Doesn't 3-0 have a nice ring to it? It feels like 5 years since the Jets have gotten off to this hot of a start, and that was against a perceived much softer schedule. Today's 24-17 win over the Titans had letdown written all over it. The Jets had every reason to have a hangover after such an emotional win last week. They were up against a proud and desperate opponent. That didn't matter. Gang Green will ride into the Superdome next week for a showdown with the also undefeated Saints as arguably the team to beat in September.
More after the jump.
Mark Sanchez: Sanchez played well at the start and at the finish. He was 17 for 30 with 2 touchdowns. He also turned it over twice. He struggled through a bad cold stretch in the middle of the game but caught fire late to lead the Jets to yet another victory. He's now the first rookie since a merger to lead his team to a 3-0 start. What impresses me about Sanchez more than anything is his makeup. After the Jets jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead, the Tennessee pass rush seemed to rattle him. He left the ball exposed and coughed up a fumble. From that point, it looked like he lost confidence. He was flustered in the pocket and struggled to grip the wet football. For a lot of rookies, that can mean game over. They start pressing and are overwhelmed by negative vibes. Sanchez shook it off and finished hot. He did enough to win the football game.
Special Teams Coverage: Mike Westhoff's boys forced a pair of turnovers that led to 14 points. The first was on a devastating hit by Jason Trusnik to rookie Ryan Mouton. The Titans inexplicably kept the rookie with shattered confidence in to return punts. He later committed a second unforced error on a punt. First, he called for a fair catch with nobody near him. He then misjudged the flight of the ball and had to backpedal. Then he muffed the ball. This is where the excellent coverage came in. Brad Smith was the first guy on the scene. He hit Mouton and pulled him away from the ball, giving Larry Izzo enough time to fall on it. Execution on these plays was the difference in the game.
Jerricho Cotchery: Who said this guy wasn't a number one receiver? 8 catches, 107 yards, and a touchdown today.
Adjustments: The Jets were relatively more conservative on defense than in the first two weeks, not blitzing as often. The fear was Chris Johnson would get behind the defense. Once the Titans started moving the ball, Rex turned up the heat. On the last drive, Collins constantly had men in his face. Kerry Collins finished the game hitting under half of his passes.
The offensive line struggled in pass protection. On the decisive drive, Brian Schottenheimer left extra blockers in so Sanchez had more time. Mark started finding Cotchery.
The Secondary: Even though Collins caught fire in the middle of the game, it was because he was making perfect throws into tight coverage. Give the other guy credit. There was nothing wrong with the way the secondary was playing.
Eric Smith: This guy's been a different player under Rex Ryan. He picked off a pass and was involved in a few other passes defensed.
Bart Scott: This guy does everything well and is really fun to watch. He had 9 tackles and was always around the ball even when he wasn't making the play.
Kris Jenkins: Another week, another domination of an offensive line.
Sione Pouha: He was consistently getting a push when he was in there. At the start of the season, defensive line depth was a concern. Returning players like Pouha and Mike Devito looked very flawed. Things have sure changed. It's amazing how much of a difference coaching can make in improving players.
David Harris: The future Pro Bowler was quiet for three quarters then picked off a pass and registered a critical sack in the fourth.
The Pep Talk: Give the coaching staff credit. You had to be concerned about the team starting flat coming off such an emotional win. The Jets were flying all over the place at the start of the game and had a 14-0 lead before the Titans even got the football.
Thomas Jones: The offensive line struggled, but Leon Washington had much more success running the ball than Jones. TJ only had 20 yards on 14 carries. He had a tough time breaking tackles and wasn't finding his holes. It's too early to write him off, but in the back of our minds, he's a concern right now.
Offensive Line: Not enough running lanes opened. A pair of sacks. A rookie quarterback constantly under pressure. The Titans weren't sending the house either. They were just outexecuting the Jets up front.
No Shonn Greene: I get why the Jets didn't use him. A bad weather game isn't the best time to break in a rookie for the first time. Still, he's the best power runner on the team, and today was a day where any yards on the ground were going to have to get grinded out in the trenches.
Steve Weatherford: Only a 36.4 average on 9 punts, including a 23 yarder in crunch time. The search for a punter is not over. It's time to bring in some more guys for a look.
Getting Sanchez Ready for the Elements: There aren't many bad weather days in Southern California. Mark Sanchez isn't used to handling a wet football. It was clear for days that weather was going to be a factor. Every ball he handled all week should have been dumped in a bucket of water first.
Be Who You Are: Again, I get why the Jets didn't blitz much early. It was to keep Johnson in check. Still, the Jets are a team strongest blitzing. Adjust your style only if your opponent makes you. Do what you do best. Make the opponent adjust to you. This was an excellent defensive performance, but the Jets were having issues defending the pass until they went back with their familiar aggressive style.
- I guess everything really evens out in the end. Four years ago, the Jets suffered a devastating Week 3 loss to Jacksonville in no small part because of a disastrous outing by a rookie return man named Justin Miller.
- I'm not upset the team didn't play a perfect game like the first two weeks. Things were eventually bound to go wrong. I'm very impressed with the character these guys showed fighting back. There will definitely be tougher times at some point this year, but the Jets passed their first test with adversity.
- Make it two straight weeks Dan Dierdorf makes an excuse for an official blowing a call. It came on Leon Washington's pass. Nick Mangold blatantly held on the play, but Washington's facemask was grabbed. Only the holding got called. Dierdorf said the reason there was no facemask call was the holding. Apparently he didn't realize there can be penalties on both teams on the same play.
- I'm not upset because Chris Johnson broke some big runs. He's a great player. He's going to get his. The important thing is he wasn't able to go crazy all day like he did against the Texans. The Jets held him mostly in check aside from those few big runs. It was all or nothing, all or 4-5 yards.
This sets up a showdown down in New Orleans next Sunday. The Saints will put their dynamic offense against the elite Jets defense. Who would have thought Rex would have the team playing this well so soon? With the rookie quarterback and the new system, I honestly thought this was a year away. This start exceeded my wildest expectations. Let's keep it going!
PS Miami's 0-3 :-)