It’s a bit of a shame that the Jets play on a short week against the Pats this week because I would like to savor that curb-stomping Rex Ryan and his defense handed to former Jets coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s current St. Louis Rams offense just a little bit longer. After all, we haven’t had all that much to be pleased with this year, right? It sure was sweet to be on the other side of a patented Schotty game for a change. The Rams were gashing the Jets early with the run but I wasn’t worried at all. I’d seen this movie too many times and I know how it ends. Naturally, he immediately stopped calling run and a smile broke across my face. Just like we had seen for years here in New York, Schotty much preferred the 2 yard outs and 3 yard crossing patterns that repeatedly resulted in incomplete passes. It was all so very familiar, and all so gratifying to watch. Thank you, Schotty, thank you. Finally, you brought me some joy after six painful years.
Now before we sweep the Rams game under the rug, let’s touch on a few things from it before moving on into full-on Patriots Week mode…
SELL: The “Schotty’s Revenge” jokes - It was funny checking my Twitter after the Rams scored that opening touchdown, seeing all the many, many, many, many stupid and ignorant jokes put out there by so many “experts”, reporters, fans, and haters, all based around the premise that Schotty is, was, and forever will be a genius who the Jets stupidly got rid of. Ha-ha, jokes on the Jets, right? By the 2nd quarter, when Schotty was back to doing Schotty things, leading to his offense not moving the ball, I didn’t see a single thing about it. Weird how that works, huh?
SELL: The Mark Sanchez haters – It’s really gotten to the point that even when Sanchez plays well he’s going to get zero credit and zero respect, huh? Prior to the game all I read about was how the Rams defense was going to tear the Jets apart. Didn’t quite happen. Hey Jets fans, Mark Sanchez is the quarterback of the Jets. Regardless of how you feel about him, when he does well, you should be happy. I will never understand this.
BUY: Tony Sparano’s Gameplan – This was probably Sparano’s best game of the season. The use of play-actions, rollout passes, and creativity in getting the Jets’ many bad receivers open in space was great to see. What else? Glad you asked..
BUY: The Jets 3-Headed RB Attack – FINALLY! I re-watched the game tape five times just to make sure that what I thought I had seen on the TV was not a figment of my imagination: We actually had a Joe McKnight sighting on offense! It was pretty funny — and sad — watching the game and hearing the shock and disgust in the announcer’s voice when he said “That was Joe McKnight’s first catch of the season!” Tell me about it. After 10 weeks of praying to various Gods, lighting candles, begging, pleading, writing letters, and ritualistically sacrificing a few Patriots fans (ok, the last one may not have actually happened), the Jets FINALLY did what I wanted and got Joe McKnight involved in the offense, and threw him a pass. That’s all I wanted, just one pass to show me the coaches were aware it is in fact legal to throw a pass to the running back.
It was also great to see Bilal Powell get a few touches and turn them into two touchdowns. Who would have known that maximizing the various talents your running backs possess would be a better alternative than just having Shonn Greene stumble into the line 20 times a game?
SELL: Joe McKnight Inside the 5 yard line - I am all for more McKnight, but perhaps using him as a pseudo goal-line back is not the proper time. Let’s go ahead and rip that page out of the playbook and pretend it never happened, Tony.
SELL: Calvin Pace, Kyle Wilson, Ellis Lankster – Just reminding you that they still stink. This game changed nothing.
SELL: Jets Special Teams (other than Joe McKnight) - Also still very bad.
BUY: Mo Wilkerson – Big Mo has started to look like the dominant All-Pro defensive lineman Rex Ryan talked him up as prior to the season. The last few weeks have been especially impressive for the 2011 first round pick. The scary thing is that he’s only beginning to scratch the surface on what he can do on the field as well. As Quinton Coples develops next to him and an edge rusher is presumably brought in to come around the corner and clean up after Wilkerson’s disruption up the middle, he’s really going to look tremendous. Nobody gives more crap to Mike Tannenbaum and his player evaluation ability than me, but I have to give him credit for Wilkerson. Having Mo and other young talent on defense like Coples, Kenrick Ellis, and Demario Davis will set this defense up very nicely up front for years to come.
SELL: Stephen Hill being “raw” – Ok, enough praise of Tannenbaum. The Stephen Hill debacle looks worse and worse every week. All we heard about after the draft was how “raw” Hill was and how he would need time to develop. Well if that was the case, WHY THE HELL would you not bring in a reliable #2 receiver to start while the rookie developed? And not to mention, it’s always been my understand that “being raw” means he runs the wrong route from time to time, or can’t separate from the cornerback at the line of scrimmage. Being raw, to me, doesn’t include “not being able to catch”, because that seems like a pretty basic thing that all wide receivers should have learned sometime around the 6th grade. If Hill doesn’t learn to catch — and fast — he’s going to just be another in the long line of bust wide receivers who can run real fast and jump real high, but aren’t actually good at playing football — which is a pretty important thing.
Now about that little ol’ Patriots game we have coming up this week. Below are my three keys to this game. If I’m not back here next week in this very column buying all of these, there’s a really good chance I’m also going to be loading the column up with more than a few expletives because the Jets will have lost another big game and the season will more than likely be kaput.
1. Pressure Tom Brady – Mo Wilkerson is going to be double-teamed the entire game because quite frankly, Bill Belichick isn’t dumb. He knows Wilkerson can single-handily disrupt the Patriots offense by getting in Tom Brady’s face all night, just like Shaun Ellis did in the 2010 playoffs. So it’s going to be up to Quinton Coples to step up, along with Calvin Pace (doubtful) and Ricky Sapp (maybe) around the edge. Bryan Thomas has also elevated his play of late, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him turn back the clock a little bit and step up in what will likely be his last Jets-Pats game ever.
2. Stop Wes Welker - With Rob Gronkowski out and Aaron Hernandez likely to be slowed a little by his injury, stopping Wes Welker will be an even bigger key to this week’s game than usual. Typically the Jets would be able to just put him on Revis Island and forget about it, but that option isn’t available this week. And as amazing as Antonio Cromartie has been this season, moving to the slot and covering shifty guys like Welker has never been his strong suit. And that means that — sigh — it’s going to be up to guys like Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster to play as well as they possibly can (which isn’t very well, unfortunately) and slow Wes down. There’s going to be a ton of bracket coverage played, and don’t be surprised to see Demario Davis play a major role this week covering some of these short passes over the middle. Just writing this paragraph is giving me anxiety. Ugh.
3. NO TURNOVERS!! – This is the biggest one of them all. When the Jets don’t turn the ball over, they win. Mark Sanchez is unquestionably at a crossroads of his Jets career, and a big-time performance this week against the Patriots will go a long way toward building the confidence not just of himself, but all of his teammates, and the fans. We all know the Patriots defense is comically bad, but they thrive on being opportunistic and causing turnovers, so the Jets absolutely can not fall into that trap. The mission statement on offense this week is simple: Protect the ball, find the many, many soft spots in the defense, and win the game. Easier said than done, unfortunately.