The New York Jets won their first game in over a month, while the Carolina Panthers were recovering from their first defeat since Week 5.  Ironically enough, the last team the Jets beat before the 37-27 win against the Oakland Raiders was the very team that stopped Carolina’s eight-game winning streak.  With the Panthers playing the New Orleans Saints again next week, the 6-7 Jets could be considered the classic trap game for a team with its eyes set on an NFC South title, and plans of making waves in the playoffs.  With the trap set, could Gang Green surprise a team that might be looking past them?  Early on, it seemed so!

Both teams exchanged punts, then exchanged field goals.  After a quarter of play, the Jets looked like they were going to give the Panthers all they could handle and a little more.  Teams exchanged field goals early in the second quarter, before Cam Newton was able to hit RB DeAngelo Williams for a 72 yard touchdown catch and run that made a proud defense look very vulnerable.  The play design was creative, with counter-action designed to lead an aggressive defense one way, while setting up a screen in the other direction.  Downfield blocking on Dee Milliner (with poor effort to get around the block) and slow pursuit by Ed Reed (flailing at Williams as he flew bye) turned the sideline into a freeway with only one exit… the end zone.

The Panthers started to pull away, adding a field goal after a Quigley punt, and closed the first half with a 16-6 lead.  Other than one bad play, the defense looked solid against a team that had run through the rest of the National Football League like a juggernaut for two months.  On an outstanding singular effort by Sheldon Richardson to make a tackle on a scrambling Cam Newton, it looked like the Panthers QB may have injured his ankle.  He winced in pain on the bench, and was escorted into the locker room while his teammates closed out the first half.

In the first half, Santonio Holmes was held without a catch while being targeted twice.  After opening his mouth before the game, and criticizing the Panthers secondary, Holmes dropped the first pass he sees while standing wide open near the first down marker.  On the next play, Geno Smith was sacked and the team was forced to punt.  Holmes’s behavior on the field all game, in my opinion, was completely selfish and unacceptable.  Holmes continued his jawing and yapping and antagonizing and completely selfish behavior the entire game.

In one particular instance, while yapping away with a DB, Holmes returns late to the huddle and the team is forced to call a time out because they’re late lining up for the next play.  Does Holmes seem apologetic or contrite?  Not in the very least!  As matter of fact, while his teammates are beginning to huddle again, Holmes decides to continue his conversation with a collection of Panthers DBs.  Austin Howard and others need to drag Holmes away and bring him back to his teammates.  On a day where Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant will be criticized heavily for walking off the field early while his teammates closed out an unimaginable collapse to the Green Bay Packers, Holmes should face the same harsh criticism for his selfish behavior.

HC Rex Ryan and Geno Smith fell on the sword in my opinion, shouldering most of the blame for the eventual 30-20 defeat in Carolina.  Geno threw an interception in the fourth quarter that Captain Munnerlyn returned 41 yards for a touchdown.  Between that and the blocked punt, the Panthers had a firm grip on a contest that looked like it could be anybody’s game at the half.  On his performance, Geno said “I think I could have made some better decisions, especially on that interception.”  He tried to squeeze a ball into Santonio Holmes who was being covered well, a pass Geno admits “If it’s not there, you check it down, and that’s what I didn’t do there.”

Geno has made some pretty bad decisions with the football this season: The fumble behind the back near the end zone thing, a number of pick-sixes, and so on.  A closer look at this particular play pre snap, Santonio Holmes can be seen gesturing to Munnerlyn, then pointing in the direction of his QB.  Another selfish me-me action by Holmes results in a negative play for the Jets.  This time he didn’t cost the team a timeout, he may have cost them any chance of coming back in that game.  Newton seemed off in the second half, and was clearly struggling with the ankle injury, but he didn’t need to do much at that point to give the Jets yet another road loss.

Overshadowed by the loss, were outstanding performances by Calvin Pace (3 tackles, 1 sack) and Quinton Coples (4 tackles, 1 sack).  On this year’s defense, Rex said “I don’t think we’ve been as consistent as I’d liked,” and I agree completely.  The front seven has played well against the run, after a poor tackling campaign last season.  Last season, the secondary was the heart of the defense, while this season, they’ve played like they’re on life support.  A great addition to this year’s collection of defensive talent, Sheldon Richardson, who tugged on Superman’s cape for one tackle, then lined up as a fullback near the goal line and scored his first NFL touchdown.

With the all signs pointing to another year on the outside looking in at postseason play, the Jets will host the Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium in the last home game of the season.   This could be the last home game for many Jets we’ve come to know, some we love… and some we loathe.

-Joseph Haas Editor, HCoftheNYJ.com

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