Ugly? You bet. Embarrassing? For the first three quarters it certainly was. But despite all of the negatives surrounding this game, in the end the Jets emerged alive, and this game could easily serve as the catalyst for the transformation of the 2011-2012 New York Jets, back into the kind of team that went to Lombardi’s doorstep in each of the two previous seasons. Crazier things have happened.
Consider 2009. The Jets started 4-6, then won 5 of their last 6 to make the playoffs, changing from a team with a great defense and mediocre offense, to a team that executed better, played smash-mouth, run first football en route to a deep playoff run. The Jets win against Buffalo puts them in a very similar position as the Jets of 2009 after the 17-6 win over the Panthers. This is a team that put themselves in this situation with a string of terrible losses, but has the potential to dig all the way out of this hole thanks to a big win against the Bills. That win could be the start of the Jets transformation back to the team we all grew to love during the last two seasons.
The talent is there. A vast majority of this team has underperformed this season, from the offensive line to the secondary, to the quarterback, but the pieces are there for the Jets to put it together. Even though the Sanchez was totally out of synch with Plax and Santonio Holmes for much of the afternoon, they put it together at the end, and were able to manufacture the game winning touchdown drive. Sound familiar? Every game last year was a nail biter, even when the Jets were playing the dregs of the NFL! It was a testament to their toughness and late game execution that they were able to pull off miracle wins against Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, and the list goes on. Yesterday certainly had shades of that, and if that is one step in the right direction for a team that still has time to come together and continue (forgive me for using a Rex propaganda term) to play like Jets.
It all starts with execution. All year this team has made a plethora of mind numbing mistakes. Even yesterday we saw it, with the Jets having to many men on the field and having to burn a timeout when the Bills were driving, Cromartie dropping a punt, Sanchez throwing a horrific interception, and the defense totally melting down when the Bills were driving to win it on the last drive. But all’s well that ends well, and despite all of that, the Jets are still in a position to be successful this year, by transforming from the imposters that took the field in green jerseys for the first three quarters yesterday. For most of this season the Jets have played soft, had horrific mental lapses, bad turnovers, and got away from their identity as a tough team. The comeback win against the Bills can be the moment where this talented Jets team went back to their roots, and played high execution football, and ended up running the table en route to a wildcard spot.
Many may be thinking that this team doesn’t have the pieces, schemes or coaching to get back to their winning ways. Well look at the first Bills game, and the fourth quarter of both the Charger and second Bills games. For those fleeting moments the Jets were back! This bumbling squad that threw away the Denver game was replaced by the ghosts of last year, who found a way to get it done through better game execution, especially in late game situations. This could still become the norm for this year’s team. There still is time for the Jets to change, and this team has the coaching and the players to rekindle yesterday’s magic for the rest of the season.
Maybe it started when Steve Johnson did his touchdown dance. Maybe that will be the moment where the Jets came back to life. When they finally got tired of being mocked, booed, and derided by much of the league, and turned into the bullies that terrorized the NFL for the last two years. Maybe they’ll say "Enough is enough" and step up, execute better, and win out. There is no reason why it can’t be done. If we look back in January and the Jets are out, we can look at this fourth quarter as an anomaly for a team that was truly mediocre. But despite everything that has happened, we still could look back at yesterday as the day where the Jets rediscovered themselves. They still believe, and after yesterday, we should too.