Let's continue living in the past and return to the 2006 home opener against the Patriots. I don't think I've ever re-watched this game. Gang Green's first half performance was just too painful to live through again. New England grounded the Jets, and their offense seemed to uncannily know how the opponent planned to defend them.
There was already plenty of drama with HC Eric Mangini defecting from New England to become a head coach for the first time, and by the way, the youngest in the league that year, in case you didn't know. And in case you forgot, the trade of WR Deion Branch to the Seattle Seahawks added further drama as the receiver filed grievances against his former team, and the Patriots then accused the Jets of tampering. And then, of course, there was the famous handshake at the end of the game.
The Pats started on offense, and as the graphics of the Jets defense appeared, CBS Announcer Dick Enberg started describing the Patriots defense. Maybe it was a bad omen for Gang Green? Maybe not because it was a three and out for the Patriots.
LG Pete Kendall was injured in the previous game and was still out for this week with a hamstring. OL Norm Katnik started in between rookies LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson and C Nick Mangold. The Jets offense showed plenty of motions and shifts before the snap, as well as the muddle huddle. Short throws to TE Sean Ryan and WR Justin McCareins moved the chains. The quick throw to RB Derrick Blaylock, which they have showed plenty during the preseason and Game 1, was almost intercepted by Patriots CB Asante Samuel. On a 3rd and 5, Blaylock snuck out for a screen pass, allowing the defense to pressure Pennington, who threw it out of bounds near WR Laveranues Coles.
The defense couldn't rush the passer, and Patriots QB Tom Brady threw completions to WRs Troy Brown and Chad Jackson for about 11 and about 20. Another pass of about 13 yards to TE Benjamin Watson set them up near the red zone. Everyone stopped as some fan in the stands blew a whistle, and the play was reset. Patriots rookie RB Laurence Maroney had a big run to the 4 yard line, and it was 1st and goal. The defense couldn't hold as Patriots RB Corey Dillon ran for a 1 yard TD on 3rd and goal.
The Jets offense continued with shifts, the muddle huddle and a quick snap. Coles hauled in a 3rd down catch of about 20 yards. A fake reverse to WR Brad Smith allowed Blaylock to run for about 5 yards, resulting in a 3rd and 2. So far this season, it looks to me like Blaylock goes down pretty easy and either cannot or does not want to fight for yardage. 2 more yards by him would have been precious as the next pass was batted down by Patriots DT Richard Seymour.
The Patriots started from their own eleven, and in this possession they ran to move the chains. Jets great QB Joe Namath and Jets fans Adam Sandler and Kevin James were on the sidelines. The Pats then used three tight ends, and Brady found Patriots rookie TE David Thomas for a gain of 29. The defense lost track of him as he ran underneath. The next pass was another 29 yard play to Patriots TE Daniel Graham, with whom LB Eric Barton couldn't keep up. Brady couldn't connect with former Raiders WR Doug Gabriel, but WR Reche Caldwell caught a pass at the 8. Gabriel then dropped a pass in the end zone, and Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski added 3.
Pennington was able to launch a pass from his own 13 to the Patriots 35, but it hung in the air enough for three defenders to surround Coles and knock it down. FB Jamar Martin was called for holding. WR Jerricho Cotchery caught a quick pass and added some YACs. Patiriots DT Richard Seymour was able to pressure Pennington and force a punt.
Still not being able to get to the passer or stop the run, the defense set up for a blitz on 3rd and 5. Brady dumped off to Patriots RB Kevin Faulk on the left, and the defenders occupied their blockers enough to give CB Justin Miller a clear path to Faulk and stop him short.
The Jets offense continued employing shifts and quick snaps, but the Patriots offense were able to throw off Chad's timing. So far this season, halfbacks do not look reliable as safety valves. FB B.J. Askew wasn't able to adjust and catch a third down pass, and Mangini sent out his special teams. Brad Smith shifted to take the snap under LS James Dearth, but the Patriots were able to quickly call a timeout. Graham punted the ball afterwards.
Announcer Randy Cross pointed out that the Patriots seemed to be attacking NT DeWayne Robertson. DE Shaun Ellis was able to tackle Dillon for a loss, with D-Rob on the sidelines and NT Rashad Moore giving him a breather. Miller covered Brown well for an incompletion, forcing a punt.
After a completion to J-Co, RT Anthony Clement couldn't block Patriots LB Rosevelt Colvin, and Pennington was sacked. Once again, Blaylock didn't help in the protection as he was waited for a dump off pass. Blaylock dropped the pass on the next play. Blaylock stayed to protect on the next play, but Patriots LB Tedy Bruschi ran right by him. Pennington scrambled out of bounds, stopping the clock and giving Brady about a minute to work. Graham then punted for 10 yards, which put the ball at the 50.
Without any pressure, Brady found Watson at the 13, as Barton couldn't keep up with him. Without any pressure, Brady found Jackson in the end zone. CB Andre Dyson couldn't cover him one on one, as the safeties stayed to cover the tight ends underneath. The score at halftime was 17-0.
In the second half, Katnik was called for holding. Mangini was not happy. Patriots DB Ellis Hobbs was called for interference against Coles. The announcers talked about Patriots DB Rodney Harrison getting insight by attending a referee camp. Barlow ran hard and seemed to be on a bit of a roll, but on 3rd and 1, OC Brian Schottenheimer called for a fake toss to Kevan and an inside hand-off to Askew, who couldn't get the yard behind Clement. Only needing a couple of inches, Mangini decided to go for it, but the line couldn't get a push, and it ended on a two yard loss. Mangini was not happy, while Patriots HC Bill Belichick couldn't help but show a tiny slight hint of a crack of a smile.
The Jets defense continued the trend of not getting to the QB. LB Victor Hobson couldn't cover Faulk and was called for pass interference at the Jets 12. After a holding call by Watson, FS Kerry Rhodes was able to knock down a pass intended to the TE. A blitz by SS Erik Coleman forced an errant throw. Coleman came again on 3rd and 20 and held Faulk as he tried to release. So the Jets didn't capitalize on the Patriots' mistake and instead made a mistake of their own. Three consecutive runs by Maroney resulted in a touchdown.
The Jets offense still couldn't run it as Barlow was tackled for a one yard loss. Pennington tried a play action to RB Leon Washington, but Brick couldn't block Patriots DE Jarvis Green. Patriots LB Junior Seau gave Gang Green new life by an illegal contact against J-Co, and again Chad tried play action with Leon. Brick lost his feet against his man and Askew couldn't pick him up. Chad tried to scramble, but Patriots DT Vince Wilfork shoved RG Brandon Moore and got the sack. Schotty called a run on 2nd and 12, and Leon lost a yard.
On 3rd and 13 from the Jets 28, Pennington completed to J-Co at the 50. Patriots CB Eugene Wilson tried to tackle him low, while Patriots DB Chad Scott went high. Cotchery landed on Wilson's back, got up and ran to the end zone. This was a heads up play by J-Co as everybody else thought he was down. I remember seeing this play all over the highlights that week, even though the local Fox sports guy called him Jeremy Cotchery.
The Pats gained yards on the ground. With a 24-7 lead, Brady tried to force it deep to Gabriel, and CB David Barrett intercepted it. The Jets continued losing yardage on the ground. OL Adrian Jones came in for Katnik and actually knocked down Barlow. Completions to Coles helped moved the chains. A hard count drew Wilfork offsides, who proceeded to push Chad to the ground. The offsides was declined and unnecessary roughness accepted.
Chad threw underneath to Coles who, with help from a block by Baker, broke free from four tackles and ran into the endzone. Mangini refused to smile. The defense came out more agressive and blitzed. Brady had some success, including a completion to Brown, but Rhodes finally got to him later and stripped the ball away and OLB Bryan Thomas recovered. Coles again showed some moves after the catch and converted a first down. Coles then completed to McCareins and then to Cotchery. The Jets couldn't run the ball, and on 3rd and 8, the Patriots put 7 right at the line, which confused the protection and allowed a sack by Patriots LB Mike Vrabel. K Mike Nugent made the field goal, while Pennington received a talking to by Mangini.
The Jets defense stayed agressive and sent people, which allowed them to be there to stop the run. However, Brady was able to complete a pass to Faulk for a first down. Dillon then ran over Rhodes for another first. Brady completed to Brown for yet another first. A screen to Faulk gave them another first down. The Jets called their final time out. Dillon went down to injury, and as he sat on the bench, the CBS camera tried to shoot him from behind. Some Patriots assistant then proceeded to stand in front of the camera to obstruct the view, standing there smugly with his hands crossed.
Gostkowski attempted a kick, and Bryan Thomas blocked it, recovered by Vilma. Mangini made a fist pump, and Jets fans were filled with hope. Pennington moved the ball with completions to Coles, Blaylock and McCareins. With 15 seconds left at the Jets 45, Brad Smith came in, and the announcers assumed they would use him for a long throw. They also wondered whether QB Patrick Ramsey should take over in that situation because of his stronger arm. Ramsey did have his helmet on though. Pennington threw it to the Patriots 20, where both Coles and McCareins where in the area, but Harrison saw it coming and tipped it towards Bruschi. Kneel down. Game over. Hand shake.
Watching this game was a bit therapeutic. It was definitely easier to watch being five years removed from it. This game illustrated how much different both teams were. The Patriots could protect and run, while the Jets couldn't rush and stop the run. The Jets couldn't protect and run the ball. Their backs weren't a good safety valve and dropped the passes, while the Jets linebackers couldn't cover the backs and tight ends.
Tomorrow we'll return to the Jets game against the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.