he doesn’t care anymore, and you have Plaxico Burress.  I dont know if Plax has changed and frankly no one does.  But for the sake of Mark Sanchez I hope he has.

– I think the Jets passing so much in these first four games is by design.  Thanks to a limited offseason, they weren’t able to get all the kinks worked out and it will take time.  But if they got the running game moving in the right direction, I think the Jets become scarier.  As time goes on and barring injuries, the offensive line will get better thanks to the work of Bill Calahan who is one of the best offensive line coaches in the game.  So there isn’t worry setting in for me if i were a Jet fan.  Its more of hope.  How the Jets do in their next four games will be important.  I dont think now is the time to worry.  If you look at the Patriots and Bills, there are far more legitemate concerns on different sides of the ball.  The Bills have forced turnovers at a completely unreliable rate.  You can’t expect it to continue.  The Patriots meanwhile have an offensive line that has been playing sneakingly bad.  Look how often the Jets got into the Patriots face?  The Jets have a good pass rush because of their scheme but they were in the face of Tom Brady for much of the night.  Their defense is statistically one of the worst and Belichiek won’t be able to hide that deficiency for too long.  Albert Haynesworth has been a bust and Devin McCourty has regressed as a corner and they can’t guard anyone which puts the onus on the offense to put up points in bunches.  The Jets have a run game somewhere hidden.  I think they have been trying out their passing game to work out the kinks they weren’t able to do without a full preseason.  Look for the Jets to emerge in the next few weeks and put together some good games and for all the fretting and worrying to stop.

– Don’t pay attention to the final score and pregame hype.  Divisional games always carry a bigger sense of doom and added hype that teams feed into.  Its clear that both teams played harder because of who they were facing.  I still think the Patriots are on a downward trend unless Devin McCourty begins to improve and Albert Haynesworth does the same.  Losing Jerrod Mayo is going to suck huge for the Patriots.  He’s led them in tackles the last two years.  The Pats have no real pass rusher on the roster.  Eventually the Patriots will need production from Chad OchoCinco to offset all the attention that Wes Welker is going to receive.  The Jets meanwhile will need to begin fixing that run/pass ratio and start leaning heavier on the run as the weather gets tougher.  Give some more carries to LDT and allow Shonn Greene to run downhill and not do all the shimmying that he’s been prone to do for some reason.  Also, getting your receivers in line and relying heavier on Dustin Keller will be more appreciated.  By the way, that can only happen if Keller doesn’t drop catches.

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AFC Championship Reaction

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

4th Quarter
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.

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The Jets win postgame reax!

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!

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