The Jets evened their record at 2-2 heading into their bye with a 56-35 thrashing of the Arizona Cardinals this afternoon at the Meadowlands. A second quarter explosion turned the entire second half into garbage time. It was a transcendent day for a transcendent player. On this day, the fans of New York officially embraced Brett Favre.
Brett Favre: The future Hall of Famer may have had the finest regular season game of his career on Sunday. He hit 24 of 34 passes for 289 yards and a career high 6 touchdowns. Favre shook off an early interception that had to make Jets fans everywhere nauseous, a touch of "here we go again" syndrome. From that point, he was almost perfect. The Jets moved the ball effectively all game. While the defense was hemorrhaging yards and points in the second half, Favre did not slow down. On a day where his running game did very little, Arizona never got within two scores in the second half as the Jets scored 21 on top of the 35 they put up in the opening thirty minutes. The miscommunication that plagued the passing game in the first three weeks suddenly disappeared. Brett appeared perfectly comfortable with his receivers, hitting eight different targets. Number 4 carried the Jets to a victory on a bum ankle.
Laveranues Coles: Much has been made of Coles' relationship with Chad Pennington and the discomfort he felt with Favre. That seemed to disappear today. LC led the Jets with 8 catches for 105 yards and 3 touchdowns. After appearing lackadaisical in the first three games, Coles showed a renewed spark as he constantly got open. His play early forced the Cards to focus on him extensively. This opened things up for Jerricho Cotchery, who had a pair of late touchdown receptions. Favre is developing nice chemistry with Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey. If Coles can use this performance as a springboard, opposing secondaries will have their hands full with this receiving corps.
First Half Defense: The Jets shut the Cards out in the first half. The pass rush put Kurt Warner in constant duress. Warner fumbled away a pair of balls that led to New York scores. Warner is among the league's worst at protecting the football when hit, and the Jets fully exploited it. Darrelle Revis intercepted a pass and took it all the way. Kris Jenkins again stuffed the run and provided a push up the middle on passing downs. Calvin Pace was very active against his former team, recording a sack, forcing a fumble, and effectively supporting the run defense. Super sub David Bowens had a strip sack right before the intermission. The unit turned in a dominant first half performance.
Play Calling: Brian Schottenheimer did not go away from what worked. Even with his team up big in the second half, he did not get conservative and try to run out the clock. The Jets kept throwing downfield and scored critical insurance points as a result. Even though the contest was out of hand, the late junctures of this contest provided invaluable practice time for Favre to continue getting comfortable with his offense.
Second Half Defense: This is a bit of a nitpick. The Jets were ahead by 34 points at the half. The game was over. Still, the unit that dominated the first half got gashed in the second half, when the Cardinals scored 35 and Kurt Warner had most of his 472 passing yards. After an aggressive attack worked in the first half that was not broken, Bob Sutton tried to fix his defense in the second half, playing it much more conservatively. Warner finally had time to throw, and he picked New York apart. The idea of a prevent defense is to at least force the opposition to use up a lot of time if it scores, but the Cards took less than three minutes to score in four of their five second half touchdown drives. When Larry Fitzgerald got open consistently, the Jets would not stick their lockdown guy, Revis on him. In a goal line situation, nobody noticed that only ten men were on defense, and Edgerrin James scored on a run almost untouched. The normally reliable Kerry Rhodes had a rough half in coverage. On the occasions when they got aggressive, blitzers were a step slow. There was not the same intensity level, and had it not been for Favre, the defense might have been responsible for an epic collapse.
Special Teams: The Jets blocked a field goal in a scoreless game in the first half after the Favre interception. This turned the momentum of the contest. After that, special teams were anything but special. Jay Feely missed a 22 yard kick that was only wiped out by an Arizona penalty. He later missed a 44 yarder. He should be gone after the bye based on this performance, even if Mike Nugent is not healed. The kickoff team was woefully out of position on a pair of Arizona onside kicks. Mike Westhoff might be the best special teams coach in football, but Gang Green did not look prepared for either attempt. There were not enough players lined up on the side where Arizona kicked. The Cards recovered one of them and would have had the other but touched it a yard too soon. The special teams has had a rough start. Part of it is probably due to the transition when Westhoff returned right before Week 1. Part of it is due to injuries. Things should get better now that the Jets have a week off to stabilize things.
Run Blocking: This is probably another nitpick considering how good the offense looked. The Jets only ran for 3.4 yards per carry. Thomas Jones' long was 9 yards. This team has a pair of good backs in Jones and Leon Washington. If they get room to run, they will make things happen. This revamped unit got not push and could not clear gaps against a team that had struggled to defend the run.
- The NFL treated the Cardinals really unfairly this week. The Cardinals either had to spend a week completely away from home or fly cross country three times because of the back to back road games at Washington and New York. This probably at least contributed to the team's flat performance. The league needs to make a rule outlawing cross country trips in consecutive weeks. The schedule is long enough to allow this. Gang Green benefited from this.
- Give Arizona credit for continuing to play hard in the second half. They lit up the scoreboard in the final thirty minutes and almost got within striking distance. This should serve them well in their next game. The Jets rode the momentum of a positive second half in an out of hand San Diego game to this rout.
- After Brett's big game and Aaron Rodgers' struggles today, get ready for a week's worth of national media stories second-guessing the Packers.
- It seemed like the bye week would be good thing for the Jets. It would give them time to work out their kinks. After this kind of performance, the bye suddenly looks like a bad thing. All it will do is cool off this offense.
The Jets can now breathe a sigh of relief. They are right back in the race at 2-2 and should have plenty of confidence going into their week off. This team is probably not as good as it looked this week. It is also not as bad as it looked last week. The Jets did what they had to do, take care of an inferior opponent in a home game. This game built on previous performances, but the club needs to build on this one.