The surprising New York Jets were coming off a crushing 49-9 defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals, and were hearing some of the negativity that preceded the 2013 NFL season. Some called the Jets a “glorified expansion team” and gave them little chance at a successful campaign. HC Rex Ryan says those that doubted “don’t know this team”. Doubters were out in full-force prior to Sunday’s matchup with the New Orleans Saints. The Saints were one miracle touchdown drive away from rolling into MetLife Stadium without a blemish on their record. The Jets and their ferocious defense looked to add another. The game started with a chill in the air and a biting wind, both hindrances to a high-flying indoor team like the Saints. The Jets and that defensive line looked to provide the Perfect Swarm against a potent New Orleans offense, but could Geno Smith and his band of castoffs score enough to keep it a contest?
Unlike the game against the Bengals, the defensive line applied the pressure on Brees we’ve come to appreciate from them during 2013. Mo Wilkerson collected another sack, Damon Harrison was a rock in the middle, Calvin Pace made plays on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and Quinton Coples (yes, a Q sighting) made one of the headiest plays of the ballgame. Coples made a crucial stop of an attempted reverse on fourth down, giving Gang Green the ball. Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come from Coples. I watch Sheldon Richardson, and I need to remind myself he’s just a rookie. If this is just the beginning, GM John Idzik can count Richardson as one of the early feathers in his cap.
Many other things went Rex’s way on Sunday: The Jets would get the wind for the second and fourth quarters, which may have played a part in New Orleans’s K Garrett Hartley missing a 43yd FG after the opening drive. He was aided by the wind, when with less than two minutes left in the third quarter, he lobbed a 55yd FG between the uprights that would have been good from 58 or 59! The Jets would start the second half with the football, and even though Drew Brees would go 30 of 51 for 382 yards and 2 TDs, the Jets would make a game of it sacking him twice, causing him to fumble once and grabbing two interceptions. Brees would be without Marques Colston, the team’s leader in receptions (27) from the wide receiver position, who sat this one out with a knee injury. Explosive TE Jimmy Graham was nursing a foot injury and entered the game questionable, but unlike Colsten, he would play and have an impact.
Early in the contest, Antonio Allen would put a hit on Saints RB and return-man Darren Sproles, a hit that would leave New Orleans without their primary weapon out of the backfield and the engine that drives their special teams. With gusts making it a tricky day for fielding punts and kicks, the Saints would be severely handicapped. Time after time, the Saints were forced to take the ball at the twenty-yard line on kickoffs that barley made the endzone because of bobbles by the substitute returners. At a critical point in the game, when the Jets were forced to punt it away, the Saints were unable to get great field position with the return because the returner had to hit his knees and fall to the ground while receiving the Ryan Quigley punt.
Geno Smith was only 8 of 19 for 115 yards, but added 6 rushes for 18yds and a TD. Most importantly, Geno had ZERO turnovers. Josh Cribbs got into the act behind center, completing his only attempt for 25yds to TE Zach Sudfeld, as both TE Jeff Cumberland (injury) and TE Kellen Winslow Jr. (suspension) were unable to play. While WR Stephen Hill was held catchless, players like Cribbs (3 rushes for 12yds & 2 catches for 6yds), David Nelson (1 catch for 19yds), Greg Salas (2 receptions for 57 HUGE yards) and Chris Ivory (18 rushes for 139yds) played key roles in Gang Green’s 26-20 win over the Saints.
GM John Idzik and his staff deserve a ton of credit for identifying castoffs and adding them to the roster, as they’ve had a positive impact on this football team. Ivory acquired during the 2013 NFL Draft for a fourth-round pick was great job, especially with Mike Goodson out for the year. He brings speed and power to the running game the Jets didn’t have last season.
GM Idzik may have heard the whispers about his first pick in that draft, CB Dee Milliner, and his ineffective play in 2013. Milliner made both Idzik and Rex look very good on Sunday, playing well in coverage, getting his hands on a few passes, and nearly picking one off! It’s a start, but good to see Milliner finish a game on the field, and not on the sideline next to Rex and DC Mike Pettine.
After the bye week, the Jets will hit the road for a matchup with the Buffalo Bills. The Jets are 4-1 (loss to Pittsburgh) at MetLife Stadium, and only 1-3 on the road (win in Atlanta). The Jets can enjoy the 5-4 record, but will need to improve on the road, as they’ll most likely be a visitor if they maintain the six seed in the AFC playoff race. Yup… who woulda thunk it… playoffs! Still a lot of season left, but more than halfway into the schedule, it’s a REAL possibility!
-Joseph Haas Editor, HCoftheNYJ.com