The Jets escaped themselves and their lifelong “Same Old Jets” demons last night in Dallas. Some painful miscues and inopportune penalties gave us all that ominous sense that this one might turn into a devastating lost opportunity. Forget the Cowboys role in it all. After all they were essentially playing on one leg. Kellen Moore? C’mon be honest. Tell me he didn’t remind you of Keanu Reeves in the Replacements back there.
Nonetheless there was Jets Nation, in a state of sheer panic down 13-9 after three. The Beard wasn’t. After all, the Jets starter and savior was not going to let a decade long pursuit of a playoff berth end against some 4-9 squad, even if it was America’s team at home in Jerry Jones’ adult playground. No way.
Ryan Fitzpatrick may not have had his most consistent night, but the guy is adding “clutch” to a resume that already featured “tough.” That’s twice in three December games now that Fitzmagic has found a way late to guide a sputtering Jets offense down the field for the win.
DT Sheldon Richardson overstated the obvious after the nail biting 19-16 victory when he said “we should have beaten them worse than we did” but if I’m a New York Jet, I just shut up and take the win. Be thankful. Appreciative of the good fortune that the fourth Dallas quarterback this season didn’t just ruin Christmas.
The Machine and Deck Get A Little Help From Their Friends
First of all, did anyone think they’d see Eric Decker back this season after that nasty fall he took in the first half? How did he hang onto the ball long enough to get his knee down too by the way? Then you have Brandon Marshall headed for the locker room. What, a broken arm suffered during a play none of us saw on TV. It had to be, right? Just the Jets luck.
Instead, both returned and started making plays too. Sure enough the tandem teamed up on the Decker go ahead TD that put Gang Green up 16-13 late in the fourth quarter. With Marshall running traffic on an inside slant but doing so wisely, avoiding any contact with defenders (as the refs have been keying on that play this year).
The Jets wouldn’t have gotten to the five yard line though for the big go ahead score if it weren’t for Quincy Enunwa. Yes I just said that. The former Nebraska Cornhusker made a terrific catch in traffic then wisely secured the ball inside the Dallas five yard line. The Jets have turned to him out of necessity. They have played with no viable tight end in the passing game all year since Jace Amaro went down in camp. Isn’t the second year WR the perfect offseason project for the TE position himself? Match him up with linebackers on plays that “show” run but instead become five step drops. That could lead to some serious yardage.
Then there’s Kenbrell Thompkins. A one time New England Patriot (and Oakland Raider too). When it comes to the Pats it feels one sided doesn’t it? It’s always Bill Belichick who finds value from the Jets scrap heap. Never the other way around. Well last night at least, Thompkins turned the tides. Fighting off the temptation to bobble and drop his go route with less than 1:00 left. The grab set up hot and cold K Randy Bullock’s (missed extra point and FG) game winning 40 yard FG.
Marshall and Decker, the teams’ best one two punch in a long time, needed help in order for the Jets to reach the finish line in Texas. Ironically, the two most important pass plays in the game for the Jets were ones to the other two guys. Not them.
It Takes A Village
Marcus Gilchrist had a pick. Calvin Pryor was doing it all. Hitting, limiting the great Cowboys TE Jason Witten after the catch while in coverage, and providing security downfield with his huge end zone pick of Kellen Moore. CB Buster Skrine kept Dez Bryant just short of the first down marker on a key third down that forced Dallas to pull up for a game tying FG at 16-16. Instead of going for the lead. Prior to the Jets very own game winning drive.
The Jets and Jets fans entered the season thrilled to see the return of Batman and Robin, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Our eyes have not deceived us though. The veteran pair just haven’t been the same lockdown presence this season as they have been in Jet years past. . Both are older of course but both also have have had injuries.
I’m not making excuses for Revis and Cro but just noting that it’s a good thing the secondary has others who contribute week in and week out. Just rolling out two guys with reputations would not have been enough to keep opposing team passing games in check in 2015.
Fitzmagic the Field General
The Jets offense sputtered all night. They failed to convert on third and fourth and shorts. Mr Marshall and Mr Decker were in and out of the lineup all night due to injuries suffered in big D, and the offensive line had trouble at times in pass protection. Not to worry though. Ryan Fitzpatrick was here to lead the way.
As he sent the Jets ahead at 16-13 with some nice throws on the go ahead drive. Following that possession up by finding Kenbrell Thompkins for a 43 yard play that led to the winning FG. The Jets now have more than a stop gap starting veteran quarterback with experience. In Fitz they have a field general. A guy willing to dive head first in order to keep drives alive, as he did on more than one occasion again last night. A guy with a short memory after a turnover, or ill advised throw into coverage. No disrespect to those who have tried to become the guy around here in recent years, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is not trying, but rather providing that leadership that this franchise has craved from behind center for too long now.
– I know he had a tough time last night in receiving a bunch of flags, but Brian Winters had a great block on the Bilal Powell TD that put the Jets up 7-3. Took two Dallas defenders out of the play.
– Down 3-0 inside the Dallas five in the first quarter and with underwhelming Cowboy Matt Cassel still in at the time and off to a sluggish start, I could understand why Todd Bowles went for it on 4th and 1. The Jets though have had a hard time short yardage wise for weeks forcing Chris Ivory into inside runs. I would have let Fitzmagic keep it and burrow down into a safe spot. He had just gained yards dong so and the Cowboys again had nobody lined up over center.
– A horse collar call on Calvin Pace led to a late first half Dallas score. An illegal shift on Leger Douzable led to a Randy Bullock retry and FG miss. Both were tough calls at the break for diehards to accept. Luckily the Jets played through it. As opposed to using the refs as a cheap excuse in the losing locker room afterwards.
– Let’s go Ravens and Broncos. A loss by either KC or the Steelers I believe, would allow the Jets to control their own destiny. Baltimore is banged up and may have problems with the streaking Chiefs, but anything is possible in the crazy NFL. The Denver defense could slow the Steelers high powered passing game down, but we will see. At least for now, the pressure is on everyone else in this race today. Except for the Jets. Who are showered, dressed and done with week 15.