I was not a fan of Chan Gailey's playcalling Monday night at all. I though the offensive coordinator got way too conservative once his team went up by ten points. He passed up chance after chance to put the game away early and let things stay in doubt far too long.
This does not mean everything Gailey did was wrong. After rewatching the game, I came away with the impression the Jets outschemed the Colts early in the game, and this helped stake the Jets to the lead. There has been some discussion about how the Jets are deploying Eric Decker as their slot receiver in the early going. The Jets took advantage of the matchups these created a lot in the first half as Decker had a field day.
The Colts entered the game with a cornerback group depleted by injuries. Their group was so thin that they frequently left their base defense on the field when the Jets had three receiver sets. To put it another way, they had less than two cornerbacks on the field against three receivers. The corners took the outside receivers, and the slot guy in the middle of the field got to work against linebackers. Since the Jets are using Decker in the slot, he was the guy who got isolated against linebackers. For a receiver who runs routes as smoothly as Decker does, going against linebackers is like shooting fish in a barrel.
The first play I will show you displays this effect at the top as Decker gets isolated against Erik Walden. There is another aspect to this play. Chris Ivory gets put into motion heading to the bottom of the pictures. He ends up acting as the wide receiver on the outside. You can take him away with anybody.
This draws Vontae Davis to him on the outside and take Davis away from Brandon Marshall. Putting Ivory into motion has essentially wasted Davis for the Colts. Ivory isn't a threat as an outside receiver. He just got to the point where catching a ball when he's wide open out of the backfield isn't an adventure. Now Davis has to occupy his attention, while Brandon Marshall is given room to work against a safety.
Ryan Fitzpatrick chooses the Decker-Walden mismatch at the top, but he had a second one available on the other side.
The Jets kept getting Decker one on one against linebackers for big completions. They did it against Trent Cole.
They did it against D'Qwell Jackson.
It wasn't all about beating linebackers. They helped him out when he did draw Davis on his touchdown.
The Jets bring Decker into motion closer to the middle. Near the goal line, there are plenty of bodies in that space so Davis has to retreat a bit.
The Jets run a route with Jeff Cumberland that sets a natural pick for Decker, creating too much traffic for Davis to fight through. This close to the end zone, the window it creates means a short pass will be a touchdown.
The throwing lane is also set up right in front of Ryan Fitzpatrick, making it an easy pitch and catch.
You will get more on this play in the next installment of GGN Chalkboard.I'm not going into more detail here because the point is how effectively the Jets utilized Eric Decker to take the lead.
I do think Gailey deserves some criticism for his playcalling after the Jets took the lead, but it is only fair to give him credit for the things he did right to help get the Jets that lead. Good coaching is all about putting your players into a position where they have the advantage. Gailey did this very well. He kept getting Decker easy matchups to win. Add that to the talent Decker has, and you have a recipe for success. I think the Jets outschemed the Colts in the early going.
In fairness to the Colts' coaching staff, they did not have many good options because of how banged up their cornerback group was. They opted to keep extra linebackers on the field for the most part. The main alternative would have been to stick corners out there who are fringe NFL players.
The Jets forced them into that impossible decision, though, by the way they utilized Decker. It would have been conventional to stick him outside and let him draw a regular corner with a traditional, less skilled receiver in the slot.