This is marks the first regular season edition of “Game Balls” that almost never was as the New York Jets snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and victory from the jaws of defeat in the span of about two minutes. I never thought that I would see a team “out-Jets” the Jets but a little dose of Greg Schiano was apparently what the doctor ordered and without further ado, it is time to paint em’ up
It is not often that we hand out Game Balls to opposing players or coaches but Lavonte David absolutely deserves one as with one ill-timed, bone-headed play, he supplanted Nate Kaeding as my favorite non-Jet of all-time. In case you didn’t watch or didn’t catch his name a midst all the presumed yelling, heart palpitations, and laughter, David committed possibly the worst personal foul in NFL history that set the Jets up for the improbable game-winning field goal. Unfortunately for him, David’s name will likely remain prominent in Jets lore for years to come.
The irony of this game is almost incomprehensible. Schiano, who is known as a “no non-sense” type of coach, so much so that he jettisoned Kellen Winslow to the Seahawks out of fear of not being able to control him, essentially handed the game to the Jets due to a total lack of team discipline. The Bucs were flagged 13 times for 102 yards, including the David penalty as well as that debacle of a drive that had many (including myself) wondering whether or not Josh Freeman spoke English, as he could not seem to get the call right on 2nd and 10, prompting two consecutive delay of game penalties followed by a sack and a false start. I’ll give the crowd some credit as considering how relatively sparse they were, they did make a lot of noise and that was definitely a contributing factor to the penalties.
The move that takes the proverbial cake for me is his bluff on icing Nick Folk. I don’t know whether those of you who were watching on TV were able to see but before Folk kicked the game-winning field goal, Schiano was standing right behind the official as if he was about to call his final timeout but opted not to and the rest is history and for that, this fellow Ramapo High School Alum gets our second Game Ball.
The Front Seven
It would have made sense to give Game Balls to any combination of players along the defensive front but since it was truly a team performance on defense and since a bunch of guys really stood out, the entire Front Seven is going to have to share a Game Ball. This was easily the best unit on the field all game for the Jets as I’m sure Jets fans everywhere rejoiced after seeing what appeared to be existence of a conventional pass-rush. Contributions came from everywhere and in all shapes and sizes from guys like Antwan Barnes, rookie Sheldon Richardson, second-year nose tackle, Damon Harrison, and of course Muhammad Wilkerson. Each of these guys combined to give Josh Freeman a rough go of it and let’s not forget the impact of Rex as it was obvious that he has really taken back the reigns of the defense and he called a near-perfect game.
Say what you will about Nick Folk, but the guy is clutch and has come through time after time in big spots, despite the organizations perennial lack of confidence in him. Each year he has been with the team, Folk has had to fend off challengers trying to take his job and has successfully done so to this point. Perhaps the biggest knock on him is his lack of length on kickoffs but he even had a great day off the tee yesterday and for that he gets a much-deserved Game Ball.
The veteran Tight End was able to parlay a Mini Camp tryout into a what appears to be a significant role in the Jets offense and yesterday he showed that he still has quite a bit of game. Winslow hauled in seven receptions on eight targets for a team-leading 79 yards and the Jets only Touchdown of the day. However, his biggest contribution came on the eventual game-winning drive when he reeled in a 25-yard strike from Geno Smith to keep the Jets’ chances of winning afloat. The question with Winslow has never been his playing ability but his ability to stay healthy but after what he showed on Sunday, the Jets certainly hope he does.
I can’t think of a more consummate unsung hero on this Jets team than Isaiah Trufant because all he does is make plays when he’s called upon. If you don’t know his story, then you should check it out because he is very hard not to root for. For the past several years, the middle brother of the football-Trufants has easily been the Jets best gunner on Punt coverage as #35 is usually the first number you see down there covering a punt. Yesterday was no different, Robert Malone wasn’t really doing him any favors but he was still outstanding in punt coverage aside from the one punt on which he stumbled but ended up taking a Jets bounce anyway.
Perhaps his biggest contribution came in what I like to refer to as the “Drew Coleman role” as the designated pass-rusher on corner blitzes. If memory serves, it was his pressure on Josh Freeman that caused him to throw the interception to Dawan Landry, a moment-shifting play that earns this man a Game Ball.
Take a Lap!
It was a pretty rough day for this unit as they were not able to generate much push (if at all) in the running game and were plagued by sub-par games from pretty much everyone not named Nick Mangold. Both Willie Colon and D’Brickashaw Ferguson were flagged for penalties, Brick had a rough game that was surely not helped in any way by the sheer ineptitude of Vlad Ducasse. I’m still convinced he only understands about 60% of what the coaches are trying to tell him and he could be supplanted by rookie Brian Winters sooner than he realizes. Granted, they didn’t do a completely terrible job of keeping their rookie QB upright but he was under some relatively consistent duress throughout the game. If this team has any chance of winning games on a somewhat regular basis, this unit has to be leaps and bounds better than they were yesterday.
What is that you say? Malone kicked the longest punt in Jets history yesterday, how could he be on this list? Be that as it may, if that’s what you took away from the Jets second-year punter, then you’re burying the lead as he was inconsistent all day, hitting a number of low/line-drive punts that put the coverage team in bad situations. He finds himself doing some extra running today because on the most-crucial punt of the game, when the Jets had to hand the ball back to the Bucs with two minutes and change to go, he air-mailed one right into the end zone. Please, you’re a punter, you have one job: don’t kick it in the end zone.
It’s really the same story, different day with Rex: “he can call a great defense but he’s not a great Head Coach.” Ryan did nothing to dispel the sentiment of the pundits as he called a fantastic game defensively but when it came time to put on his Head Coaching hat and Sweater Vest and make a big-boy decision, he wavered. After stopping the Bucs on 3rd down and with the clock winding down from 44 seconds, Rex was indecisive about using his final timeout, prompting Offensive Coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg to intervene and call a timeout with 38 seconds left on the clock.
Sitting in the stands and not knowing the full extent of what happened, I naturally assumed that Rex had called timeout, the officials couldn’t hear him and they were going to reset the game clock to 44 seconds. However, none of that ever came to pass and everyone was left to wonder what in the world he was thinking by not calling that timeout right away in order to give his Rookie QB sometime to pull out a last-minute win. I realize that the team still won, so no harm on foul but it is coaching blunders like that, that may ultimately cost him his job.
Although I really wasn’t thrilled with the overall play-calling you could tell that Mornhinweg significantly scaled down the playbook to cater to Geno’s strengths, hence why the Jets came out in so many Four-Wide Receiver, Shotgun sets. It’s clear that Geno is not ready to really take the reigns of this offense but maybe he can do enough and limit his mistakes to pull out a few games that many think the Jets won’t be able to win. Regardless, Mornhinweg has a tall order in front of him to cater the offensive Game Plan to a Quarterback that is limited in terms of what sets/formations he is comfortable and capable in. This is a situation that bears watching throughout the season.