The Jets beat the Colts tonight in Indianapolis 17-16 in an absolute classic. In the final minute, it looked like we were in for a long offseason of trying to figure out where to go from here. It would have been devastating because the Jets had a good plan, executed it really well, and still looked like they were going to be knocked out by the Colts for a second straight year. However, they will get a rubber match with the Patriots late next Sunday afternoon instead. This game should earn a special place in New York football lore.
More after the jump.
Nick Folk: You can say the field goal to win it is a kick any kicker should make. You would probably be right. Folk would have been tarred, feathered, and run out of town had he missed the 32 yarder to win it. Rightfully so I might add. He didn't, though. No kick is easy with a team's season on the line. Many GGN members commented at one point during the season that they had no faith in Folk making any kick. Heck, many GGN writers said it. Heck, I said it. I don't think anybody feels that way tonight. Great job, Nick. He was also much better on kickoffs than I had seen in a long time. Conditions were perfect, but everything was getting to the goal line. There was even a touchback.
Tanner Purdum: Again, the long snapper's job is to do just that, snap it long. It's a basic play. When you execute with the season on the line, though, you get special mention.
Steve Weatherford's Hold: Same concept. It was a basic play, but Weatherford executed it. Nice work.
Antonio Cromartie: I think when a team loses the lead and needs a drive in the final minute, the most important play is the kickoff return. Cromartie's 47 yard return to midfield made the offense's work much easier. Had the Jets not had such great field position, Mark Sanchez would have had to start forcing things downfield and make much lower percentage throws. He had a 41 yard return earlier in the second half. I also didn't think he was that bad on Pierre Garcon even though Garcon went for 112 yards. I didn't think the 57 yard touchdown was his fault. He had outside coverage, and Brodney Pool was supposed to be there for help inside. Garcon's night is much more reasonable without that play.
Braylon Edwards: Most of his work actually came as a run blocker, where he played an unassuming but important role in the Jets' success running the ball. He was constantly getting a seal on his man. The most important play, though, was the great 18 yard catch on New York's final offensive play that changed a kick from a long one into a short one. Braylon has been criticized during his career because of some passes he hasn't been able to bring in. He used all of his 6'3" frame to make that catch. He was also open a number of times when Sanchez either wasn't looking for him or missed him.
Darrelle Revis: I went against the grain over the summer when I said he was worth as much as the Raiders were giving Nnamdi Asomugha. It might have sounded crazy to advocate giving a corner that kind of money, but tonight was the kind of night where Revis shows why he deserves the money he got. Reggie Wayne had 1 catch for 1 yard. You cannot underestimate the ability to take away an elite passing weapon with one player. Peyton Manning wasn't even looking in his direction by the end of the game.
Santonio Holmes: I'm not sure I'll ever know what was going through his mind on that first punt return, and that drop might have been very costly had things played out differently. I'll give him a pass, though, because that 11 yard reception on the last drive was huge.
Brian Schottenheimer's Halftime Adjustments: I thought Schottenheimer did great work at halftime adjusting his strategy. I didn't really have a problem with anything he did in the first half. His guys just were not executing. He went back to the drawing board. Mark Sanchez was air mailing every throw. He started giving Sanchez simple, safe throws. He also committed to pounding the football against the Colts' small front, which was missing its best run defender, Antonio Johnson. The Jets had an edge up front, and Schotty was willing to use it. When the run game worked, he did not shy away from it.
Offensive Line: The second half saw the Jets put together a 10 play touchdown drive eating up 5:00 and a 17 play touchdown drive eating up 10:00. It was primarily running the ball. When you have linemen consistently getting to linebackers, you are going to run it successfully. The Colts were regularly putting 8 to 9 men in the box, and the Jets still ran it for 169 yards. It was back to 2009 style ground and pound tonight, and the offensive line could not have been better. The best defense against Peyton Manning is to keep him off the field. Part of the reason the Jets gave up 16 points was that Manning only had it three times in the second half.
LaDainian Tomlinson: 16 rushes, 82 yards, and 2 touchdowns. He looked as explosive as he did early in the season, hitting his holes quickly and making people miss. The week off clearly did him some good. If only the Jets could have kept his carries down more during the regular season to keep him this fresh, he might have never hit the wall.
Shonn Greene: 70 yards on 19 carries for Greene. He grinded out a lot of tough yardage in that second half, ran through a lot of arm tackles and other contact, and helped to wear down that Colts front. The plan last year was supposed to be pound Greene to wear down Indy's front and keep Manning off the field. It happened this time.
Ben Hartsock: Hartsock also did great work as a blocker and even caught a pass.
Brandon Moore: Whenever I watched him, he was sealing a man.
Mark Sanchez: You could probably go either way on Mark tonight. He was dreadful in the first half. It felt like every throw he made, even the completions, was going too high. He was not getting on top of the ball. This included some bad misses and a terrible interception with the team in field goal range. The Jets gave him some easier passes to hit in the second half. He was on target. Quarterbacks can make up for rough games by making plays to win it. How does 3 for 3 on the final drive for 34 yards sound with the season on the line?
Mike Devito: The Colts were having trouble handling him. He blew up a number of plays. He also finished with 6 tackles, a lot for a lineman in this scheme. He was a big reason the Colts only ran it for 3.4 yards per carry.
Eric Smith: I said Rex Ryan shouldn't play Smith. Once again we see why Rex Ryan is coaching the team, and I am writing for this blog. Smith was fantastic. He had 10 tackles and was excellent in coverage on Indy's backs and tight ends. It was a great job by Smitty.
Brodney Pool: I blame the Garcon touchdown on him. He was late helping Cromartie. Otherwise, he was also fantastic. He had 7 tackles, and 3 of them were of the open field variety on third down to stop a Colts drive. The lesson? Pool should be used near the line in run support and man coverage, not in deep zone.
David Harris: Harris was all over the run game, finishing with 9 tackles. There is no doubt getting him a new contract should be the top priority once this season ends.
Drew Coleman: He got toasted a couple of times, but Blair White had a pedestrian 6 catches for 54 yards. He was in good coverage on the play that forced a Colts field goal and gave the Jets a chance to get the ball back.
Dustin Keller: He only had 3 catches for 42 yards, but they were clutch catches to move the chains. He also did a great job getting open in the first half. Sanchez just missed him.
Trevor Pryce: It might not make it into the box score, but the Colts had a very difficult time blocking him in the fourth quarter.
Jerricho Cotchery: 15 yards on his only punt return. Intelligently fair caught everything else.
Robert Turner: Not my favorite player but threw the key block on one of Tomlinson's touchdown runs.
Rex Ryan: I have to give Rex a lot of credit. The Jets really didn't use many exotic fronts or heavy blitz packages. Rex adjusted to Manning having been burned in the past by being too aggressive. The Jets played a ton of coverage. It worked. Even if the Colts only had it for 26:00, they got into the end zone once and scored 16 points. When Rex did attack, it was well timed like the all out blitz on Indianapolis' last offensive play that forced Manning to get rid of it.
Third Down Bomb: The Jets needed 5 yards to essentially salt the game away with 2:51 left. It was third and 5. Brian Schottenheimer dialed up a bomb to Braylon Edwards deep down the right sideline. As good as Schottenheimer was tonight, that call made absolutely no sense to me. It's a low percentage pass with a quarterback whose accuracy deep was off target all night. The Colts were likely to send the house. They did. The Jets had mismatches with both Edwards and Holmes. Run a crossing pattern. Run a screen to Tomlinson with the rush coming. There were so many better plays to run in that spot. Had the Jets lost, you better believe this awful call would have been a bigger deal.
Calvin Pace: He got a cheap sack at the end of the first half, but the Jets generated little to no pressure on Manning all night. That's an indictment of the man making big bucks to provide a pass rush.
Jason Taylor: Ditto.
Steve Weatherford's Punting: Only a 34.4 average and 1 out of 5 downed inside the 20. 4 touchbacks were most frustrating. He wasn't putting the right spin on his ball to give his gunners the best chance to down it deep.
Marquice Cole: Cole missed chances to down a pair of those touchbacks inside the 10. Neither was an easy play, but this is the biggest time of the year. Plays need to be made.
Santonio Holmes' Punt Return: Why come so close to the ball and have it risk hitting you if you aren't going to return it? That was one of the dumbest plays you'll ever see.
Putting Holmes Back There: With Cotchery returning punts so well, why on earth did the Jets stick a less reliable out there?
Brad Smith: Maybe it was the injured groin, but Smith made an awful decision to take back the one kick from 7 yards deep in the end zone and gave his team an 87 yard field. In the Tiger package, I counted 3 bad reads he made on options.
Mark Sanchez's First Half: Almost every throw he made was too high. Injuries aren't an excuse. Everybody is banged up at this time of the year.
D'Brickashaw Ferguson's First Half: Brick was great in the second half, but he didn't look like he could handle Dwight Freeney in the first half. Freeney was getting near Sanchez all the time. It might have cost the Jets a touchdown when Santonio Holmes was running free, and Freeney laid a hand on Mark's shoulder as he was throwing.
- You want to know what Rex Ryan was talking about when he complimented Peyton Manning's film study? Go to the third and long run he checked to when Jason Taylor moved from standing over right guard to outside left tackle, leaving the right side unoccupied. The run resulted in a first down. Cris Collinsworth was astounded and said he didn't know how Manning knew Taylor was going to leave before he did. It was a subtle tendency picked up on film.
- Collinsworth is not my favorite analyst, but he hits on a critical point everytime he does a Jets game that no other announcer mentions. Antonio Cromartie should always play physical bump and run coverage. He is so strong that when he uses his hands to redirect a receiver, it is next to impossible to get open on him. A receiver pretty much has to race Cromartie at an even starting point. Against a guy as big, fast, and athletic as Cro, it's very difficult to get separation. When Cromartie is in off coverage, it is not a contest of athleticism. A receiver can make cuts, to which Cro is not good responding.
So this season goes on. This Jets team showed a tremendous amount of heart tonight. It looked like the season was over. The team kept fighting. On to New England we go.