The 2013 New York Jets continue to confound. One week after losing by 40 points, the Jets beat the 6-1 Saints, a Super Bowl favorite halfway through the year. The Jets enter their bye 5-4 and squarely in the mix in the AFC Playoff race. Let's recap below.
Chris Ivory: This was exactly what many of us had in mind when the Jets acquired the running back from the Saints late on the second day of the NFL Draft. He ran for 139 yards on 18 carries and scored a touchdown, an absurd average of 7.7. Ivory showed it all. He ran physically through arm tackles. He grinded out extra yards after being wrapped up. He showed a second gear once he hit the open field and showed enough stretch to get to the corner on outside runs. Only time will tell if this was a one time thing in a game where he was motivated against his former team, which struggles to stop the run. Either way, Ivory was superb and keyed the Jets offensively.
Marty Mornhinweg: I loved his approach. He was facing a team that could not stop the run. He had a rookie quarterback. His receiving corps was depleted by injuries. They were full of inexperienced guys who had little chemistry with said rookie quarterback. The quarterback had no way of knowing how to expect them to run their routes. These receivers were also short on ability, but they were athletic enough to make some plays once the ball was in their hands. Mornhinweg adapted with a steady diet of running plays and basic passing plays. There were many screens to get the ball into the hands of guys who could make plays. Something this simple will not work against every opponent, but there was no reason to get away from it if it worked in this game. It was a credit to the offensive coordinator that he didn't.
Rex Ryan/Dennis Thurman: The first viewing on TV cameras makes it impossible to say for sure, but it seemed like the scheme the Jets ran got into Drew Brees' head. The Saints were discombobulated before the snap and had to burn four presnap timeouts in this game. Brees also looked uncomfortable at times when going through his progressions. He seemed uncomfortable with what the Jets were showing him. The Jets seemed to do a good job with the scheme.
Muhammad Wilkerson: He was constantly in the backfield on Saints passing plays. He forced Brees to move in the pocket consistently in the first half, which is never comfortable for a quarterback. He had a sack in the second half and drew a critical holding penalty.
Sheldon Richardson: He was stout as always against the run and got good penetration as a pass rusher as the game wore on.
Quinton Coples: This was the plan. While Richardson and Wilkerson have had excellent seasons, 2013 has been a struggle for Coples up to this point. The idea was the Jets were supposed to have three first round picks causing havoc on the defensive line. Coples finally started living up to his end of the bargain today. I counted three hits on the quarterback, including one that destroyed a play on the final drive. He also had a critical fourth down tackle for a loss where he exploded to the ball. The Jets' defensive line took this game over in the second half.
Damon Harrison: The nose tackle on a defense that allowed 3.2 yards per rush.
Nick Folk: Perfect again in 4 tries. This week he hit from 21, 39, 45, and 47, not easy in the Meadowlands on a chilly day.
David Harris: He registered 10 tackles, and he moved in the second half about as well as I have ever seen him move, sticking with Jimmy Graham in coverage a couple of times and moving sideline to sideline nimbly.
Josh Cribbs: Cribbs was what the Jets wanted today. He had a big 42 yard return on a kickoff that set up a touchdown. It's always a good thing when the offense has to do less work. He also made some plays in spot duty on offense, a 25 yard completion on a pass out of the Wildcat and a 9 yard pickup on an end around. On an undermanned team, a guy who can provide extra yardage in unconventional ways has value.
Kenrick Ellis: His playing time was limited, but it seemed like he handled his assignments well.
Offensive Line: The right side in particular was blowing holes open for Ivory. Ivory then took over and turned them from nice gains into monster ones.
Antonio Cromartie: Not a great day for Cromartie by any stretch. He was burned for a deep completion and then a touchdown. He did register an interception, however, to set up a touchdown. That was a critical play where Cro showed good awareness to find the ball and then drag both feet on a tightrope sideline routine.
Dee Milliner: He got lucky when Nick Toon dropped a pass after burning Milliner deep, but Dee was very solid aside from that, making some really nice plays on the ball, including a deflection that would have turned into an interception if not for a penalty away from the ball.
Dawan Landry: He also made some nice plays in coverage, including a deflection that caused the first Drew Brees interception. He probably got away with a penalty, but they didn't call it so Landry gets credit.
Wide Receivers Blocking: When the Jets ran outside, it seemed like the Saints' cornerbacks were nowhere to be found in run support because the wide receivers were doing their job sealing them.
Greg Salas: I don't know how much upside he has, but he looked explosive with it in his hands on that 44 yard screen play.
Zach Sudfield: Ditto on that 21 yard catch and run. He added a 25 yard reception to go with that.
Geno Smith: This felt like one of those Mark Sanchez wins where he was asked to do next to nothing, and anything that wasn't a catastrophe could have won the game. So don't give Geno too much credit. He had to hit a bunch of screens and basic passes to open receivers. He did, however, avoid mistakes. The Jets couldn't afford to give an offense as dynamic as the one the Saints have any freebies. Geno didn't. He also had some nice runs, including that smooth touchdown.
The Home Crowd: The Saints' presnap issues also seemed to have something to do with the noise the crowd is making. People have made a lot about how the Jets have alternated wins and losses this year. Let me throw something else out there. The Jets are 4-1 at home and 1-3 on the road. The home wins have included Super Bowl contenders New England and New Orleans. Wouldn't you expect an inexperienced team to play well in front of great friendly crowds and struggle in an unfamiliar setting?
Jaiquawn Jarrett: Being matched up with Jimmy Graham is a nightmare for even a lot of really good defensive backs, but Jarrett was beaten on a number of key completions, including a long touchdown. Give credit to Brees on that play. He moved in the pocket to elude pressure. Jarrett was a sitting duck at that point. The Jets' plan seemed to be to mix coverages a lot and hoped the pass rush would get to Brees before he recognized where he had the matchup he wanted. Jarrett was finished once that happened. Still, he got toasted too frequently.
Ryan Quigley: A 51 yard punt to the 19 late in the fourth quarter was the only thing that could help salvage an otherwise rough game.
Ricky Sapp: He was on the field on some critical pass rushing downs, but he got nowhere near the quarterback.
Math: The way the Jets ran the final 1:21 was inexplicable. They simply needed to kneel three times to end the game as the Saints only had one timeout. For some reason, they handed the ball off twice and then burned a timeout. Grantled, losing the game would have required a fumble, a Saints recovery, and a combined return and subsequent scoring drive of around 90 yards in 80 seconds. That wasn't likely, but the odds of that happening with the proper course of action of kneeling would have been zero. That's an inexcusable error by the coaching staff.
So this roller coaster season continues. We once again learned the Jets can play with anybody just as easily as they can lose anybody. This should make for an exciting finish to the season. Now we can enjoy this win for a couple of weeks.