The Jets ended their two game losing streak with a 28-24 win over the Buffalo Bills today at MetLife Stadium. New York is now 6-5 and still somehow in the AFC Playoff picture. This was not the prettiest effort. The Jets did not really resolve any of the concerns the fans had. They still got themselves back into the win column.
More after the jump.
Plaxico Burress: Burress had a pair of exceptional catches on the final New York drive that resulted in the winning touchdown. He also had a touchdown grab earlier on his way to a 4 catch, 54 yard, 1 touchdown afternoon. Burress was not perfect. He left some plays on the field, but the Jets do not win today if he does not make some spectacular plays.
Dustin Keller: Like Burress, Keller had a couple of balls he could have come down with, but he also made some great grabs on some errant throws. He had 4 catches for 54 yards, and 2 touchdown grabs.
Santonio Holmes: You know how for months the Jets kept faking end arounds to Holmes consistently on run plays? They finally took advantage of setting teams up for it today, running Holmes twice for 28 yards. He also had the winning touchdown, a 16 yard grab on a broken play. Improvising with Ben Roethlisberger is where he helped make a name for himself in Pittsburgh. That touchdown catch was reminiscent of what he did there.
Offensive Line: These guys were really the standouts of the game for the Jets. In past weeks, part of Mark Sanchez's problem has been getting rattled by being hit so much. The line was not responsible for Sanchez's issues today. He frequently had plenty of time. The Bills did not register a sack and generally were never close. They also blew the Bills off the ball in the running game, especially in the second half.
Shonn Greene: As the year has gone on, I have loved what I have seen from Greene more and more. He took advantage of those huge hole, averaging 6 yards per carry on a 13 carry, 78 yard game. He was exploding through holes and finishing his runs.
Joe McKnight: Good things happen when you get him the ball. He had 40 yards from scrimmage on 7 offensive touches. This includes an ugly shovel pass late in the game in which he had no chance. Just as significant, he had a big blitz pickup on one of Burress' big grabs on the final drive. He is starting to come along as a pass blocker. Things get interesting now. The Jets have been leery of using Joe on offense. Frankly, based on how he is playing, it is difficult to justify LaDainian Tomlinson getting touches over him once LT is healthy. Will it be about seniority or production?
David Harris: He was making plays all over the field. He tied Darrelle Revis for the team lead with 8 tackles and had a sack. The difference is Harris was making big plays to limit Buffalo's success on the ground while Revis was making tackles after Bills completions against him. This was the guy the Jets wanted to see when they gave him that big contract extension.
Aaron Maybin: Let's not turn this into some story where Maybin was slighted by the Bills and gets revenge. He was complete bust for them and by most accounts had a bad attitude his entire time in Buffalo. He deserved to be cut. With that said, I am thrilled he is making as much of an impact as he is. I was against bringing him in, and Aaron has proven me completely wrong. He has been a force as a situational pass rusher with 2 sacks today. The biggest play he made, though, came on the final drive. He applied pressure that forced Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw early and miss Stevie Johnson in the end zone for the winning score.
Sione Pouha: Pouha dominated the point of attack just like he did in the first meeting. He finished with 4 tackles and drew blockers to allow Harris to make plays when he didn't. Buffalo had just about no success running up the middle.
Mike Devito: Devito was also very stout at the point of attack. He drew a pair of holding penalties in this one.
Muhammad Wilkerson: Here is another lineman who held up well. Every week it feels like we get a flash of the kind of monster Wilkerson is going to become once he figures things out on the pro level. He had a couple tackles for a loss today.
Ropati Pitoitua: Ropati was quiet but effective today.
Nick Folk: It would be great if he could make those touchbacks a trend.
Kyle Wilson: Wilson was probably the best corner the Jets had today. The Bills tested him a few times, but he held his own. The completions he allowed were not really bad within the context of time, down, and distance.
Emanuel Cook: He showed great awareness locating and falling on the ball on the kickoff that accidentally hit him. It set up a big touchdown.
Mark Sanchez: It is like I said about Tim Tebow a week ago. It is great he performed in the clutch, and Mark did perform in the clutch. He made some good reads and put the ball where it needed to be. Improvising on the winning score was fantastic. What he did the first 55:00 of the game was not nearly good enough and will not be good enough for the team to have a chance most weeks. I think you would be hard pressed to find a less productive 4 touchdown game.
Sanchez did not seem to understand the coverage shells the Bills played against him today. He forced too many balls when there was safety help deep and the corners could squat on anything short. He easily could have had more than one interception. The irony is the one people will point to is the one in the red zone that I did not think was a bad read. Sanchez had Patrick Turner. He just needed to elevate the football better on that one. There were other instances, though, where he did make potentially big mistakes.
His accuracy was not good either. He finished under 50% on the day. Even among his completions, you could probably count the number that were on target on one hand.
Hopefully the touchdown gets his confidence up because it feels like he is trying to make too much happen and rushing his reads.
Coaching: From top to bottom, the coaching really left a lot to be desired out there. I know this is perhaps speculative, but the Jets really did not show a ton of urgency early in a must win game. They sleepwalked through the first half.
The question of whether Mark Sanchez or Brian Schottenheimer is the problem is a fake one right now. Both are. To suggest Sanchez's poor play excuses Schottenheimer for what he is doing poorly is wrong. Schottenheimer's job is to make the most of what he has. He is not doing that. What he had was a quarterback struggling with confidence and not making good reads. He did not give Sanchez easy throws to put him into a comfort zone. He gave him a ton of difficult throws down the field. Today's game plan was the opposite extreme of what the Jets had done all year long. They usually never tested an opponent down the field. Today it was all taking shots. Where is the happy medium?
The Jets offensive line was blowing the Bills off the ball. Why not focus on building on the run game? I am not sure the Jets have the personnel to be a successful power run team in the long term without Damien Woody or the ability to use Wayne Hunter or Robert Turner as extra tight ends. This week, it could have worked. The Jets averaged 6 yards per run. They threw it 60% of the time today. That doesn't make sense. Neither does Joe McKnight getting two touches with the offense struggling in the first half. Why not utilize the biggest playmaker on the roster? What took so long. Speaking of things that did not make sense, let's talk about the series after a touchdown drive. The Jets built what they did on that touchdown drive off the power run game. The next time they get it, they try three throws down the field. How about the first half when the Jets threw a fade to Santonio Holmes, the starting receiver who is not 6'5." Sanchez is a problem. That does not excuse the coaches for failing to utilize their team in the most likely way to find success.
I also wonder whether Sanchez is getting the kind of detailed instruction from his coaches about his fundamentals that Rich Gannon provided on CBS today. It feels like whenever Sanchez struggles, we get a gimmick. We get a color code. We get, "Don't make mistakes." We get a buzzer to time how quickly he gets the ball out. Charley Casserly noted in the CBS pregame how Sanchez's fundamentals are messed up lately because he is rushing things. That is probably a result of the buzzer. What the Jets have is a quarterback struggling to identify coverage shells, and their solution seems to be, "Brunell, take some snaps with the first team."
The coaching issues go beyond Schottenheimer, though. The Jets had to burn two timeouts today because they messed up personnel on defensive substitutions. Who is in charge of making sure the right people are on the field? Every week it feels we see them messing up personnel groupings. Why does this keep happening?
And Mike Westhoff has to take a hit this week for putting Antonio Cromartie back there on a punt. Jim Leonhard had the wind knocked out of him, but why pick Cromartie? Cro has problems with catching kickoffs with nobody bearing down on him. Find somebody with better hands. Everybody saw that fumble coming.
The blame ultimately must fall on the head coach. We all love Rex Ryan, but when so many of his deputies are not doing the job, he needs to correct things.
Darrelle Revis: It was the odd bad game for Revis. He was not very physical in press coverage. There was only one time he was really beaten downfield by Stevie Johnson. Johnson just kept getting inside him on slants. Maybe Revis was overcompensating after Johnson beat him deep in the first meeting. He wanted to make sure Johnson could not beat him long.
Garrett McIntyre: It felt like the Bills were really targeting him in the run game in the first half. A lot of C.J. Spiller's successful runs were outside at McIntyre when the linebacker failed to set the edge.
Bart Scott: Bart left a couple of plays on the field getting beaten in space and failing to set the edge.
Antonio Cromartie: The Brad Smith touchdown was not his fault from the standpoint he was in good position in coverage and did not allow a clean reception. It was just a lucky bounce. It was his fault from the standpoint he fumbled the punt. Just because he should not have been out there does not excuse his failure to catch the punt. If it was a tough play, he should have just let it go. The Jets had just taken the lead and gotten a quick stop. Getting it back was the most important thing. Cro also missed a third down tackle to extend the field goal drive that gave the Bills the lead and was legitimately beaten a few times in coverage.
Receivers Leaving Plays on the Field: Burress, Holmes, and Keller were productive. There was more they could have done to pick up a struggling quarterback, though. I counted at least seven passes that were incomplete in part because somebody failed to run a sharp route, did not come to the ball, or did not extend for it. Sanchez's throws were a bit off the mark. These were balls that COULD have been caught, not SHOULD have been, but receivers picking up a quarterback can make a difference.
Brodney Pool: We all wanted him to see more time at Eric Smith's expense. We got our wish today. Pool was not good. He took bad angles to ball carriers, had a facemask penalty, and was beaten in coverage, including on a play that could have resulted in a winning touchdown for Buffalo with a better throw.
- This game was certainly frustrating. I cannot help think about the past, though. How many times have the Jets been the bad opponent that the other team plays a sloppy game against but ekes out a victory? It is nice to finally have a team that is good enough and has the kind of expectations to not be fully satisfied after a win.
Much work remains, but the good news is the Jets are back in the win column and still in the Playoff race. There is still time to fix things out. It is all about staying alive so the team has a shot to get hot at the right time. Sometimes you need to get away with one like New York did today.