Just win baby. I caught “Al Davis: A Football Life” on NFL Network Saturday night and you know what, he was right. I thought of him as the Jets barely escaped the Jaguars or should I say escaped themselves, on Sunday. The truth is, for now we are all fine with it. Right? 5-3 is a whole different world than the muddled playoff position of 4-4.
The Jets hung on for a 28-23 lead and eventual win at home on Sunday but they scared the daylights out of the fanbase because they couldn’t close on offense. Failing to find those game ending first downs on offense. Handing the ball back to the Jaguars twice in the final minutes. As we diehards prepared in our crash landing positions for that all too familiar “Same Old Jets” fate that hovered above the field for much of the second half.
Instead those friendly Jaguars helped remind us all about the return of Rex Ryan this Thursday by playing like a “Slapdick” team when it counted the most. A phrase Ryan once used in a motivational speech to his 2010 Jets team during glory days as the star of HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” Years when led by blustery Ryan, those Jets talked walked and talked some more on their way towards the brink of the promised land.
Nick Mangold re-injured his neck. Nick Folk and Ryan Quigley switched roles on point after attempts. Brandon Marshall was not one hundred percent. The secondary was limping around. Ryan Fitzpatrick was getting a feel for the protective glove covering his “I don’t slide” left thumb.
Yes, the ending had the makings of a disaster we’ve all seen a thousand times before. But the Jets staved off their usually cruel Jet end that awaited them, and instead landed safely. One small step for man. One giant step for mankind. On to Buffalo.
A Sense of Calm Returns with Fitzmagic
After six seasons of uneven play from young top round quarterbacks learning on the job, with Ryan Fitzpatrick it feels like we have Tom Brady back there in comparison, doesn’t it? Joe Montana. Johnny Unitas. This is no Geno bashing, but this franchise has been starving for even the lowest level of solid consistent decision making. Some reasonable accuracy. Timing. Game sensibility. Mutual trust between the fans and signal caller. Ability to feed the playmakers and make them factors and threats rather than disappearing acts. I remember when Dustin Keller was a top target for the Jets and used to disappear? I’d say “Wait, Keller caught that? I didn’t even know he was playing today!”
Fitz was 21-34-272 yesterday with two TDs and no picks but forget the numbers. It’s the confidence we all gained knowing the guy was starting. Even with one good hand. It is that sense of calm. It’s Decker and Marshall being targeted as often as they should be for crying out loud, if you and I have that faith when we see the beard how do you think the huddle feels?
Goddamnit we were headed down a deep dark place when talk started going around early last week about Fitz being shelved and bringing in veterans to sling their substandard balls around practice fields in Florham. The impending doom of yet another Jets shift in the depth chart at quarterback. Geno will start. No Bryce Petty. No, Matt Flynn. Heck, I would’ve opted for Vinny Testaverde straight off the couch over those choices.
Fitzpatrick is the man again, and if he remembers not to rumble for yardage in balls to the wall fashion like an old school power back anymore, hopefully it’s for good now. Or at least 2015.
Maybe he’s no Aaron Rodgers, or Brady, or Andrew Luck but right here, right now, he’s the best hope we’ve got to go anywhere. By far.
Are You There Run Game? It’s Me TJ
Where has Chris Ivory and the Jets rushing attack gone? Baby Beast Mode was destroying the league until Foxboro three weeks ago, when he all of a sudden felt a hammy tweak on the first play. Yet he looks healed now. So what gives?
Maybe it’s Nick Mangold and the neck injury. Willie Colon’s recent nicks and scrapes. A little here. A little there. Ok, but isn’t that football? Guys get hurt. Play hurt. Backups fill
in for a game or two. Ivory yesterday…23 carries for 26 yards? The slide can’t be that far due to a few bumps and bruises can it?
It can if we are talking about Mangold. From calling out the blocking schemes to springing holes open to just being the leader. Hey, he’s a Hall of Famer to me. So it makes sense in my mind that the ground game has come to a halt since he suffered the injury that kept him out against Oakland and forced him out midway through yesterday. This area better improve even in some moderate way fast though as Mangold battles through his issues. You don’t get away with averaging one yard per carry on Sundays for very long.
Forget Rex, Focus on the Playmakers
The difference between Todd Bowles’ 5-3 Jets and Rex Ryan’s 4-4 Bills right now is one thing: Winning and losing against Jacksonville. The return of Rex will be fun. I’m sure that
even on a short week the barbs will fly from Orchard Park. Rex may try not to lash out, but won’t be able to help himself completely. You can almost guarantee it.
I’m not so concerned about Ryan and any motivational ploy he may try to use that could give Buffalo the edge on Thursday’s key (wildcard implications) showdown. I’m more worried more about the Bills playmakers. They have game breakers Sammy Watkins. LeSean McCoy or better yet big back Karlos Williams, who returned guns blazing from a month absence due to concussion.
The Bills D line can be vicious. The Jets can’t run right now and if Nick Mangold is out, pass protection quality is downgraded too. Combine the two and it’s easy to see that the Jets better be more concerned and focused on who is on the field for the Bills, rather than who is calling the shots off of it.
– The Jets secondary is banged up. Calvin Pryor. Buster Skrine. Antonio Cromartie was wearing a leg pad on the bench nursing something late in the game. And more…
The positives? Marcus Williams is stepping up his play. Two picks. Tight quality coverage. He’s a starter now in my mind and when the Jags went after Revis Island they got burnt. Not smart. Depth at the position is holding the fort, but is being tested. This group must somehow get healthy again if the Jets are to go anywhere at all in 2015.
– Kenbrell Thompkins has come out of nowhere or, right off the Pats roster. Released by them weeks back. It is usually the other way around too. They find use out of OUR scrap heap. Thompkins made a key grab yesterday for a much needed first down and has been a nice WR3 shall we say, over the past few weeks.
– Rookie OLB Lorenzo Mauldin had two sacks that ended drives yesterday. Talk about much needed. The Jets front four has struggled all season with pressure on the quarterback. Mauldin was drafted specifically to improve outside speed in attacking the pocket. The kid was a key factor in the win.
– It was weird when K Nick Folk and P Ryan Quigley changed jobs for PATs Folk held it and Q kicked it. Folk hero encountered a leg issue in game, but luckily the Jets punter had secondary skills, which they both should have I guess. It makes sense. What the hell are they doing in practice all day? Kickers…Haha. Well we laugh at ’em but need them more than any of us will ever lead on.
– Eric Decker is having a nice season. Yesterday Decker was 6-79-1TD and there when the Jets needed him on third down. The guy is a better than possession receiver who even without blazing speed still finds yards after the catch, and always gets open in the end zone. Quality player. Perfect second receiver.