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49ers 24 Jets 14: Pretenders, Not Contenders

The Jets fell to 8-5 today with a 24-14 loss to the 49ers in San Francisco. New York has lost two in a row for the first time since September. This team had such promise two weeks ago. It looked like the sky was the limit. We now know that this club has a lot in common with its opponent a week ago, the Denver Broncos. The talent is there to compete with anybody in the league but lacks the necessary mentality to consistently take care of business against lesser opponents. This was a second bad loss in the Bay Area this year. A championship club would have come out steaming after a loss and crushed a 4-8 Niners club. This Jets team got dominated. The score probably would have been uglier had Frank Gore not left in the third quarter with an ankle injury.

The Bad:

No Pass Rush: Fans can complain about Bob Sutton's play calling. It is typically not that good. However, it means little when players do not execute. The Jets cannot generate any kind of pass rush out of its base defense. Shaun Hill had all time to throw. He torched the Jets to the tune of 28 of 39 for 285 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Without much talent in the secondary, receivers are going to get open if quarterbacks have time to throw. Even when Sutton blitzed, it seemed like the Niners picked it up over half the time. The Jets tried to shift, used some four man fronts, and sent secondary players on blitzes. Nothing worked. The Jets may have a lot of sacks, but their pass rush is feast or famine. There is no consistent push. Hill deserves some credit for recognizing the blitzes, and attacking Gang Green where it was vulnerable, but this is a major concern for the home stretch. While Sutton rushes three men way too often considering it has not worked once all year, there is only so much schematically he can do.

Blown Assignments: Sutton can be blamed for how many times Jet linebackers and secondary players failed to identify their man in pass coverage. So can Eric Mangini. It seemed like a San Francisco receiver was getting open twice per possession because their shifting confused a defender, and the Jets could not figure out whom to cover. This is the sign of a poorly coached unit.

Failing to Prevent Mismatches: Sutton also has to take a ton of heat for never adjusting when Mike Martz's offense kept finding a mismatch and lining up Issac Bruce against Drew Coleman. Bruce had 6 catches for 70 yards.

Kris Jenkins: Jenkins had a subpar contest. Last week he was not as bad as his critics claimed. This week he was. Kris rarely commanded a double team, which made life more difficult for the entire front seven. Eric Heitmann handled him pretty easily. This contributed to a big game by Frank Gore, who ran for 52 yards on 14 carries. This team needed a big game from its nose tackle to slow down a back that good. There is cause for concern. Kris got up slowly after a play in the first. After that, he returned to the game, but we saw much more of Sione Pouha and C.J. Mosley on the nose than usual. The Jets need Jenkins at 100%, or this season is a lost cause.

Favre's Deep Ball: When the Jets throw it deep, it does not look like Brett Favre is trying to hit a receiver. It looks like he is trying to throw it as far as he can.

The Passing Game: The Jets have three passing plays. The slant, the screen pass, and try and catch it when Brett throws it as far as he can.

Smith's Pitch: Brad Smith's botched pitch to Leon Washington on the last kickoff of the game was horribly executed. It was a good idea. The Jets were in a desperate spot, and getting the ball into the hands of the team's best playmaker was understandable. The team needed two scores quickly. How a guy who ran the option on a regular basis in college made a toss that bad is tough to fathom.

The Good:

Chansi Stuckey: The second year man from Clemson had been silent recently.
 He was the one receiver on the roster to play a good game. His 4 catch, 43 yard game included a great catch and 24 yard run on a bad Favre throw on third down. This set up New York's first touchdown. He was the only wideout to get open consistently working against a subpar secondary playing without its top cover guy, Nate Clements.

Thomas Jones: Jones saw limited chances because the defense could not get itself off the field. He made the most of these opportunities, running for 56 yards on 10 carries. He showed great vision, hit his holes, and dragged defenders with him. He made the 49ers look like the Jets on defense.

Run Blocking: A successful running game has two components, the runner and his blocking. Last year, the Jets had a good running back, Jones, who struggled because he had no room to run. In this game, the front five and Tony Richardson got a great push. Richardson threw a great block on Patrick Willis, the game's best 3-4 inside linebacker, to spring Thomas for a 17 yard touchdown in the third. Jones did a great job, but his blockers also set him up.

Other Thoughts:

  • Give the 49ers' coaching staff credit. Last week, every Jets up man left early on kickoff returns before the ball was kicked. They picked this up on film and tried a surprise onside kick to start the game. Brad Smith was alert enough to recover quickly enough to grab the ball. The Jets continued to leave early on every subsequent kickoff. Mike Westoff needs to address this.
  • If Eric Smith got suspended for his hit on Anquan Boldin, Patrick Willis should be sitting out next Sunday for his helmet to helmet shot on Brad Smith late in the game. Willis was not trying to make a dirty hit, but the standard has been set for players who are not careful, even if the officials and the announcers missed it.
  • Brett Favre wasted a timeout early in the fourth. On a 3rd and 21, Brett called timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty. Is 3rd and 21 really a higher enough percentage situation than 3rd and 26 to justify a critical second half timeout?
  • Eric Mangini foolishly kicked the ball away on 4th and 14 deep in his own territory with under 5:00 to play. The Jets were down by 10. Commentators afraid to question a coach might argue that failing to convert it would have finished the Jets off. All it would have cost the Jets was the chance to score 10 points in under 2:00 with no timeouts. The success rate for that is not too high. If a team forgoes that chance, it is not the biggest deal in the world.
  • Terrible job by Mangini declining a penalty on the 49ers on the last play of the game. The Jets were down 10 and had no chance to win, but why not send the message the team battles down to the last play? A hard played second half in garbage time at San Diego in Week 3 launched the string of well-played games that ended last week.
  • It is tough to say whether the holding penalty on James Ihedigbo that wiped out Leon Washington's kickoff return for a touchdown was legitimate. On the replay, there was nothing to suggest holding, but CBS did not get an angle that showed the end of the block. It might not have been a call as brutal as the holding call on Kris Jenkins, perhaps the first time a defensive lineman has ever been called for holding.

The Jets have a lot of soul searching to do. With Pittsburgh's win, hopes of a bye are probably gone. With New England and Miami winning, the division title is no longer a formality. Chad Pennington is probably licking his chops over the prospect of facing this secondary with a potential division title on the line in three weeks. With Denver's win, the Jets could be looking at the four seed and a date with the dynamic Indianapolis passing game in the first round. This was a truly devastating loss. The Jets got their butts handed to them. If this team does not figure out how to turn it around soon, we could be looking at yet another epic December collapse. This franchise has certainly made that an art form.