The Jets fell to 3-3 today with a bad 16-13 overtime loss to the Raiders in Oakland. This part of the schedule appeared to be tailor made for Gang Green to make a run and get into good Playoff position for the home stretch. Instead, the team squandered a golden opportunity. This team is setting itself up for a gauntlet with very little margin for error the rest of the way.
Offensive Adjustments: The Jets opened the game in a five receiver set. This was a good approach with which to attack Oakland's defense. The Raiders have great starting corners so spreading the field forces the backups to play as well, who are easier to attack. Gang Green moved the ball well in its first drive for a field goal. Rob Ryan's defense adjusted and started sending pressure. Oakland got to Brett Favre consistently out of this formation. Brian Schottenheimer did not see any problem with leaving his quarterback vulnerable and neglected to leave in an extra blocker.
Part of calling a game is understanding the trends. The Jets picked up 4.3 yards per passing play. This is putrid. That number is even skewed a bit by a desperation drive that sent the contest to overtime. Gang Green averaged an outstanding 5.6 yards per play on the ground. Thomas Jones went off for 159 yards. The Jets threw 38 times and ran 33 times. This might seem like a good balance, but the results were clearly not balanced. Schottenheimer should have pounded it down Oakland's throat until the Raiders proved they could stop it.
Washington's Butterfingers: With the Jets in control of the game early, Leon Washington muffed a punt deep in Jets territory, setting up a field goal to put Oakland on the board and giving away momentum. He later had a toss from Favre slip through his fingers. Leon had to go back and fall on the ball. This effectively killed a promising drive near midfield. There is no excuse for these mental lapses. Both were the equivalent of a baseball player letting a ball go through his legs. Executing either play could have made the difference.
Favre Flinging It: Brett Favre had a pair of bad interceptions. The first was a force in the red zone that cost the Jets 3 points. The second came with New York trailing by a field goal late in the fourth quarter. He threw a ball deep with no receiver within a mile of his toss. It was an easy interception for DeAngelo Hall, which appeared to ice the game. He also forced a ball into traffic earlier in the game that could have been picked by Hall and given the Raiders the football in the red zone. The Favre responsible with the football for the better part of the first five weeks was not in Oakland this afternoon. It has to be somewhat disconcerting for the Jets. He is far too advanced in his career for the coaching staff to control this. Brett needs to make more responsible decisions.
Smith Over Stuckey: Jerricho Cotchery left the game for a time and was in the locker room. The reason was not clear. While he was out, Brad Smith lined up opposite Laveranues Coles. This did not make a lot of sense. Chansi Stuckey runs much better routes and has better hands. Having Smith go against one of Oakland's talented corners was a mismatch. It certainly not help a passing game stagnant for most of the game. There is a reason Stuckey is ahead of Smith on the depth chart. If you are choosing the guy for a gadget play in space, Brad is the man. He showed that on his first down run when he lined up at quarterback and his 36 yard end around to set up a tying touchdown. If you want a guy to play wide receiver in the NFL, Chansi is much better.
Baker's Fall: Chris Baker fell down running a fly pattern in overtime. He was wide open, and Brett Favre made a good pass. Had Baker kept his footing, he would have taken the ball well within field goal range if not into the end zone. That point in the game is a brutal time for an NFL player to forget how to do something as simple as running. It puts a bit of taint on an otherwise excellent game for the tight end, who finished with 5 receptions.
Linebackers Against the Run: The Raiders turned in the best rushing performance anybody has had this year against the Jets. They ran for 4.0 yards per carry. This figure dropped late in the game as Gang Green made adjustments, and Kris Jenkins took over the battle in the trenches. Still, the Raiders pounded the ball early. CBS' Randy Cross correctly pointed out how Raiders linemen were able to seal Jenkins. They, however, did not get much of a push. When they blocked him off, they still were at the line of scrimmage, leaving David Harris and Eric Barton relatively clean. The duo did not do a good job against the run. Jenkins' job is to keep blockers from getting to the second level. Any penetration he gets is a bonus. The onus is on the middle linebackers to make plays. The Raiders ran it far too successfully. Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace also struggled to shed blocks on too many outside runs and screens.
Pass Rush: The Jets entered the game tied for second in the league in sacks. The defense registered only one today, a coverage sack credited to Shaun Ellis right before the half. Thomas and Pace could not seem to beat their men, and the Jets seemed reluctant to blitz JaMarcus Russell. The rare off performance for the pass rush did not matter much as the young quarterback was off, but he was way too comfortable on several critical plays down the stretch.
Matchups: Javon Walker has the most natural ability of any receiver on the Oakland roster. He had a breakout game for the Raiders with 5 catches for 75 yards and a touchdown. The Jets should have made more of an effort to get Darrelle Revis on him instead of Dwight Lowery to slow him down.
Brett's Rally: Things looked bleak for the Jets when they got the ball back on their own 5 yard line with under 2:00 left. They trailed by a field goal. Brett Favre put together an amazing drive to get the Jets into field goal range as the team forced overtime. His poise was incredible in the face of a major pass rush. He made all of the right reads. This is the biggest area where Brett is an upgrade over Chad Pennington. Statistics cannot convey it. When the team is on the ropes, everybody in the huddle knows they have a chance because the guy throwing the ball is a legend who has come through time after time in impossible spots. Brett's presence fills the team with confidence. No opposing defense can feel good seeing number 4 on the other side with the game hanging in the balance. It does not matter even if he has had a lousy game with 2 interceptions. He is only one drive from turning it around. The Jets suffered a brutal loss, but it came with a reminder. They have a quarterback who can take them anywhere.
Brett's Block: Trailing 10-3 in the fourth quarter, the Jets called an end around for Brad Smith in the backfield. It looked like the Raiders had Smith dead for a loss when Favre threw a block that sprung Smith for a 36 yard pickup. The Jets would score a touchdown a few plays later. A lot of fans have become irritated in recent years by the media's deification of Favre, but that play exemplifies why he is so loved. The quarterback position in the NFL has become one of pretty boys. They make the most money and have rules protecting them from anybody breathing on them. Favre has put his body on the line like that for his entire career to help his team. It may be among the least important qualities for a quarterback to possess, but the Jets saw Brett's willingness to do the little things like throw a block and how it can help the team.
Feely's Bomb: Jay Feely nailed a 52 yard kick at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime. Yes, the Jay Feely who shanked short kicks against the Cardinals and the Pats. Yes, the Jay Feely who handed the Seahawks a game in 2005 by missing 3 straight critical kicks. Feely is officially the new John Hall. He misses the kicks he is expected to make and makes the ones he is expected to miss. He even made his biggest field goal with the Jets at the site of Hall's legendary 53 yarder in 2001 to put Gang Green into the Playoffs. Feely hit the cross bar on his first attempt but was given new life because Tom Cable had called a timeout right before the snap, nullifying the play. At that point, every Jets fan probably had a terrible flashback to a brutal January 2005 night in Pittsburgh. Feely would surely be spooked by coming up too short on his first try and hit his second too hard, hooking it like a bad drive into the woods. This would be Doug Brien all over again. However, Jay delivered in the clutch. Despite the calls by some idiot bloggers to cut him week after week (cough, cough), after this kick, one must wonder whether Mike Nugent can be guaranteed he keeps his job even when he heals. Feely may have just earned a competition in practice for the job.
Offensive Line: The group finally came together. It opened up the holes that allowed for Thomas Jones' monster game. Ignore the 3 Oakland sacks and all of the hits Favre took. They were largely a result of the minimum protection five receiver sets. With the game on the line, the men up front held up and gave Favre plenty of time. The unit finally appears to be gelling, which is a great sign for the rest of the year. Now the team needs to hope Damien Woody's injury is not serious.
Kenyon Coleman: The end got a consistent push all game and was solid against the run with 5 tackles.
- Nobody should be upset about the fake punt the Raiders ran in the fourth quarter that resulted in a 22 yard run for Jon Alston. Oakland was deep in its own territory. There was no reason to expect a fake. Had it failed, the Jets would have gotten the ball in scoring position and probably would have won the game. Even though it succeeded, Oakland's offense still had plenty of work to do to get into field goal range. It was really a stupid call, and Tom Cable got lucky it worked. He had more to lose than to gain by making it.
- Cable's timeout call that gave Feely a second chance shows why all of those people who got themselves into a tizzy last year saying a team should not be able to call timeout before a field goal were silly. A team might have a legitimate reason to call a timeout like not having enough men on the field. Why would they not be able to use a timeout on a field goal when they would be able to on a regular play? It is just as likely that a kicker will miss the first kick and get new life as happened today as it is for a kicker to make the first and miss the second. Sometimes it works against a team. One can bet the Raiders will not use that strategy again.
- Like with the fake punt, it is tough to get upset about the game-winning 57 yard field goal. It was an unbelievably clutch kick by a great kicker. How many kickers have the superhuman ability to hit a shot like that right down the middle with everything on the line? The Jets can kick themselves about plenty of other things in this game.
- This was a brutal broadcasting performance by CBS. Dick Enberg has been mixing up names for years, but the analyst duo of Dan Fouts and Randy Cross seemed to show anger when the Raiders committed a dumb penalty. Their job is to dispassionately break down the game, not show emotion. There is no reason to think either would root for the Raiders. Both played for rivals, but their anger could easily give one the opposition impression.
This was a brutal defeat. The Jets lost to an oft-penalized opponent with inferior talent. There were so many avoidable mistakes whether they be Washington's bad hands, Baker's slip, or Favre's throws. This was a golden opportunity for this club. Now the Jets will have to pull off an improbable win against a high quality team later this year when the schedule is tougher to make up for it. If New York misses the Playoffs by a game, fans will remember this contest for nine months.