The Jets are in the final eight for the first time since the 2004-2005 season after today's 24-14 thumping of the Bengals in Paul Brown Stadium. Some were not impressed by last week's domination of Cincy. This one was not as clean, but I don't think anybody will say the Bengals gave anything other than a full effort today. The Jets handled them in their home stadium. That makes back to back wins over a division champion. Can we finally all agree this is a really good team? Please?
More after the jump.
Mark Sanchez: Mark started the season playing with a lot of confidence. He struggled to get it back after his meltdown against the Bills in October. Today we saw the young guy who played an almost perfect game against the Texans in Week 1 and outplayed Tom Brady in Week 2. The Jets ran it at a ratio higher than 2 to 1, but Mark couldn't have played better. His throws were right on the money. Mark was 12 for 15 and had a pair of balls dropped on him. He finished with 182 yards and a touchdown (which the NBC announcers seemed to think was thrown by Brad Smith for some reason).
This may not have been such a surprise. Sanchez has been very up and down. One constant, though, has been his play in big games. Think about it. He shredded Penn State in last year's Rose Bowl to put himself on the map. When the spotlight was on him Week 1, he was great. Same thing the next week in that hyped Pats game. Then he didn't turn it over in the do or die last two weeks of the regular season. Now this. A lot of young quarterbacks shy away from pressure spots. They seem to be when Mark has the most fun.
Just think about Mark's potential. The Ravens went to the AFC Championship Game last year with a rookie, but Joe Flacco really didn't do much in their two wins aside from the final drive against the Titans. Sanchez played an almost perfect game in the Playoffs.
Shonn Greene: Greene's Playoff debut may have been even better than Sanchez's. Shonn went for 135 yards on 21 carries. Given the physicality of Cincy's defense, the Jets needed to lean on Shonn to grind out yardage after solid contact. He's better than Thomas Jones at doing that. It got to the point where the Bengals knew what was coming and may have even had a defender in position to make a tackle, and Shonn ran him over. His 39 yard touchdown run tied the game. From that point, the Jets took control.
Darrelle Revis: Three flags were thrown on him. At least two of them were bogus. NBC never gave us a replay of the third. Here's what we do know. Chad Johnson had 2 catches for 28 yards. There's no slippery field to use as an excuse this week. Johnson was dominated again by a better player.
Dustin Keller: Dustin had an early drop, but he had a pair of absolutely huge catches to help swing the momentum. The first was the touchdown that put the Jets ahead. The second was a long catch and run right after Cincy scored to cut New York's lead to 21-14 that propelled the scoring drive that iced it. Dustin ended with 3 catches for 99 yards. If Keller has a big postseason, his disappointing regular season will be forgotten.
Brian Schottenheimer: You can say it's easy to stick with the run when it's working that well. It wasn't that easy for Schottenheimer last year. He ground Cincy's defense to the point where any fake inside created wide open field for either a play action pass or outside run.
Offensive Line: The five men up front were constantly pushing Bengals linemen two yards back. Greene did a lot of the work, but so did the big uglies.
Jay Feely: The Jets put him in an absolutely impossible spot. Jay isn't a punter. The team had nowhere else to go today. Feely's average was under 30, but he pinned Cincy inside the 20 thrice. He also drilled 47 and 52 yard field goals consecutively. If his blockers could have stopped getting hit with penalties, they would have counted.
Bryan Thomas: I don't know who this guy is. I don't know where he's been during his career. All I know is he had 7 tackles, a sack, and was good in coverage.
Jim Leonhard: Jimmy had a big sack that forced a fumble and played well in coverage.
Thomas Jones: Not a big game for TJ, but I was impressed the way he stayed prepared. Greene was taking a lot of the carries he normally gets. Jones stayed ready and broke a 9 yard touchdown inserted in the third quarter.
"Steve, you will die if you kick in this game." Unless his doctor uttered those exact words, I am totally disgusted with this guy. Heck, I'm more disgusted with him than any player I've ever seen on the Jets. At least Doug Brien was trying to make those field goals. John Abraham frustrated me sitting out the Oakland game in 2001 and the Pittsbugh game in 2004. At least he was a lineman. Weatherford wasn't asked to grind against 300 pound linemen fifty times. He wasn't asked to block. He wasn't asked to run a pass route on every play and catch a ball. He wasn't asked to run around and through tacklers. He was asked to go out and swing his leg at a ball 7 times. How can you possibly sit out because you're a little under the weather? I couldn't blame the Jets if they left him behind in Cincinnati. Had this game been closer and field position been more important, this would have gone down in franchise infamy. His teammates, including Jay Feely, saved his bacon.
Edit: Weatherford reportedly had an irregular heartbeat, which would certainly fit the serious criteria.
Braylon Edwards: When Braylon drops a pass, I feel the way I do when a fielder makes an error in baseball. Yes, the guy messes up, but the only reason he messed up was because he has the range to get to a ball. Same concept. Braylon wouldn't have been in a position to drop that ball unless he ran a great route to get open. Then again, what difference does it make? He's paid to get open and make catches. Heck, I could have caught that one. He did have a big catch later on third down to set up a touchdown so at least there's that.
Calvin Pace: Pace wasn't very good in the run game. He was missing tackles, getting himself out of position, and failing to get off his blocks.
Sione Pouha: Pouha wasn't as bad as Green, but he wasn't very good either. He also plays a bigger role.
Officials: Only the best officials are supposed to work in the Playoffs, right? Couldn't tell it by this game. Darrelle Revis got flagged at least twice when he was playing good defense. That's not debatable. Quan Cosby initiated contact with Drew Coleman and then begged the officials until they threw a flag on Coleman. David Harris got flagged for a late hit when the ball carrier hadn't even stepped out of bounds.
NBC: NBC only has one game a week during the regular season. That means there's only one regular broadcast team. That means today a patchwork crew has to be assemled to work the second game. It's a difficult task. With that said, this was brutal. Tom Hammond wasn't identifying penalty calls or the guilty party. He referred to Revis as "Darrelle Reeves." He even claimed Brad Smith was under center on a play Mark Sanchez was the quarterback, and the analysts followed suit. The only things Joe Gibbs added were stories from the 1980's. What's up with that? The game hasn't passed him by. I remember him being good as an analyst for NBC back in the 1990's. Two years ago, he took a team quarterbacked by Todd Collins to the Playoffs. And I don't need Charles Barkley in the studio during the pregame show for a Playoff game. How about having football people give analysis?
- I think last Sunday's game played a role in Carson Palmer's performance. His throws were inaccurate. Think back to last week. The Jets were constantly hitting him. The pass rush got in his head. He felt like he had to rush things this week.
- Give the Bengals credit. They made adjustments and shut down the Brad Smith Tiger formation. With that said, how much time did they have to dedicate to it because of the last game? Did it maybe take too much time away from their defense preparing for other aspects of New York's attack.
- Interesting game of cat and mouse early. The Jets were rushing four and dropping into coverage a lot early. Rex probably figured Cincy would adjust and max protect a lot and tried to catch them off guard. There were some four man zone blitzes, but it wasn't an aggressive start. The Jets did attack more as the game wore on, though.
- I was very impressed with a play on which Jerricho Cotchery dragged his feet to make a catch. It wasn't so much the catch. It was that Mark Sanchez rushed the team up to the line and tried to run a play to prevent a challenge. Cincy got the challenge in, but it showed great awareness by Mark. I've only seen Tom Brady and Chad Pennington do that before.
- Speaking of challenges, how does Marvin Lewis blow both of his in the first quarter and lose? The first one was the worst. His assistants had an entire tv timeout to examine replays and see they would lose.
- I would say given this team's tortured past with kickers in a big spot, there was karma in the other team's kicker missing some chip shots.
- With that said, the Jets can't leave 10 points on the field ever again. The teams they will play from here on out probably won't leave 6 of their own on the field.
- Having the first game of the weekend is fun...if the Jets win. Now we can relax and enjoy the other games. Had they lost, watching football would have been pretty painful this weekend.
So the Jets will head out to either San Diego or Indianapolis depending on how tomorrow's Baltimore-New England game pans out. Gang Green will be an underdog in either game. However, this team can cause some matchup problems for either the Chargers or the Colts. This is a team nobody wants to play right now. Just take some time to let it sink in. The Jets are one of the eight best teams in football. They will play for a spot in the AFC Championship Game next week. This is just year one of the Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez Era. Life is good.