Jets end slide versus Dolphins
On the heels off 3-straight losses with an offense unable to get on track and a defense that has looked a step slow, the New York Jets went into last night’s game against the Miami Dolphins needing a win in the worst way. Since Rex Ryan took over the Jets they have been a fixture on the NY back pages, making it to two straight AFC Championship games and managing to steal the spotlight from the New York Giants in what has always been a predominantly “Giants town”. However, in the week preceding the Dolphins game the Jets had become a hot topic in the press for all the wrong reasons; Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s play calling was reportedly questioned by three of the team’s wide receivers (Derrick Mason, one of the alleged dissenters was shipped off to the Houston Texans during the week), the viability of Mark Sanchez as a franchise quarterback was once again debated, and the rift between Santonio Holmes/Brandon Moore threatened to fracture a once harmonious locker room. Seemingly fed up with the Jets brash talk and Ryan’s annual Super Bowl proclamations, the New York sports media seemed to be taking extra delight in the team’s recent slide. While questions regarding the Jets long-term chances still persist, their 24-6 win over the Dolphins kept the playoff aspirations of the squad alive for at least another week.
Jets offensive struggles remain: The Jets recent trend of subpar play on offense continued early on in Monday’s game as the team was unable to obtain a 1st down the first four times they had the ball. The running attack was better than in previous weeks but is still is a work in progress as the team desperately attempts to get back to their “Ground and Pound” roots. Questions regarding Mark Sanchez’s development will persist as he looked out of sorts early in the game, routinely throwing off-target passes and missing open receivers. He was able to get into a groove during the 2nd and 3rd quarters as success in the running game opened up some play action opportunities down the field. On a positive note the pass protection around Sanchez was outstanding as he had all day to throw the ball and rarely got hit. Providing the team with some much needed youth and athleticism, backups Joe McKnight and Jeremy Kerley again showed flashes that they can be difference makers when given the opportunity to contribute.
Revis Island: Cornerback Darrelle Revis provided the turning point of the game with a 100 yard interception return in the first quarter that gave the Jets a 7-3 lead. Already trailing by a field goal, this play relaxed a crowd that was starting to feel uneasy after the Jets poor offensive start. Matched up with Dolphins star receiver Brandon Marshall for most of the night, Revis made two big plays against him in the red zone (the interception and an earlier deflection on a 3rd and goal play) that helped turn the momentum in the Jets favor.
Lucky breaks: The Jets were fortunate on this night to catch a few breaks, primarily due to facing an inept Miami team. The Dolphins had the ball in the red zone three times during the first half but only managed to score 6 points. Down 7-3 at the beginning of the 2nd quarter, Marshall had a step on Revis in the end zone but was unable to hang to a pass from QB Matt Moore. This was a disturbing pattern for Dolphin players throughout the evening as Brian Hartline and Charles Clay also dropped catchable passes in key spots. Marshall additionally hindered his team’s chances when he inexplicably lost his balance and went out bounds while running for what would have been a certain touchdown. Had the Dolphins not botched these plays it would have been at the very least a more competitive game.
Where’s Plax?: Jets receiver Plaxico Burress had only one catch and was a non-factor for the third straight week. Plax has looked rusty in his return to the NFL, dropping passes and going long stretches of games without being effective. While his downfield blocking has been solid he has yet to be the red-zone force the Jets envisioned when they signed him.
Looking ahead: A win is a win in the NFL, and despite the sloppy nature of the game the Jets will take it. The AFC is as competitive as ever this season, and upcoming games against the San Diego Chargers, resurgent Buffalo Bills, and New England Patriots should largely determine whether the Jets are going to be serious contenders this year. The Jets are banking on their defense becoming a dominant force again, the offensive line opening up holes as they did in past years, and Schottenheimer improving his play calling and scraping the five-yard passing plays. One thing’s for certain, if the team fails to win 2 out of their next 3 games the panic meter will be in full swing in Jet land and Rex, Sanchez, and Schottenheimer will face the brunt of the fallout.