Rex And Jets Must Turn Page To Prepare For Second Half Run

Rex and the Jets must move past last week’s disappointment to prepare for a second half run

Rex Ryan was out of line. Plain and simple. A head coach, right or wrong shouldn’t be taking on paid customers. Ones who pay to get close and pop off shouldn’t expect flowers in return either. Where Rex could apply the new team mantra in a more useful way though, is in talking to himself and the team. This regarding the notion of giving the AFC East away after nine games. Since when were playoff berths handed out before the Turkey and stuffing go around the table?

OK, fine. The Patriots have swept the Jets in 2011, and during the last contest between the two. Gang Green even lacked big game poise throughout. That still doesn’t mean that that other team is invincible the rest of the way. Not like they once were. No way.

Especially in this strange NFL season. Where the 49ers are matching the Montana 49ers for wins with Alex Smith. Where the Seahawks and Jaguars knocked off the big bad Ravens. Where the AFC East leading Texans, that’s right, the Texans will now have to go the distance with that other USC QB, Matt Leinart

The Jets stopped themselves for two and a half quarters, when they weren’t adding time on the clock for future hall of famer Tom Brady to work two minute drills. They truly executed poorly. Even with that, the offense was set to get the ball back down just 13-9 in the third, before Joe McKnight fumbled.

In prior years, the score by then would have been 23-9, or worse given the efficiency that Tom Brady and co. have exemplified in the past.. Well it wasn’t 23-9 this time. The teams are not THAT far apart. Even it means that a road game in Foxboro in the postseason will be the only way for the Jets to prove that to themselves. Again.

The Jets failed to expose a battered New England secondary on Sunday night. Failed to finally grab hold of the AFC East driver’s seat. Failed to seize the moment. That moment is over now. The players should take Rex’s new bumper sticker catch phrase and stick it on the wall of their own lockers. Move on from the disappointment of not stepping up in the rematch. Learn from it yes, but don’t talk about it anymore.

Concentrate on what lies ahead instead, which is an opportunity to hold serve as far as playoff possibilities go. Refocus and consider what opportunities ARE available.  Before taking on a Denver club that lost running backs last Sunday and had it’s quarterback throw less passes in a game than some local Pop Warner QB’s do. Before needing help from OTHER teams down the stretch.

The Jets entire organization has to turn the page right this minute, regarding their never ending obsession with New England. Or in using the words of Ryan, “STFU” and play football. There is plenty of it left. Seven games in fact. Practically half a season. Beating the Patriots is a sure sign of one’s worth, but it doesn’t award an AFC team the automatic path to the Super Bowl either. Just ask the 2010 Jets that.

As for Mark Sanchez and the never ending debate about his talents, the media can run him out of town too now if they’d like. They might first however, want to keep in mind that many who now applaud the new elite QB Eli Manning, once had him dangling off of a cliff in Chicago years back. Where talk of a benching hit the airwaves from the Fox broadcasters booth in Soldier Field. This prior to a second half comeback, led by Manning that lifted the Giants to a big road win. This on their way to a playoff berth and eventual Super Bowl title.

Sanchez has to date, not shown that he is an elite QB by any stretch. Even with the addition of Plaxico Burress and a familiarity with everyone else in that WR corps. We’re not Sanchez apologists. We see that too. So do most Jets fans.

That doesn’t mean that he can’t lead teams to wins in December and January. Again. For the third straight season. For those who have already forgotten what the last two winters looked like when number 6 took the Jets on the road to send Rivers, Manning, and Mr 14-2 Brady, home.

Nobody in Jets nation is happy with 5-4 and two losses to the first place team in the books. Especially to the hated Pats of all clubs. There’s no crying in football though. No waving white flags either.

The Jets must put it behind them, forget the Pats for now, toughen up, and go get a win. It won’t be easy. The thin Denver altitude always makes things tough on visitors. Especially on short rest. Against ANOTHER QB who like Sanchez, possesses one redeeming stat. The propensity to win, no matter how ugly it can sometimes look.

The Jets have to count their blessings, and not wallow in any disappointment. Four losses and still in the running? Consider yourselves lucky fellas. As for November obituaries, hey, we’ve all been wrong about teams and players before. Ask St Louis Cardinal baseball beat folks about what THEY were writing about last August. Not the World Series we bet.

Yes, Rex inappropriately told some fan to STFU, but that message can apply to more than one drunk idiot who happened to have a great seat to a big primetime game.

For the Jets, it’s time to get ready for Denver. Thursday night is not a trap game now. It’s another crucial one.

New York Jets Exam Part 2

TOJ, Jeff Capellini and TJ Rosenthal debate out 10 more crucial questions about the 2011 New York Jets


11. How serious of a contender are the Jets for the AFC East title?

JEFF: Very serious, but only if the next two games don’t end up being disasters. From a Jets standpoint, we’ll know if they have a legit shot by Nov. 14.

JOE: I agree with Jeff, very serious especially if they knock New England off at home in a couple of weeks. New England is a very good team this year, but also very beatable. I would not be surprised if Pittsburgh or the Giants knocked them off in the coming weeks.

TJ: They have to come out of the New England game one game back or better. Being two back with seven games left would mean that the Pats would have to lose to three OTHER teams while the Jets go 6-1 or 7-0. Not likely. The next two games will determine whether the Jets are chasing byes and home playoff games in December, or hunting down extended January road trips again.

12. How do you see Mark Sanchez finishing out this season?

JEFF: Back in the preseason T.J. and I said you’d be nuts not to sign on the dotted line for roughly 3,500 yards, 20 TDs and 12 INTs from Sanchez. Well, he’s on pace to better all three. If you are looking for Sanchez to turn into Philip Rivers, it’s not going to happen, this season. The Jets’ brain trust rightly did a course correction, as I wrote recently. Mark is totally capable of throwing for 300 yards every time out, but the Jets shouldn’t be asking him to, not with the talent at running back and the apparent righting of the ship by the offensive line. Sanchez is a fine quarterback and by the end of the season you’ll see through his statistics that he’s making strides. There’s no regression. Plus, we already know he can win in the playoffs. Just leave him be.

JOE: I think Sanchez will finish with his best statistical season yet, while still having his occasional inconsistencies. More importantly, I do think he will remain reliable in a big spot and I don’t think he will be the reason the Jets can’t reach the Super Bowl this year, if they don’t happen to.

TJ: If the Jets are about to make a serious run at this thing, then we see Sanchez as he was against the Chargers and sometimes even better, numbers wise. In total control. Finding the right receivers in the proper areas of the field, able to shake off mistakes emotionally.

If the Jets fail to kick things into another gear, and end up as a 9-7 or 8-8 type of team, we see certain days where he is forced out of his comfort zone of managing and directing. This will lead to some helmetless mopey photos of him seated on empty sideline benches in the NY Post on Monday mornings.

Sanchez has the ability to lead the Jets all the way but it will take more than him to do it. He’s not bringing a Vince Lombardi trophy back to Florham Park all by himself.

13. How will the Jets handle the outside linebacker position the rest of the season with no Bryan Thomas? Will it be more Josh Mauga or Jamaal Westerman? Somebody else?

JEFF: Use both Mauga and Westerman. The Jets will need both to perform as one because they do different things. Westerman has stepped up a bit of late in the pass rushing department and Mauga is fairly decent at stopping the run. More importantly, both seem to understand and embrace their roles and know their responsibilities. Again, game situations will dictate who is on the field, but I think they are getting there, sort of like the entire defense has as the weeks have raced by.

JOE: I think it will be a combination of Mauga, Westerman, and Eric Smith coming down into the box while Brodney Pool steps in at free safety. There is no perfect solution to replacing Bryan Thomas, who was a valuable piece of the defense and the Jets will struggle occasionally to set the edge but overall they have enough to overcome his injury.

TJ: Maybin. For Aaron Maybin to REALLY do monster damage he has to play more. For him to play more, he has to be able to stop the run. Maybin should be given the chance to, with Mauga and Westerman sprinkled in. The combo of all three allows the Jets to stay fresh energy wise which becomes a positive as long as these guys can wrap ball carriers up when they attack the Jets defense on the edge. An area of the field that the Jets have gotten burned in over the first seven games.

14. Can Santonio Holmes maintain a peaceful existence in New York despite not being likely to rack up big stats this year?

JEFF: Santonio scares me because I have no idea what he is. Yes, he makes huge plays. Yes, he wants to win. But I do question his leadership and I do worry because he’s one strike away off the field from sitting out for a long time and he tends to be a little wacky on social networking sites with his supposedly cryptic tweets. As much as the Jets’ young players need to continue to grow up, so does Holmes, Super Bowl ring and MVP or not.

JOE: As long as the team is winning, I doubt see any more issues flaring up. Long term, Holmes need to act like a leader on this team even when the team is struggling. He is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

TJ: We’re not so sure. He SAYS it’s about the team but his body language sometimes leads one to believe otherwise. Winning will help. If the Jets for whatever reason start to lose alot of games, AND Holmes is not getting the ball? THAT could be a lethal combo.

We have the feeling that Holmes is about to break out though. This first half felt like it was more about keeping Sanchez safe and when throwing, getting Burress comfortable. Finding the right patterns and freedom on the field for Dustin Keller as well. Sancehz will keep looking for Holmes and as the line continues to gel, the time to go downfield will become more available. Holmes is THE downfield target for Sanchez.

15. Who are your six AFC Playoff teams?

JEFF: Patriots, Steelers, Chargers, Texans (division champs); Ravens, Jets (wild card)

JOE: Patriots, Steelers, Chiefs, Texans, Ravens, Jets…had to throw at least one curveball with Kansas City.

TJ: Pats, Steelers, Chargers, Ravens, Texans and Jets (who we’re not counting out for a division title until after Nov 13).

16. If the Jets do not make the playoffs, should Schottenheimer be booted?

JEFF: Yes, and depending on how the defense does from here on out, maybe Pettine should join him. Sooner or later the Jets need to realize how the 21st century offense in the NFL works. You bring in a serious offensive coordinator and allow Rex to bring him a hand-picked defensive coordinator so Ryan can spend more time focusing on defense and less time worrying about putting points on the board. I trust Rex implicitly, but I especially trust his defensive mind.

JOE: Unless they win a Super Bowl, I have hard time seeing them not making a change at offensive coordinator. Sometimes it is just time for a new voice and new approach.

TJ: That depends on whether not making the playoffs was the result of the offense. We’ll assume, barring injuries to the defense, that should the Jets not get in, the offense will have been the main culprit. After three years and expectations high, the scapegoat WILL be Schotty. Whether it entirely his fault or not.

17. Do the Jets miss Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery and Brad Smith?

JEFF: No. Burress is shutting up everyone and will continue to do so. Kerley is adapting to the slot nicely and should get better as the season progresses. I hate the “Wildcat” anyway and the Jets have not missed it. Special teams — i.e. kick returning has been just fine with McKnight, Kerley and, if need be, Cromartie.

JOE: If you would have asked me this before the New England game, I probably would have said yes. However, it appears there is still hope for Plaxico on the Jets and Jeremy Kerley looks like a long term answer as a number three receiver. Brad Smith has been replaced effectively by Joe McKnight.

TJ: Maybe in the run game outside where Edwards was as good as any big receiver in sealing off the edge. Aside from that, no. Burress provides a red zone threat that simply wasn’t there before his arrival. Cotch was clutch and a great Jet, but Kerley, who may develop over the second half without Derrick Mason around, has great hands too. With more speed as well. Smith’s loss was a big concern but not as much, after Joe McKnight took that kickoff in Baltimore and ran it down i-95 heading towards Washington DC.

18. Should Darrelle Revis win Defensive Player of the Year?

JEFF: If he keeps this up and doesn’t, I’ll know for sure there’s a conspiracy against the Jets. Even if they are hated by nearly everyone not a diehard, there’s no denying the fact that Revis is the premier defensive player in the NFL right now.

JOE: Yes…simple as that.

TJ: We can’t tell you who is more valuable to their team in other places but we CAN tell you that Revis accounts for 7-10 points, at least, every week. He shuts down a top receiver who on other Sundays, put’s up points for HIS team. Revis has in half of the games already, scored himself, or set up scoring chances for the offense. The Jets average 24.6 a game and allow 21.6 point to opponents. Factor in the difference that Revis singlehandedly makes every week and then look around and see who else can offer that kind of edge elsewhere. We’re not saying that nobody else on any other team can, but the bar is beyond high. Revis is making All Pro receivers look like depth chart guys.

19. Name your Jets Pro Bowlers.

JEFF: Revis, Mangold, Harris, maybe Nick Folk, and, believe it or not, Sanchez if his TD-to-INT ratio is as good at the end of the season as it is now.

JOE: Revis, Mangold, Joe McKnight as a returner and maybe D’Brickashaw Ferguson.

TJ: Revis, maybe Harris, maybe Joe McKnight. Pencil in Mangold from now until the 2016 election year provided that his health allows him to perform at a level he is used to performing at. Three penalties last week must have been a result of Mangold not being 100 percent due to the high ankle sprian that he’s been playing through.

20. Name the Jets who deserve credit for doing the dirty work

JEFF: Mike DeVito, Calvin Pace, both are having really good seasons and you really can’t judge their worth unless you don’t see them out there, due to injury.

JOE: Matt Slauson is steadily improving each week and Calvin Pace has been strong against the run, despite not getting after the quarterback as much as you’d like to see.

TJ: Mike Westhoff is the first name that comes to mind. How do you lose Leon Washington and Brad Smith yet somehow continue to give the Jets an edge EVERY week in the return game?  Who calmed Nick Folk down? Who made Joe Knight a weapon?  We love your lunchpail guys especially the poor man’s Joe Klecko, Mike Devito. We are thrilled to see Wayne Hunter settle in and play like he did last January. Westhoff though is our favorite unheralded Jet. He puts his crew in position to win key battles every Sunday. Especially when big plays are needed. McKnight’s punt block against Dallas for example. Or his ordering of Cromartie as the one to take that kick back in Indy last year that helped rescue the Jets in the Wildcard round. We appreciate every second of the hard work that he does in order to help ease the burden for a team that has gone to the AFC title game without a dominant pass rusher and 300 yards per game passer, two years straight.


A New York Jets Exam Part 1

TOJ, Green Lantern, and The Jet Report debate out 20 key questions facing the New York Jets the rest of the season

Get comfortable in your seat, print out a copy and take it on the train, or get ready for an extended lunch break. Jeff Capellini from CBS New York, TJ Rosenthal from The Jet Report, along with myself have taken the time to answer 20 crucial about the New York Jets on their bye week. Enjoy, disagree, argue…let’s get after it —


1. What does THIS Jets team have (or not have) that will allow it to move beyond the AFC Championship game.

JEFF: Personnel-wise, the Jets have enough to get to the Super Bowl. They also have the great intangible called belief. What they don’t have yet is a cohesiveness. And when you get to conference title games you have to be a united front on the field and in the locker room to beat the upper echelon teams, especially in their buildings. If the Jets make the playoffs, they are not going to zip through, only to face a wild card team that went on a miraculous run, in the championship game. It just doesn’t work that way. Odds are, they could go to New England, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, you name it. They have to learn how to take that last step and it’s not something you can teach. It’s a matter of experience, execution and coaching. It’s that simple. You’d think if they are truly back and get this thing revved up they’ll be one of the most difficult outs in the entire postseason. But, again, simply making it yet again is not enough. There are no gimmes in the playoffs. Sooner or later they have to truly come together, and I mean for more than 30 minutes at a clip.

JOE: I don’t think talent is an issue here and the experience is clearly in place for the Jets to make a Super Bowl run. The difference is going to be how stingy will the defense be in January and if Mark Sanchez can put together a few big time performances at the right time. It is very likely the Jets could end up in the wild-card again, which means road victories over some combination of New England, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh need to occur for the Jets to finally make it to that elusive Super Bowl.

TJ: For many on this Jets team, there is the collective experience of having battled on the road through two straight AFC playoff runs now. That’s alot of adversity to fight through together. As for new pieces, Plaxico Burress could be a difference maker in the red zone as he was last week. The Jets were red zone failures over the past two seasons. What they also may have added, should they choose to use it, is more speed on offense thanks to Joe McKnight and Jeremy Kerley. On the defensive side, if Aaron Maybin continues to settle in, others like Calvin Pace may benefit. In that scenario you could argue that by December the Jets will have the pass rush that was not at their disposal either during the ’09 and ’10 seasons.

2. Looking back, are there any August roster changes you’d like to have back? Or attacked differently?

JEFF: I might not have let Shaun Ellis walk, but he got a king’s ransom from the Patriots, one that the Jets would have been laughed at for matching or exceeding. However, they are still, reportedly, well below the cap and the defensive line, while improving at a snail’s pace weekly, is still not a strength. I kind of think having Ellis around would have been a good thing for the Kenrick Ellises and Muhammad Wilkersons of the world. Plus, who knows? Maybe Shaun could’ve still made some impact plays at opportune moments. The bottom line is, his return would not have HURT the Jets.

JOE: Plaxico’s recent three touchdown game and the emergence of Jeremy Kerley has calmed me down about Braylon Edawrds and Jerricho Cotchery walking. I do think the Jets are moving around the receivers surrounding Mark Sanchez too much but hopefully he can continue to adjust. Obviously, it would have been nice to see Mike Tannenbaum add a veteran lineman when Robert Turner suffered his pre-season injury.

TJ: We are still uncomfortable with the notion that if Mark Sanchez has ANY sort of issues that could sideline him during a game or even for a week or two, that Mark Brunell, with all due respect to an outstanding 19 year NFL career, is next in line. We would have liked to see a better option handled over in the Summer even though the Jets would tell you that 7th rounder Greg McElroy was on pace to landing a backup role. We wanted a Sage Rosenfels type. An 8-10 year vet who could sling it if needed.

The chase for Nnamdi Asomugha was extensive and may have cost the Jets Brad Smith but the biggest move we’d take back is cutting Aaron Maybin in the first place. Could Maybin have made a difference out in Oakland, where the early season avalanche began? We’ll never know.

3. Whats the biggest fear or danger zone for this team, player or unit, as we enter the second half?

JEFF: If the Jets’ defense continues to be what it was in the second half of the Chargers game, I’m not worried at all. However, even if it is that unit, it’s still not a shutdown unit. The Jets will still allow the occasional running back to have the big game. Tight ends and second and third receivers will still post gaudy numbers. We’ve all heard of “bend-but-don’t-break” defenses. I think that’s what the Jets are, but on a more accelerated level. They are somewhere between bend but don’t break and shutdown. The hope is they will continue to make strides toward the latter, especially over the next two weeks.

JOE: The fear is the defense allowing teams to run the football on them. There is no Ground and Pound, if you allow another running back to rack up 150 yards. It is messes with the approach of the entire team and forces the offense to play too aggressively.

TJ: The biggest fear we have is cohesiveness on the field. The Jets are, barring a major change, seeing the extent of what Mark Sanchez can give the team consistently. That is leadership, hot streaks, and the ability to come from behind. If the Jets run game keeps growing, and the defense begins to cement while adding players like Maybin into the equation, then the load  that Sanchez wlll be asked to carry can remain reasonable. If parts break down too often though, the team will have to ride the arm, and decision making of Sanchez. Two traits that are best served when keeping his stranglehold on games within reason.

4. After the spreading the ball around and featuring big pieces like Burress, Greene and Keller last Sunday, is it safe to say that Schotty and the offense have a solid handle on their approach now?

JEFF: I’m confident this offensive line is very close to being what it was last season. I think it has gotten over its adjustment period, which was caused mostly by injuries and these new and somewhat absurd CBA rules on padded practices. Shonn Greene IS a No. 1 running back. He moves the sticks. Mark Sanchez is a better quarterback than he was last season. Plaxico Burress is still a premier red zone target. The Jets just have to do a better job of complimenting Greene with LaDainian Tomlinson out of the backfield and as a receiver, must not forget about Dustin Keller, which they have been prone to do, and must get the ball in Santonio Holmes’ hands. He cannot be catching 2-3 balls a game. He’s their quickest way to the red zone. Brian Schotteheimer must find new and inventive ways to get the ball in No. 10’s hands. He changes games.

JOE: I don’t think it is safe to say that after one game but they are definitely moving in the right direction. Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller should be the top targets in the passing game, with Burress being the primary threat in the red-zone. Kerley is a third down weapon. The running game should feature Shonn Greene getting around 20 carries each week, while LaDainian Tomlinson chips in 7-10 touches as a runner and receiver. Joe McKnight needs a few packages where he can catch and run the ball in space and will gradually become more involved as the season goes on.

TJ: They better. If last week was a fluke rather than the template moving forward, then the Jets will be spotty on offense in the second half and be forced to win games solely through the work of the special teams and the defense. A strategy that has a limit to it’s effectiveness without a killer pass rusher. Last Sunday, the Jets got everyone involved which kept everyone mentally in the game. This stretched the field enough to create room for Shonn Greene to run. The only way that the Jets offense can be counted on to uphold their 24.6 points per game average is to keep doing more of the same.

5. What can we expect of Wilkerson and Ellis? How high is the ceiling of Aaron Maybin as a pass rusher this year and beyond?

JEFF: I think 3-4 years from now the Jets will have serious pieces with Kenrick and Muhammad, but for now you just have to hope they continue to show the flashes they’ve shown and live with the disappearing acts. Jets are a scheme-based defense anyway, and they generate their pressure off the blitz. Maybin has been a pleasant surprise, but he’s nowhere near a polished player. He gets to the QB for sure, but he’s mostly a straight-line or speed rusher. The guy needs to learn some moves because sooner or later wise tackles will just push him outside rather than engage him at the point of attack.

JOE: Wilkerson and Ellis look like they can be building blocks on the defensive line for years to come. In Rex’s system they won’t be flashy players but will be key components in stopping the run and pushing the pocket. Aaron Maybin really only has a couple of things going for him, his speed and motor. However, in Rex’s system he may have found a perfect home. I do believe he can be a double digit sack this year and beyond.

TJ: Wilkerson and Ellis will have their moments. The best case scenario has them making impacts in a few games, or on a few game changing plays. Their time as terrorizing beasts upfront is off in the not so distant future. Maybin’s time may be now. Maybin is fast, his pursuit can wreak havoc when plays are extended. All three have a bright future at this point, but Maybin can be a difference maker for this team. He may HAVE TO continue his pass rushing growth if the Jets hope to reach Indy.

6. If the “bad” Cromartie rears his head too often, are you comfortable throwing Kyle Wilson at the corner yet?

JEFF: I think anyone waiting for Kyle to become a shutdown corner at this level may be waiting a while. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t be a responsible and useful part of this defense. He’s improved over last season. His reads have been much better, but for the time being I think you just have to live with Antonio being Antonio because he has more upside as a “big play player” than Wilson has. And on a defense that features just one true star, the Jets need all the big- and game-changing plays they can get. Take the good with the bad with Cro and keep Kyle zoned rather than out wide, where there is less margin for error.

JOE: You know what you are getting with Antonio Cromartie, which is inconsistency. I don’t think the quick hook is the right answer as the Jets need his size and speed on the outside. Beyond that, Kyle Wilson is starting to thrive in the nickel role which is a crucial one in the Jets defense. I wouldn’t mess with that anytime soon.

TJ: No. However, we are a heck of alot more comfortable with him now that he is playing the ball and his head is turned around, than we would have been had he been forced into a starting corner role last season. Wilson’s growth in roles  such as a nickel cover guy, a blitzing weapon, and a spy, along with Maybin’s blindside speed, give the Jets added elements to last year’s defense. The second year CB’s confidence is certainly growing. That bodes well should he be forced to spell Cromartie or provide health insurance for EITHER cornerback position. As scary as that is to say, considering what a thought like that means.

7. Will Joe McKnight’s role increase?

JEFF: It almost has to, but it’s hard to say it will because even Tomlinson disappears for long stretches of games. And that’s not because LaDainian is no longer a viable talent. Schottenheimer has yet to find a balance with his RB personnel.  We know Greene should be a 20-plus carry back. We know Tomlinson should be a 5-7-carry back and more of a pass-catching threat. Where does that leave McKnight, a guy with tons of talent and more maturity? It’s hard to say. If in the average game the Jets runs 60-65 plays from scrimmage and want a 50-50 run pass balance, you are looking at 30-33 touches for RBs. Well, if Greene is getting 20-25 and Tomlinson 5-7, that’s 25-32 right there. I think McKnight could be the true change-of-pace back the Jets need, while Tomlinson at this point should be in sets where he’s split out wide or used as the primary back, but only inside the opponent’s 5-yard line.

JOE: I do think it will, but the Jets still need to figure out exactly where to fit him in this year. In the long term, he is a perfect change of pace back for Shonn Greene. For this year, with LaDainian Tomlinson still in the mix it remains hard to get him many touches. Yet, the Jets must get him going in the screen game and use his receiving skills by splitting him out.

TJ: We hope so. Making McKnight a player who is part of 5-7 plays, even as a play action decoy, gives the Jets the threat of big play speed that they haven’t had under Ryan since Leon Washington was around. Speed kills. McKnight has already proven that this year on special teams. It’s not easy to find guys who cause oppoments comcern simply by lining up. Number 25 would have to be treated by defense with respect should he be sent out into the flat for a pitch outside or for a fake that could allow Sanchez to roll out in the other direction with less defenders on his heels.

8. Assess the safeties so far. Some argue that it’s time we see more of the athletic Brodney Pool.

JEFF: It probably is time to see more of Pool. He’s sound in most aspects. But, truth be told, Eric Smith, Pool and Jim Leonhard are undersized and do not cover very well. I think finding a do-it-all safety is one of the hardest things an NFL front office has to deal with on a yearly basis. Ronnie Lott doesn’t grow on trees. So, unless the Jets go out and get lucky on the open market, I think you have to rotate Pool and Smith and play off their strengths depending on the situation. I’d trust Pool more on the opposing side of the 50 due to his speed, but I’d be fine with Smith when the field gets shorter.

JOE: On paper that does make sense, but Pool hasn’t been very good when on the field this year. The Jets will have a patch-work situation at that position for the rest of the year. A playmaking safety isn’t easy to find but the Jets need to try, especially in the early rounds of next year’s draft.

TJ: Why is there so much “miscommunication” going on back there as I believe Leonhard claimed there was last week when rookie LB Josh Mauga was frantically running for his life to cover Antonio Gates in the end zone. Plays like that are happening too often and they shouldn’t, given the experience that Jim Leonhard and Eric Smith have during their time in New York together.

Covering tight ends has been a nightmare again for the Jets who may want to leave that up to corner guys like Wilson, and Donald Strickland instead of Smith. Does Brodney Pool get what defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and Rex Ryan want? If so, get him in on more plays. He hits hard. so even if he’s late to the ball, someone is gonna get dialed up, perhaps leading to some turnovers.

9. Are the Patriots better than the Jets? If so, in what ways and how much better?

JEFF: At the end of the day I see this matchup as a wash. It all depends on when on the calendar they meet. Earlier in the season is better for the Patriots because the Jets’ D is so complex it takes quite a while for the players to get comfortable in their roles. Later in the season is better from a defensive standpoint. Offensively, the Jets should always be able to move the ball and put up points on the New England defense because it’s simply not that good. The Pats have more “stars” on offense; the Jets are much more sound defensively. I just think the Pats know how to put teams away, while the Jets, due in part to their offensive philosophy, always seem to find themselves still being forced to move the ball on offense in the fourth quarter instead of just letting the defense preserve victories. It’s not by design and that’s the main reason the Jets hover around 9-11 wins instead of 12-13 and securing home playoff games.

JOE: On a week to week basis, yes they are a better football team. They are more consistent and have one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history under center with a ridiculous collection of weapons. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean the Jets aren’t more than capable of beating them in a few weeks and again in the playoffs if it comes to that. A few weeks ago, the Jets played far from their best game and hung right with New England. They have confidence against them, which goes a long way.

TJ: The Patriots of week 6 were better than the Jets. We’re not so sure if they will be by week 9. This Jets team has the roadmap to success now, thanks to a second half against the Chargers that helped highlight key blueprints. They have found their identity of spreading the ball around and stretching the field in order to open up the run game. This while locking down the corners, covering tight ends with nickel guys, and putting some heat on the pocket with Maybin and Calvin Pace. McKnight and rookie Jeremy Kerley provide the field positon in the return game. There is still room to grow for the Jets so the jury is stlll out. Falling behind by two games by failing to identify the strengths and weaknesses of this current group earlier, makes it tougher to win the division though. Obviously.

10. How can the Jets compensate for their shortcomings on defense, particularly at safety and outside linebacker?

JEFF: By getting to the quarterback. I can’t state it any clearer.

JOE: Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine. They have the ability to coach around those shortcomings, which existed last year but still didn’t prevent the Jets from beating Indianapolis or New England on the road.

TJ: By working Brodney Pool into the safety rotation for more athleticism and aggressive hitting. By rushing guys like Wilson on passing downs and again, asking Pool and the safeties to play the outside run a bit more. This would leave Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis on their own more often so Cro would HAVE TO think less and react more on his island. We all know that Revis can handle any coverage assignment by himself.


A Roadmap Is Found By The New York Jets

TJ on the winning formula the New York Jets discovered against the San Diego Chargers

The Jets exited the field of Met Life stadium on Sunday, entering the much needed rest of a bye week as owners of not only a crucial comeback win, but possibly of a roadmap containing an identity and blueprint for the future.

Down 21-10 midway through the third quarter to the 4-1 Chargers was not how Gang Green had drawn up their pre game battle plans against a Bolts offense known for delivering high powered knockout blows. Then again, neither was a 3-3 start to a 2011 season that was racing towards a scenario that would have left the club three games back of first place with half the year already in the books. Then it all came together. On both sides of the ball.

A ten play 55 yard TD drive that started with 7:30 left in the third quarter, was soon followed by a game changing interception by, who else, Darrelle Revis. Just like that, a two score deficit became a one score lead. Along with it, the reemergence of hope for a season that a short while ago, contained Super Bowl goals.

Credit the eternally embattled offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for making a point to get ALL Jets skill position players involved during the first half. This attention to detail not only gave Shonn Greene (20 carries -112 yards) the amount of carries that Rex Ryan often insists will make him a War Machine again, but it helped keep another embattled Jet, Plaxico Burress, attentive long enough to add two more TD catches to his three score day.

Looks to speedy rookie  Jeremy Kerley with carries finally given to Joe McKnight, gave the Jets some unpredictable flavor. This as Sanchez took shots to big play Santonio Holmes (who had an incredible diving TD reception called back due to a holding call) as well.

The offensive line also stepped up again. Credit the recent return of Nick Mangold from injury and the improved play of Wayne Hunter at RT (who helped slow down Miami’s pass rushing star Cameron Wake the week before) for the rise in quality. With the offensive line coming together to help spearhead a balanced attack (Sanchez 173 yds passing. Jets rushing attack combined 162 yds), the Jets were able to surpass their 24.2 points per game average just enough to turn things over to Rex’s defense. A unit that was also doing it’s share of growing.

While Revis was busy taking star WR Vincent Jackson (1-15 yds) out of the equation, the Jets were busy trying to sort out their first half issues of once again dealing with the tight end. This was not your normal one, somehow burning them up and down the field though. It was future hall of famer Antonio Gates. Gates was open early and often during the first half but better coverage by the safeties, linebackers, and emerging second year CB Kyle Wilson on Gates in the second half (Wilson’s first NFL interception late in the 4th to help seal the win) was a big reason that the Jets held the mighty Chargers offense scoreless after halftime.

Scrap heap gem Aaron Maybin, provided his third sack and added some pressures to a defense that exited the game 6th in the NFL with 18 sacks. The notion of pressure from both Calvin Pace and now Maybin, with weekly lockdown coverage from Revis, could now get another boost INSIDE the numbers from players like Wilson.

Should this and Antonio Cromartie’s work towards keeping his hands to himself (as he did for the most part on Sunday) begin to solidify, than THIS Jet defense, during this modest two game win streak, may have found a rocket boost in two places; Pressure and coverage.

Now add Special Teams into the equation. With McKnight and Kerley having safely allowed the Jets to have moved beyond the loss of current Buffalo Bill Brad Smith due to their big plays during the first seven games, the Jets can add the potential for big plays into their new formula. One that abandoned the overload of pass or run for a less obvious mixture.

In September, the Jets tried to feature Mark Sanchez as a fantasy football owner’s dream. In October, they tried to delve into the past with the ultra conservative Ground and Pound. Against the Chargers, in the final game before the Winter months arrive, they blended both. Letting everyone join the party in doing so.

When the air attack would end up in turnovers, Jets coaches would often retreat into treating Mark Sanchez as an adolescent. A teenager not to be trusted alone in the house while the parents were out for the night. During the Chargers win however, Sanchez, despite any recent proof of an ability to lead the club all day with his arm, was imparted with a measurable amount of faith from the Jets sidelines. It payed off, as key pieces provided big time production at the right time.

Burress was BROUGHT HERE to be fed in the Red Zone. Sanchez fed him. TE Dustin Keller, the true safety valve wasn’t forgotten. He was featured. Greene’s engine was made to plow over ground like a tank after the engine was properly heated. Sunday, the third year back was given the ball. Time and again. The Jets overall ability to finally use their weapons collectively, helped the club finally move the chains. In doing so, it allowed the defense the opportunity to stay rested and settle in.

The Jets, at 4-3, have not played well enough against enough quality teams, to simply assume that they are now undoubtedly headed for a third straight playoff appearance under Ryan. They ARE however in position to, for the first time this year, put the search mission to rest. The Jets, if even for a brief two quarter stretch, showed themselves who they are, and who they can be. A team that runs the ball efficiently while using the air to both threaten and damage.

They are a team that will always leave a top receiver stranded while pressure and coverage thanks to the surprising play of Maybin and Wilson, may help tighten the screws even tighter on the opposition.

Buffalo and New England are up next. It won’t be easy. However, a Jets team that may now be firing on all cylinders, will be tough for opponents to beat as well. The Jets can use the second half comeback that saw 17 unanswered points, as a template going forward, provided they can show that all of the miscommunication that went on weeks back inside of the Jets locker room, was like their inconsistent play, a thing of the past.

Those faces are starting to fall in place. Just in the nick of time. November is here and that means that it is time to make the push for the playoffs. The Jets are set up to do that now. To be a team that CAN surge head on into January, and perhaps even beyond. For the first time this season.



Sanchez Led The Way Before The Light Began To Fade

TJ on Mark Sanchez coming up with yet another clutch performance

Sanchez this, Sanchez that. Say whatever you want about Mark Sanchez. The elite quarterback who had the 21-10 lead with the ball  in the third quarter, lost. The one who is always under fire for not “progressing,” won.

Mark Sanchez, against the elite QBs in the AFC is now: 3-3 against Tom Brady, 2-0 against Phillip Rivers, and 1-1 against Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning.

The third year franchise signal caller has alot of improving to do. With his consistency, his footwork, and his ability to be resourceful earlier in games when the team is struggling to move the ball.

However, he steals wins late in games more than he hands victories over by making dumb mistakes down the stretch. His decision making hardens when the going gets tough. Add four playoff wins during his first two years to the equation as well.

The Jets are now 4-3. It is essential that Sanchez continues to develop. The Jets DON’T need however, to teach Sanchez how to win. While his imperfections have prevented him from being a statistical killer to this point, maybe it is time for the detractors to finally accept what Mark Sanchez in two and a half seasons HAS brought to the Jets. Leadership.

On Sunday down 21-10 in the third quarter, when the season felt like it was once again, hanging in the balance, Sanchez began to show off HIS biggest attribute. With two of his three TD passes to Plaxico Burress coming in the second half, key scrambles, and third down completions, the Jets quarterback found a way to help navigate the Jets out of the darkness and into the second half of a season now filled with promise and hope. Just minutes before much of the light in a season that began with Super Bowl aspirations, began to fade.

New York Jets Fans Want More Joe McKnight

TJ on the desire of New York Jets fans to see more Joe McKnight on offense

The combination of a struggling offense and some big time plays on special teams from Joe McKnight have helped peak the curiosity around Jets Nation as to what the former USC product could bring to the table, in any sort of extended role.

So far in 2011, McKnight’s accomplishments include blocking a key punt that led to a comeback win, running back the longest kickoff return on Jets history. He’s also caught a few passes downfield after lining up in the slot, and has had a few tries out of the backfield taking pitches outside hoping to break one down the sidelines. So now what?

We polled Jets Nation on Twitter by asking them “What size role do you want to see the Jets give Joe McKnight at this point in the season?”

31 Percent – 5-10 TOUCHES at RB/WR

24 Percent- 10 TOUCHES at RB 24 pct

15 Percent – 10-15 TOUCHES at RB

7.5 Percent – 15 TOUCHES as KR/RB/WR combined

7.5 Percent – Part of an even spread three ways (Greene, LT, McKnight)

7.5 Percent – Split carries 50/50 with Shonn Greene 7.5 pct

7.5 Percent – Continue along in the same role.

92.5 Percent – Role to increase towards a minimum of 5-10 touches per game.

The reasoning behind the increase in activity for McKnight included the following:

  • Simply faster than both Shonn Greene, and Ladainian Tomlinson.
  • At this point the Jets have nothing to lose.
  • McKnight hits the hole faster.
  • He’ll be effective in the same role as a Danny Woodhead: RB/WR
  • The Offense needs a spark and additional breakaway speed.

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Two New York Jets With Unique Arrivals Bring Speed & Power To Defense

TJ on the impact of Aaron Maybin and Kenrick Ellis on the New York Jets defense

Aaron Maybin’s strips and sack of Dolphins QB Matt Moore Monday night provided a speed in pursuit the Jets sorely needed from the LB position. Big Kenrick Ellis blasted through the Dolphins line to stuff a key Miami rushing attempt by the goal line. These two first year Jets, both arriving with different suitcases full of baggage, could be the keys to injecting this slow starting defense with the production it needs to return to being one of the NFL’s best.

Maybin, a former Penn State Nittany Lion, started only one game in two seasons for the Buffalo Bills after having been selected 11th overall in the 2009 draft. Maybin told Bob Wischusen on 1050 ESPN Tuesday night that with all due respect to the Bills organization, “it was hard to make plays” while not being on the field. Maybin is making plays as a Jet. His tag as a top round “bust” may soon turn to “steal” should his quality play continue.

After making the 53 player roster out of camp, Maybin was surprisingly released only days later. His return came in Baltimore after being re signed prior to the matchup with the Ravens. Jets fans got a glimpse of what could be when he hunted down QB Joe Flacco, causing a fumble in Ravens territory. At a time in the game when the Jets were in position to continue their comeback.

The opportunity was wasted one play later when Mark Sanchez threw an interception to Lardarius Webb that resulted in a 73 yard return for TD. It was a play that essentially sealed the game, but the play by Maybin was one that turned many Jets fans heads. Finally, some devastating speed had arrived.

Maybin’s play picked up again Monday night as he forced two fumbles and sacked Matt Moore once. This “Mayhem” style that seems predicated on spying behind the Jets defensive line, may bring the Jets more short fields to work with going forward. A concept that will be music to the ears of the Jets who are still searching for an identity on offense, and can use all the help they can get.

Ellis, whose draft stock dropped due to his facing a felony charge in a case that has been moved to Feb 7th, 2012, was a risk that for now could pay off in 2011. The third round pick out of Hampton was finally activated for the first time Monday night to the delight of Jets nation.

Should his size and presence help plug a run defense that has been burned by many running backs so far this season, perhaps the Jets will once again, be able to force opposing teams into third and more long situations. A scenario that would be welcome by head coach Rex Ryan and his blitz packages.

The Jets are giving up close to 22 points a game this year, up from 19 a game last season. Maybin and Ellis could help return this team to a place where less is asked of Mark Sanchez and company. If so, the Jets could once again base their foundation off of the defense. This way the offense and special teams could also go back to lending a key hand without being elevated into the primary provider role . A formula that allowed the Jets to win enough games to earn a trip to the postseason in both years under Ryan.

Five Keys For New York Jets Versus Miami Dolphins

Listen to TJ discuss the top five keys here

1-CIRCLE THE WAGONS: Namath’s comments after the Oakland loss. Receivers complain abut Schotty. Santonio Holmes calls out the O line. Mason is dealt. Holmes vs. Brandon Moore. Is this a team on the brink of implosion?

2-CLEANER PLAY FROM THE SECONDARY: Too many flags in recent weeks. Keep your hands to yourselves guys.

3-PROVE ‘EM WRONG OFFENSIVE LINE: Called out by the media, Holmes, and still readjusting after the return of the injured star Nick Mangold. This group has to prove the doubters wrong, and start giving Mark Sanchez some time to throw.

4-STRETCH THE FIELD: Defenses are playing eleven guys right up at the line. Go downfield sometimes, and create some room to run.

5-BE A TOP FIVE DEFENSE: Last week the Jets finally got some pressure on a QB in Foxboro. Kick it into gear now, certainly don’t let backup QB Matt Moore get comfortable early on.

Joe, Rex & The Confidence Of The Jets

Check out TOJ Friend Jeff Capellini’s opinion on the issue as well

Joe Namath’s opinion that Rex Ryan’s instilling of too much confidence in his players reared it’s ugly head in Oakland on Sunday, was met with a sharp response by Ryan Monday after both spoke on 1050 ESPN radio. Ryan invited Namath to practice to see how hard the Jets work and how diligently they prepare everyday for upcoming opponents. Namath perhaps was trying to share a hard lesson he had once learned himself on the way to a Super bowl title. Ryan was rightfully defending the positive results of re-branding an organization that eternally felt sorry for itself before his arrival. The harsh words from Namath may not be entirely applicable or appropriate, but the drama that played out over the radio airwaves yesterday can become a helpful foundation for the Jets. A team that has publicly stated that they must win as often as possible, in order to reach their immediate goal: playing home playoff games in January.

Namath is the symbolic patriarch of the Jets. Dick Wood. Mike Taliaferro. Remember them? We didn’t think so. Wood was the QB for the Jets in 1964, one year prior to Namath’s arrival in Green and White. Talafierro hung around backing up Namath as the Alabama star got his feet wet in the AFL. A league that Namath helped raise the awareness of, while simultaneously aiding the Jets in the local football conversation. One that was monopolized by the storied franchise from Yankee Stadium, the Giants, before Jets owner Sonny Werblin made Joe a Jet.

On Monday, Namath may have subconsciously been trying to help his beloved Jets get over the hump, by offering a warning about the thin line between having an inflated self opinion and playing desperate.

Namath’s self proclaimed turning point during the Jets only championship season came early on in 1968. Defensive coach Walt Michaels gave him an earful on the plane ride back to New York, after a putrid loss to an awful Buffalo team. In the Sept 2h9t, 1968 game at War Memorial stadium, Namath tried to do too much, throwing five interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns in a shocking 37-35 loss.

Michaels implored him to let the defense do their job too and to take better care of the ball as the field general. Perhaps even going deeper into the psyche of Namath by in turn reminding him to respect all opponents in the meta message. Namath adjusted from that point forward and it showed. The Jets took off. Winning week after week in taking the Eastern division before knocking off the Raiders in the AFL championship at Shea Stadium 27-23. This prior to the miracle in Miami against the Colts.

Maybe Namath saw the ghosts of that day at Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium when he ranted with radio host Michael Kay. A flashback to a moment during his own prime, where an opponent was clearly beatable had the proper execution taken place on the field.

Ryan had an entirely different set of circumstances facing him as he entered the Jets family. “The Same Old Jets” 2008 version, had just went from 8-3 led by coach Eric Mangini and QB Brett Favre, to 9-7. A typical collapse that took them from first place to out of the playoffs, an ending to another once promising season, that only reinforced the nickname that Jet loyalists had loathed wearing through endless offseasons.

Ryan wasted no time in rebranding the Jets when he told the world during his first press conference that he wouldn’t kiss Bill Belicheck’s rings. He then took the Jets in his debut season of 2009 from almost dead to the AFC Championship in Indianapolis. It was the first sighting for many, of a Jets team would fight until the last second on the clock, until the last breath of a dying season. Jets fans have loved him and stuck by him ever since. Just like his players do.

Ryan’s encore began with a look inside the team, thanks to HBO’s Hard Knocks. A view that furthered the die hardsappreciation for a coach who maybe for the first time in club history, wears his colors loudly and proudly. What followed was yet another road tour through the AFC playoffs in January, which included an improbable win in Foxboro. A victory perhaps only trumped in Jets history by Namath’s Jets 16-7 Super Bowl upset in 1969.

When the 2010 season ended in Pittsburgh, Ryan then took it a step further. He declared New York the Jets town, and the new shared stadium the home of the Jets. Not the Giants. The bravado was not received well by many on the outside to say the least. Especially Giants fans. It was music to the ears of Jets fans though. A cult like collection of crazies who have had to endure second class status since it was stamped on the New York Titans birth certificate back in 1960.

On Sunday the Jets began an imposing road swing that included Ryan’s former team the Ravens and the hated Patriots. Directly in front of them however, was a team that many saw as the weakest of the three teams in this stretch. The Raiders. An organization that has undergone a decade of confusion, a myriad of coaches and quarterbacks, and to put it plainly, has not been very Raider-like.

Without three time All Pro C Nick Mangold, the Jets came out with a shrewd dink and dunk gameplan on offense thatprotected a makeshift offensive line and helped Gang Green jump out to 17-7 lead. Then an old time Jets Raiders AFL battle ensued as the Silver and Black, using a world class speed that may soon demand attention across the NFL, raced their way to 24 unanswered points. The barrage was enough to help lead Al Davis’s “Rai-duhs” to a 34-24 win.

The loss surprised many including Namath who attributed it to the Jets being too self absorbed. A personality that he opined “started at the top.” Maybe however, a better way for the Jets to keep their edge in the future, especially in getting ready for games that sit before “marquee matchups” in prime time, might be the one that CB Darrelle Revis suggested. Instead of toning down the good feeling inside of Florham Park, the Jets might want to listen to, and follow their defensive leader Revis who said that ALL teams are gunning for the Jets. This fact alone should of course keep the Jets on their toes at all times.

Revis is right. The Jets ARE the hunted now. Not only because for the first time since Namath dropped back to throw, they’ve sat in the national spotlight for an extended period of time. Or because they make news when they talk. It’s because Rex Ryan’s Jets are good. Very good. Exciting too. With notable NFL stars all over the field, on both sides of the ball. With that comes the new responsibility for being ready every Sunday for sixty minutes.

The adjustment from being confident to delivering knockout punches before opponents can get up off the canvas, will lead to a stockpile of victories that can finally put them in position to overtake AFC East kings, New England. A group that, aside from their slip up on Sunday in Buffalo, makes a habit of giving lesser teams no chance and no life right from the first drive of the game.

One can argue that the Jets greatest legend, Joe Namath, was out of place when he stuck his nose in Rex’s business. It can’t be argued however, that the Jets can only benefit from Ryan’s miraculous psychology work that began in 2009, by improving upon it in this way as this season develops.

If nothing else, the loss to the Raiders combined with Namath’s comments, can be the foundation where upon the Jets can springboard themselves from a team that has fallen just short two years in a row, to one that wins the amount of games required to host postseason ones. A scenario that could help change the Jets flight of 2011 from one that again misses the ultimate mark, to a safe landing inside of Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5th, 2012. Date and site of Super Bowl Forty six.

Final Thoughts On Jets/Raiders

Game MVP – LaDainian Tomlinson, who ripped apart the Oakland defense as a receiver out of the backfield. For the second year in a row he is off to a very strong start.

Game Goat – Antonio Cromartie…the feast or famine act is growing old very quickly.

Play of the Game – Cromartie’s muffed kick is where the game went down the toilet. Fortunately, I can’t find a YouTube video link of it because I don’t want to see it again.

Trending Up

  • LaDainian Tomlinson – The Jets most consistent playmaker on offense through three weeks.
  • Plaxico Burress – He is still a match-up nightmare when given the chance.
  • Derrick Mason – Finished with 6 receptions and a handful of huge third down conversions.
  • Colin Baxter – Held his own in his first NFL start.

Trending Down

  • Wayne Hunter – A weekly regular in this category.
  • Antonio Cromartie – A lung injury could keep him out this week.
  • Santonio Holmes – Not necessarily on him but Jets must do a better job of getting #10 involved.
  • Bart Scott/ Calvin Pace/Bryan Thomas/David Harris – Not a pretty week for the Jets highly touted LBs.

1. I said before this game that the only way the Jets would lose is if they laid a complete egg. They found a way to do that in spectacular fashion for a key stretch of the game that put them in too big of a hole to climb out of. Penalties, turnovers, and missed tackles equal losses. It happens in the NFL. Too many people are making broad proclamations about the implications of this game as I will get into later today.

2. Jamaal Westerman is not an answer as a pass rusher. This team has to stop procrastinating each off-season when it comes to adding a player who can get after the quarterback.

3. Look for more Joe McKnight on kick return, especially if Antonio Cromartie will be nursing an injury. If Cromartie can’t play on defense, Kyle Wilson will likely get the start. He will get quite the chance for redemption after his rough season opener against the Baltimore Ravens in 2010.

TJ reviews his top five from the game

NFL Week 3 highlights