The Jets beat the Bengals tonight by a 26-10 margin at the Meadowlands. That puts New York at 9-2 and in a first place tie with New England for the best record in the division, the conference, and the entire league. This team has now matched its regular season wins total from the past two years and still has five to play. Was it a full fledged butt kicking of one of the league's worst teams? No, but it was still a pretty convincing triumph. For the first time in weeks, Jets fans did not have their stomachs churning in the last five minutes of the game.
More after the jump.
Brad Smith: He often finds subtle ways to help the Jets win. That didn't happen tonight. When the offense was struggling, the biggest homerun hitter on the roster belted a pair, taking an end around 53 yards to give the Jets the lead back at the start of the second half. Later he took a kickoff 89 yards to give the Jets some breathing room, opening up a 14 point lead. The way Cincy looked on offense, that was bound to be more than enough.
Eric Smith: Smith was extremely active in run support, leading the team with 8 tackles. He was also solid in coverage. Jermaine Gresham beat him once early, but it was the only time Smith looked bad all night. This is encouraging with New England's stacked tight end corps on the horizon.
Calvin Pace: This was probably Pace's best game of the year. He was excellent winning his matchups and stopping the run. He finished with 7 tackles. He also registered a sack.
Jason Taylor: Taylor has been something of a disappointment for much of the year. The sack numbers were all right, but he wasn't doing much to win his matchups or disrupt plays when he wasn't registering a sack. Tonight he was active. He was constantly affecting plays by winning his matchups, forcing action elsewhere. He also broke up 3 passes at the line.
Vernon Gholston: While he is hardly playing at an All Pro level, Gholston has been coming on lately. He was disruptive on no less than three plays. That's not bad for a backup lineman seeing limited snaps.
Trevor Pryce: Pryce had been very quiet until tonight. He finally made a big play, jumping the snap to sack Carson Palmer for a safety. Palmer and the interior line never had a chance because of how quick Pryce was off the ball.
James Ihedigbo: First of all, he showed great awareness and hustle to run down that punt. Second of all, he was very quick off the edge as a blitzer and got into Palmer's face multiple times. Ihedigbo isn't that big as a pass rusher. All he can depend upon is beating his man to the edge. He did that well. The personal foul on him was bogus.
Santonio Holmes: The route he ran on that touchdown pass was ungodly. I'm not sure there's a corner in the game not named Revis capable of staying on him after such a sharp cut.
Antonio Cromarite on Defense in the Second Half: After a rough first half, Cro blanketed Chad Johnson in the second half, pitching a shutout.
Steve Weatherford: 8 punts, 5 inside the 20, long of 61. The numbers say it all. The partially blocked punt wasn't his fault at all. The Jets were pinned deep, which left him without real estate, and his blockers got pushed into him.
Shonn Greene/LaDainian Tomlinson: I think this is another game that shows numbers can be deceiving. I thought both backs played very well running the ball, but neither cracked 4 yards per carry. We saw how these guys compliment each other well. A lot of Greene's yardage came on him driving the pile and making something out of nothing. Tomlinson's yardage came primarily from using his vision and making good cuts. The Jets weren't doing much in the passing game as the game progressed, which made it tougher.
Offensive Line: It was great to see Damien Woody out there. The unit did a good job all around. They got consistent seals in the run game before the passing game fell to pieces. Mark Sanchez had a clean pocket all night. On the two Cincinnati sacks, Sanchez had adequate time to get rid of the ball.
Punt and Kick Coverage: Aside from one big return set up by a shaky kickoff, these guys were terrific. Nick Folk was giving them absolutely no help. A lot of guys stepped up to make big tackles from Josh Mauga to Drew Coleman to Jim Leonhard to Joe McKnight.
Mark Sanchez: Tonight was a step back for Sanchez after an encouraging series of games. The interception was a very poor decision. He also telegraphed two other balls the corners dropped that could have become costly interceptions. By late in the game, he didn't have a ton of confidence, which led to him losing all accuracy. He was trying too hard to make sure the defender couldn't make a play, which also had him making throws his receivers couldn't handle.
I think the sacks were a result of Sanchez's growing faith in his mobility. Think of how many plays he has extended in the past few weeks with his feet. He is now holding the ball longer to give himself a chance to make plays. It reminds me of Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger takes a lot of sacks most quarterbacks dpn't. That is because he has the ability to escape a lot of sacks other quarterbacks don't and holds the ball because he has faith in his ability. I don't have a problem with Sanchez taking the first sack. I do have a problem with the second because of the game situation. Risking a sack meant giving the punter little breathing room despite having a second half lead.
This was not the way Mark wanted to head into New England.
Braylon Edwards: Edwards was held quiet by a guy who was just signed off the street. He only had 2 catches for 20 yards. When Sanchez looked in his direction, he was blanketed and unable to make a play. Braylon also had another penalty while run blocking, which is becoming common. He has taken a step back as a blocker this year. He also showed a lack of awareness on a deep pass from Sanchez in the fourth when he didn't get both feet in. It was a poorly thrown ball, which required a major adjustment, but that's the receiver's job. Some balls are going to be bad throws.
Antonio Cromartie on Defense in the First Half: Chad Johnson was consistently finding openings and had 4 catches for 41 yards. This did not include a reception where Johnson appeared to have both feet in, which was called incomplete. Let's not go overboard giving him credit for the interception. Any NFL cornerback should be able to intercept a pass playing deep zone where the quarterback underthrows it into triple coverage.
Antonio Cromartie on the Punt Return Team: Cro had a pair of block in the back penalties.
The Idea of Having Antonio Cromartie on the Punt Return Team: Somebody needs to explain the thought process behind having Cromartie out there. It's an injury risk. He's much too valuable as a cover guy to be risking him out there doing a job a backup could do well. He's also no good at the assignment. He's not a guy who plays well when asked to be overly physical. Blocking isn't going to be his strong point.
Nick Folk: It's tough to make two field goals in a row once an opposing coach ices a kicker. The field goal he missed was from over 40 yards. He barely made an extra point, but it went through. The kickoffs were just brutal and put a ton of pressure on the coverage unit. It's not easy when the return man gets a running start past the 10 as happened multiple times. I'm not sure we saw enough to panic as much as some will, but this was not a great night for the kicker.
- Want to see a big difference between the Jets and the Bengals? The officiating was consistently shaky. Both teams benefited from calls. Two stick out in my mind in the second half, though. The Bengals did not score after the phantom personal foul on Ihedigbo. The Jets stuck the ball in the end zone to take control of the game after the punt that did not appear to touch Andre Caldwell. The talent disparity isn't great in this league. Small things like that often make the difference between good and bad teams.
- Joe Thesimann was always my least favorite announcer when he was on ESPN. Now I remember why. If somebody just tuned in to the NFL for the first time this year, based on what Joe was saying, that person would probably think the Jets were 2-8, and the Bengals were 8-2. How many times did we hear the Bengals were "dangerous" against how many times we heard the Jets didn't look like a great team?
While it may not have been enough to impress Theismann, the Jets are 9-2. No team has won more than they have this year. Thirty other teams would gladly trade places to have an "unconvincing" 9-2 record. In any event, the stage is set for a showdown in New England. We'll have plenty of good stuff coming your way in the coming days. Let's enjoy this one for a bit, though.