Jets 22 Steelers 17: Survival in the Steel City

The Jets moved to 10-4 today with a 22-17 victory over the Steelers in Pittsburgh. This team can never go easy on its fans. It was another incredibly stressful finish, but Gang Green once again made plays when they needed to be made. Some said this season was over after last week's disappointing loss. Feel free to jump back on the bandwagon if you were one of them. This team showed today it can play with anybody in the league.

More after the jump.

The Good:

Brian Schottenheimer: I have been as critical as anybody of the offensive coordinator, and I think I have been justified. I absolutely loved the game he called today. Schotty did everything I wanted him to do. He gave Mark Sanchez easy throws to build his confidence. The first play of the game was a one step drop and a quick pass to Dustin Keller. With a struggling quarterback, it is important to simplify things and allow him to get into the flow of the game. Most of the passes he called were simple high percentage passes.

Another thing I really liked was the way he adjusted to life without Damien Woody. The Jets only allowed one sack. Part of it was due to great protection, but Wayne Hunter didn't turn into a Pro Bowl tackle overnight. Schottenheimer gave him plenty of help today against Lamarr Woodley. We saw LaDainian Tomlinson stay in a lot. We saw Ben Hartsock help Hunter take on Woodley. We also saw Robert Turner add a sixth lineman on passing plays. This not only helped the blocking. It also extended the edge against a team with great edge rushers.

The last thing I liked was how Schottenheimer attacked the opponent's vulnerabilities. The Steelers have a great run defense, but they sell out up the middle on run downs. Twice on third and short, Schottenheimer called a bootleg that caught Pittsburgh, including the touchdown run. Twice in the fourth quarter on third and long, Pittsburgh's blitz down, he caught the Steelers with a run. One was a draw where defenders got caught up field. The other was a direct snap.

Was he perfect? No, but a coordinator does not need to be perfect. It helps when the players execute, but Schottenheimer at least temporarily corrected a lot of things that have been major issues.

Mark Sanchez: Sanchez played a very smart, very efficient game. His tosses were very accurate. He was 19 of 28. He made smart decisions with the ball. The chances he took were calculated. He looked good against pressure and made a few subtle moves within the pocket to buy himself some extra time. His great job selling the fake on the bootleg set up the touchdown run.

Braylon Edwards: Braylon had been on the milk carton for three weeks. He got off it today, leading the team with 8 catches for 100 yards. Three of those catches were of a high degree of difficulty and went for a first down.

Santonio Holmes: He finished his homecoming with 6 catches for 40 yards. While Braylon was doing a lot of damage down the field, Santonio was getting open underneath, doing good work reading the coverage and running sharp routes consistently.

Jerricho Cotchery: Where did he get moves like that on a punt return? He finished with 32 yards on 2 returns and made something out of nothing both times he touched it.

Steve Weatherford: Had a pair of remarkably clutch punts to pin the Steelers inside the 10 in the final moments of the fourth quarter. Considering how effective the Steelers were moving the ball on the final series, the fact they had to burn so much time going so far might have been the difference.

Pass Protection: I told you above how I loved the scheme, but the men up front really executed to keep Sanchez clean.

D'Brickashaw Ferguson: It seemed like the Jets were running left more than they usually do with Woody out. Brick was very effective as a run blocker. We also didn't hear much from James Harrison as a pass rusher, which is no small feat.

Matt Slauson: When the Jets ran it effectively, it was often because Slauson was getting a consistent seal on his man. I thought he was the key man in the Jets running it for over 100 yards against an excellent defense.

Drew Coleman as a Blitzer: Coleman was about the only defensive back getting to Ben Roethlisberger and forced a pair of fourth quarter fumbles that pinned Pittsburgh in a bad situation.

Nick Folk: I'll live with the short kickoffs as long as he keeps putting points on the board. To be honest, those were both kicks he should have made, but given his slump, those are big steps. The winner was a pressure kick. The Jets have something of a sordid history kicking field goals to that end zone in 17-17 games in the fourth quarter.

Darrelle Revis: Revis was very good in coverage as usual, but his biggest contribution might have been in run support. Among his 7 tackles were a number which prevented huge runs.

LaDainian Tomlinson: He finished with 49 yards on 11 carries. When he had room, he looked every bit as quick on his cuts as he did early in the year.

Antonio Cromartie in Coverage: I thought he held up pretty well in coverage. The Steelers didn't pick on him too much. The completions he allowed weren't really anything he did terribly.

Jason Taylor: He was quiet for most of the game, but that safety was clutch. Again, the Steelers could have kicked a field goal to tie and send it to overtime on the last drive had it not been for that play.

Josh Mauga: Made a pair of special teams tackles. He's developing into something of an ace.

Brad Smith: The Steelers blew an assignment on the opening kickoff, but it takes a return man capable of reading his blocks and accelerating to finish the job. Smith was giving the Jets good field position all game, and that opening kickoff return had to give a struggling team some confidence.

Rex Ryan's Approach on Final Drive: Rex Ryan was in a bit of a tough spot because his men were not generating a pass rush either blitzing or playing coverage. The right move then was to commit men into coverage, where they might be useful instead of wasting them when they aren't effective blitzing. It bled the clock. The field also gets a lot smaller near the end zone. Coverage takes place in a tighter areas and clogs passing lanes. On the second to last play, David Harris was effective in altering the pass playing zone because his shallow zone left a tight window near the back of the end zone.

The Bad:

Lack of a Pass Rush: I cannot fault Rex Ryan for the way the defense was allowing yardage because he tried just about everything. The Jets could not generate a pass rush no matter how they attacked. When they played coverage, Calvin Pace, Shaun Ellis, Bryan Thomas, and Jason Taylor were not getting there. Thomas' sack was a coverage sack. When they blitzed, the Steelers picked it up. Ben Roethlisberger either had all day in the pocket or could move easily without much discomfort. This is disturbing considering Pittsburgh's noted problems in pass protection. I also cannot fault guys like Drew Coleman who appeared to be consistently burned. It's very difficult to ask defensive backs to hold in coverage for over five seconds.

Mike Devito: I thought Devito was the biggest problem with the run defense today. Gang Green allowed a 100 yard rusher for the first time this season. They kept running it right at Devito, who was losing the point of attack.

Bart Scott/David Harris: I don't think they filled the gaps well in the run game and neither was spectacular in coverage.

Dwight Lowery: I thought his play covering deep zone left too much exposed. Pittsburgh left a few plays on the field.

Using Antonio Cromartie as a Blitzer: I'm not really sure the rationale behind this one. Cromartie isn't bringing a guy as big as Roethlisberger down. He hates contact. Plus you lose his coverage skills.

Antonio Cromartie's Free Kick Return: With the lead in the final five minutes, a return man should give ground under no circumstances.

End of First Half Clock Management: When you let :20 run off, run out of time headin g into the locker room, and carry a timeout there, you have done something wrong.

Final Offensive Play: With a chance to win the game, I didn't get the pass with the moving pocket on third and 2. The Jets had just pounded it for 6 yards. Why go away from the run?

Other Thoughts:

  • Notice how one New York team won on the last play of the game today, and one lost on the last play of the game?
  • I didn't have a problem with the Jets continuing to throw on the second to last drive. It was too early to run out the clock. Had the Jets run, the Steelers probably would have stopped it, called their timeouts to stop the clock, and ended up with the same amount of time. With 3:00 left, time probably would not have been a huge factor down by 3.
  • Dwight Lowery played free safety for the most part, and Brodney Pool shifted to strong safety for his first extensive work there this year. While I didn't think Lowery was great, I'd like to see more of this. I think Dwight has potential once he gets his sea legs, and I like the idea of playing Pool more in the box.

This was a great victory. This team should get a huge boost to its shattered confidence. Things look bright, and the Playoffs now appear to be extremely likely. This team needed a win like this badly.

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