If another team had played the Houston Texans tonight, maybe the Miami Dolphins or Cincinnati Bengals for example, the story would be about what a scrappy effort was put together in a losing cause. After all, Houston has won three of their 5 games by over 20 points and hasn’t trailed yet this season. We’d hear about gutsy fake punt and onside kick calls. A collection of unheralded players stepping up to nearly pull off the upset. Didn’t everybody pick the Jets to lose by 20-30 points tonight? And yet, there they were with a chance to win in the final 2 minutes.
Nobody is saying the team needs to puff their chest out about a loss but some perspective is needed. If for some reason you thought the Jets were a 12 win, Super Bowl contending team heading into the season, you were ignorant of their widespread roster problems. If you thought after losing Darrelle Revis, Santonio Holmes, Sione Pouha, Dustin Keller and Stephen Hill they were going to knock off the best team in football and still had the makeup of a 10/11 win team, you remain ignorant of their widespread roster problems.
The Jets aren’t the laughingstock most of the NFL media wants you to believe they are but they are a deeply flawed team, similar to many others in this league. Tonight was encouraging because the Jets had the look of a team who could hover around .500 and remain in the wild-card discussion into December. They looked like a team that should be able to scrap together a handful of wins when they aren’t playing stacked teams like San Francisco and Houston.
At times, we are harshly critical of players like Jeff Cumberland, Clyde Gates and Chaz Schilens on this site. Perhaps that isn’t always fair. These guys are role players who are being asked to be full time players for the Jets. They have talent. That is why they are in the NFL. You saw them all make plays tonight. Yet, you also saw them all make mistakes. The type of mistakes that happen when you rely on role players to be full time players and that is on Mike Tannenbaum.
Mark Sanchez did enough tonight to keep his job. Is his current level of play acceptable? No. It is too inconsistent. However, considering he has ZERO running game and a revolving door at receiver (Jason Hill was signed 5 days ago and probably played 30 snaps tonight, including all of them on the final 2 minute drive) and was still able to generate 230 yards passing, he deserves another week. He remains a better full time option than Tim Tebow, who the coaching staff still hasn’t figured out how to use properly along with their inability to master substitution patterns. These are the kind of things that happen when you are giving major reps to players who weren’t on the team last week, like Hill and Lex Hilliard.
Some other negatives? The pass rush is nonexistent. You never want to make bold proclamations like this 5 games into people’s careers but I am going out on a limb to say the Jets crapped the bed by passing on Chandler Jones for Quinton Coples. The running game remains a disaster. Can the Jets see if they can trade Shonn Greene to anybody for a conditional 6th or 7th round pick?
The positives? The Jets run defense can build on the second half. After getting gashed in the first two quarters, they held Houston to 59 yards on 22 carries in the second half. Antonio Cromartie played a terrific game, completely shutting down Andre Johnson and coming up with an interception. Jeremy Kerley continued his very strong season, finishing with 5 receptions for 94 yards. Kerley is going to grow substantially from the extended playing time this year and is arguably the brightest spot on the Jets entire offense so far and going forward.
Next week against the Colts won’t be easy. The Jets don’t have easy games this year. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t more than capable of taking care of business next week and setting themselves on track to get into their bye week with a .500 record.