The Jets are 2-1 after defeating the Bills today 27-20 at MetLife Stadium. It looked like it was going to be an easy win for the Jets. Then it looked like it was going to be the kind of crushing collapse this team has given its fans all too often through the decades. Then one huge play and some quality defense delivered a win. Join me below as we recap this Week 3 triumph.
Santonio Holmes: You know how I have been saying since the third week of preseason that Geno Smith is delivering some really great deep passes, and if his receivers could only help him out, the Jets would have some huge plays? Today Holmes finally showed what happens when the receivers do make that play. He had 5 catches for 154 yards, none bigger than the 69 yard touchdown catch. He focused, made a difficult catch, and took the ball into the end zone. Last week I commented on how Holmes looked like a shell of his former self athletically. In ten days, it seemed like he regained a ton of explosiveness. It wasn't just the numbers he put up. He looked like his old self. That could be a major development for this offense because a healthy Holmes can make a huge difference on offense. It sure beats Clyde Gates seeing major snaps.
Stephen Hill: I don't have a ton of major expectations for Hill, but I do want to see a few things from him. I want him to show the ability to shake a defender deep. I also want him to show that he can punish a defense that doesn't respect his ability to get down the field or blows a deep assignment. Hill did those things today with 3 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. A pair of his receptions were over 45 yards. Again, it's amazing how different quarterback play can look when his receivers give him windows to deliver the ball. Amazingly, Hill is currently on pace for over 1,200 receiving yards.
Geno Smith: It was not a clean performance by the rookie quarterback. There were two more interceptions. The first one was partially the result of throwing late over the middle. That's never a good thing. There was still a play there, but Geno underthrew the ball. That one was ugly. The second one might have been even uglier. It seemed like Geno stared down a receiver and didn't see Kiko Alonso in coverage. That one was especially bad because of time and score. The Jets had a double digit lead in the second half. Buffalo was doing nothing. At that point of the game, avoiding mistakes is the most important thing. The last thing you want to do is hand the other team an opportunity to get back in and seize momentum. Geno also made a really puzzling throw into the flat late in the fourth quarter with the Jets leading, but that one might have been a miscommunication.
So now that we have it out of the way that Geno didn't protect the ball as he should have, let's say something else. You can live with mistakes from a quarterback, if he makes up for them by making big plays. Geno did that. He averaged over 11 yards per pass and had five completions of 18 yards or more. It has been a rare event in recent times for the Jets' offense to look explosive in recent memory, but this team looked like a big play offensive unit today with 513 yards. In only his third NFL start, Geno threw for 331 yards.
His receivers gave him windows down the field, and Geno took advantage. The game's most important play, however, was just as much about Geno as anything. There was a lot to love on that play. He recognized the coverage. He recognized the matchup. He delivered an absolute rope with pinpoint accuracy, which had to be delivered with pinpoint accuracy. That throw was as good as it gets under any circumstances.
It looks even better when you consider the circumstances. The Jets had just blown a big lead. It felt like the game was snowballing against them. A few veterans on this team were losing their composure, and the rookie made the play of the game to turn things around.
Beyond that, Geno also looked better when faced with a pass rush. Although the offensive line generally kept him clean, he hung in and delivered good throws while being hit, including on the touchdown to Hill..
Geno also looked good as a runner. He had an 8 yard touchdown run and ran an effective zone read. He does not look like a gamebreaker in the mold of Colin Kaepernick, but he looks like a guy who can make a defense pay for giving him room.
It's one game. Don't blow it out of proportion. There are still things to clean up. Heck, he's still on pace to break the single-season interception record. There was a lot to feel good about today, though.
Bilal Powell: Who the heck was this guy? Today we saw a back who could create his own yardage. He ran through contact and made people miss. The blocking was good and gave him good yardage. Powell created even more. When he needed to run with power, he did. When he needed to get around somebody, he did. A guy with more athleticism might have taken a few of those runs the distance, but that's a nitpick. You can't complain about 27 carries and 149 yards.
Offensive Line: Like many of his teammates, Vladimir Ducasse had a penalty problem, but this group functioned as a top notch unit. They got a good push and opened holes in the run game. More impressively, a Bills team that likes to show a lot of different looks and had six sacks last week had none this week against a rookie quarterback who had shown a problem with holding the ball too long.
Jeremy Kerley: The Jets made big plays on the outside, but Kerley was there in the middle to make the Bills pay when an opportunity presented itself. He only had a pair of catches, but one was an 18 yarder to extend the first touchdown drive.
Jeff Cumberland: Cumberland served as the big safety valve Kellen Winslow II was in Week 1. He had 3 catches for 26 yards.
Muhammad Wilkerson: Like his teammates, he had something of a penalty problem, but the Bills just could not block him. He caused even more problems than his 6 tackle, 2 sack, 1 forced fumble line would indicate. One of the sacks destroyed a drive that was the Bills' last realistic chance to win.
Damon Harrison: It was surprising to see that he only had 2 tackles because it felt like he had a much bigger impact. Harrison has looked like the answer at nose tackle these first three weeks. He also is starting to look like more than the typical effective nose tackle who ties up blockers and keeps his linebackers clean. He is starting to get off his blocks and getting a push against the pass. He helped force a sack by moving Manuel into another defender.
Sheldon Richardson: Richardson was that defender and added that sack to his total. He seemed to be winning his assignments, moving well, and giving the Bills problems blocking him.
Leger Douzable: He saw time as a sub, won his assignments, and registered a tackle.
Demario Davis: Davis did a little bit of everything. He was tough against the run with 6 tackles. He penetrated to redirect runners and occupy blockers, which allowed his teammates to clean up. He was disruptive as a blitzer and had a sack. He also defensed a pass that prevented a touchdown. This has looked like a bounceback year for David Harris. Harris appears off to his best start since 2010. It's also the first time since 2010 that he has a partner playing effectively next to him. That probably is no coincidence.
David Harris: Another 7 tackles and a sack today. He was once again disruptive.
Antonio Cromartie: Even though he was responsible for a big completion by getting lost in zone coverage, this was Cromartie's best game of the season. He generally blanketed his man in coverage.
Darrin Walls: Walls also did quality work in coverage.
Dee Milliner: It seemed like Milliner's playing time was reduced this week. The Bills went after him a few times when he was in there, but he held up for the first time all year. This was probably a better plan. Give the rookie less work and let him get his feet wet with a simpler load.
Dawan Landry: Landry looked like he did a solid job in the back of the defense. He had a sack, made a hit that would have forced a fumble had the officials gotten a call right, and had 4 tackles.
Antwan Barnes: He started making an impact in the fourth quarter drawing an important penalty and delivering a big hit on Manuel.
Ryan Quigley: When the Jets needed a big time punt, he buried the Bills deep in the waning seconds, effectively ending the game.
Nick Folk: He was perfect on a pair of field goals, one of which was a difficult 47 yarder. He was also a touchback machine. It's going to be sad once the weather gets colder, and his kickoff distance decreases.
Rex Ryan: In a world where Geno Smith does not make that throw to Santonio Holmes, Rex Ryan is topic number one. This was a clinic in how to not manage a game. He wasted challenges. That could have proven costly. The first one I can forgive. The Jets were probably going to take a timeout to talk over a fourth down play anyway. They took a shot to try and save a timeout. Doing that means you have to manage the second one differently. You had better not immediately use the second one and clearly get it wrong. That left the Jets with one timeout in the second half. That could have been costly. The same thing goes for the Jets being left without a challenge. The officials missed two E.J Manuel fumbles, and the Jets could do nothing about it.
Ryan finally pulled Kyle Wilson on the series of Buffalo's tying touchdown, but it was four penalties too late. He was too slow on the trigger to bench a guy who was killing the team and had clearly lost his composure. This cost the team dearly.
Those penalties were among 20 the Jets committed on the day. They melted down in this regard in all phases. It was a lack of discipline that can only be blamed on the coaching staff. Before anybody says otherwise, Ryan himself in his postgame press conference said the number of penalties are his fault.
This is the kind of game that gets coaches fired. What we saw was a head coach who couldn't run the game. He wasted his resources and didn't take the steps necessary to get his team composed. He watched as things spiraled out of control. It took a rookie to get the ship straight. It was only one game, but Rex had better fix things. If we see more games like this, the Jets are going to lose a lot more of them than they win, and there will be a new coach in 2014.
Kyle Wilson: It's a shame he's here because the Bills tested him a lot before the fourth quarter and he held up almost every single time. Then he decided to take a bunch of penalties, lose his composure, and help the Bills tie the game.
Calvin Pace: His stats look great, 8 tackles and a sack. Pace really did not look effective out there, though. He missed multiple tackles, one of which Fred Jackson turned into a 59 yard to set up a field goal. He also appeared to get lost on the tying touchdown. Overall, he didn't make much of an impact as a pass rusher. Manuel stepped right into the sack Pace got. Remember when people asked what the downside bringing Pace back on a minimum salary was? We saw it today. He played way too much because of his reputation and made a number of killer mistakes.
Quinton Coples: I'm not ready to write the move to edge rusher off, but he really did not look explosive at all today. He made a few plays in the run game, but he wasn't very effective as a pass rusher. It might well be a matter of him still recovering from the injury.
Clyde Gates: We knew he brought little to the table as a receiver. Today we saw him bring just as little as a kickoff return guy, three times taking the ball from the end zone short of the 20. He didn't show much ability to read his lanes or make people miss.
So the Jets are 2-1. They got a needed conference and division win. In an AFC East with a pair of 3-0 teams, a loss today would have been a tough pill to swallow. The Jets have a lot to work on, but they also controlled the play when the two teams lined up across from each other today. The reason the Bills were in this game had more to do with Jets miscues than what Buffalo did well. It seems like a lot of guys who were question marks entering the season are stepping up. That's a good thing.
Overall this one felt good. This is the kind of game the Jets probably would have found a way to lose a year ago. We'll see what it means going forward, but the bottom line for now is this team is back over .500.