What started as what seemed to be another disaster in the making gradually shaped into a well managed and solid victory over the St. Louis Rams on the road. In the first quarter many users were frustrated with Sparano and the offense that has been underperforming ever since a collapse late last year under the tenure of Tony's predecessor who he faced today. The day overall turned out much better for Gang Green, the offense picked up 17 first downs, 8 on the ground and 9 in the air. Balanced calls and great execution by the vast majority of the team ground down the Rams defense and the offense under Sam Bradford and Brian Schottenheimer simply could not keep pace.
Join me below as we look at what went right and how to harness it moving forward.
It Was Over When...
Bilal Powell scoring his second rushing touchdown pretty much sealed it.
Mark Sanchez as a game manager: Mark Sanchez slowly and quietly built a pretty darn good day, going 15 for 20 for 178 yards, a touchdown and no turnovers. On a day where Sanchez experienced little pressure from Tebow or elsewhere, he looked sharp and on target with his passes. Mark did lack poise and collapse under pressure a few times, he even got lucky that some loose balls weren't turnovers, but overall it was a pleasant surprise from the 4th year QB. If Sanchez played this good (not great, but good) every game there would probably be a lot more celebration threads on GGN.
An Evenly Distributed Running Game: Using a three back committee, the Jets resurrected the ground and pound for a net of 124 yards. Shonn Greene got the most touches (18 for 64 yards) and was laying the hits on defenders instead of the other way around. Greene found decent gaps with some good blocking up front and broke a few long runs for first downs, showing us the bruising rusher we've been looking for. Bilal Powell was effective, especially in the red zone, scoring twice against the Rams on the ground including an 11 yard TD run. Joe McKnight was dynamic but produced little in average yardage and was more effective on returns. Clyde Gates broke off one run for 12 yards.
LaRon Landry: The polarizing high-risk high-upside safety amassed 8 solo tackles and was credited by the statistician with 2 forced fumbles. LaRon Landry will both win and lose Gang Green some games, and arguably already has. When Landry is on target with his hits and sure with his tackling, it makes the difference between victory and defeat.
Turnover Differential: Both teams ran 65 plays for 4.3-4.4 yards per play. There was a 10 yard difference in rushing production and a 2 yard difference in net yards through the air. Both teams were tackled for losses several times. There was a 10 yard difference between the teams in penalties. The Jets held time of possession by 5 minutes and ran about 20 more running plays with less efficiency.
The offensive performances of both of these teams today are nearly indistinguishable from one another except for the turnover differential. The Jets came down with turnovers and the Rams did not, and this won the game for the Jets.
The Receiving Corps: Sanchez found 9 different receivers, 7 of them over 10 yards. Jeremy Kerley and Joe McKnight made a few moves that helped change the scope of the game.
Game Ball: Mo Wilk
Muhummad Wilkerson went 3-1 with a sack and a forced fumble, but his stat sheet from the game really doesn't do him justice. Wilks was a force to be reckoned with on and behind the line, and his forced fumble that Bart Scott returned 38 yards changed the game momentum in the Jets favor, and it never swung back. Wilkerson is coming up fast and is starting to show signs of really breaking out. The entire defensive effort deserves kudos, however. You know when Eric Smith is piling it on with the turnovers that you're having a good day.
Honorable Mention: Chaz Schilens
4 receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown. The Jets desperately needed someone to stand up and get open out of our raw and banged up receivers. I would not have predicted it would be Schilens to break out today, but his production makes him the unsung hero of the game.
Tim Tebow: I'm not really trying to pile on old Teebs here, but with the very limited opportunities Tim Tebow was given today, he did nothing with it. In fact, statistically speaking Tebow did less than nothing with it. The most notable was a failed punt fake. Tim Tebow threw one pass for a negative yard. On the ground Tebow ran twice for negative five yards. On a day where everyone contributed in some fashion, Tebow made a strong case against himself when many critics were calling for him to start.
Stephen Hill's hands: Stephen Hill looks promising, but was a statistical ghost and looked lost on at least one play. Hill also had some drops on a rare day where Sanchez looked very much on target with his passes.
Special Teams: Overall the units performance was less-than-good. Robert Malone was very sharp on 3 punts with a long of 58, the only reason his average is so low is because he did a fine job pinning the Rams inside the 20. Nick Folk had a long of 51 yards but only connected 50% of his kicks; one of those was a block and attributable to the entire unit. Joe McKnight had one spectacular kick return for 42 yards while Kyle Wilson was up and down on punt returns. Not a great effort from a unit we often rely on.
Yeremiah Bell: The Safety played hard and did some decent clean up, even pulling down a tackle for a loss. Bell also got burned in coverage and drew a flag in a mostly penalty-free game.
Antonio Cromartie: His coverage was very solid but he also got burned for a score. It was a quiet day for Cro, only a tackle on the stat sheet, but this is just as often a sign of a good CB play than bad. I'm kind of reaching for the ugly here, overall there was a lot to feel good about today.
Objectively, this may be too little too late. This game could also potentially be a turning point in the season whether in ends in playoffs or not. Even if the postseason is a foregone conclusion; and this year it's way too early to tell with this much parity, I don't believe in tanking for better drafting position or phoning it in. It's unsportsmanlike and it's not who the Jets are. Don't go overboard, GGN faithful, but you can lay head to pillow tonight knowing that the reports of our demise just may be greatly exaggerated.