Game Balls: “Saint No Thang”

Dan Marcus hands out Game Balls after the Jets 26-20 win over the Saints

And the Roller Coaster ride that is the 2013 New York Jets season continues as Rex and his bunch shook off the debacle that was the Cincinnati game and pulled off a surprising 26-20 win. At 5-4, the predicted “Worst Team in the League” is sitting pretty going into the Bye Week as they now have two weeks to get healthy and prepare for the Bills whose Quarterback situation is one of the most unpredictable in the league. I won’t even think of uttering the “P” word with seven games to go but the back-end of the schedule is shaping up to be pretty interesting and at the very least, we will see some meaningful football through December. However, before we look forward let’s look back at yesterday’s game and paint up some Game Balls. 

Chris Ivory

This was the performance that most Jets fans were waiting for when the team acquired Ivory during Draft Weekend. Shouldering the bulk of the workload, Ivory came out of the gates with a full head of steam and was obviously motivated to play his former team and it showed. He racked up 139 yards on 18 carries for a 7.7 YPC average and a Touchdown. Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Ivory and the Jets’ running game was their new-found ability to rip off long runs, which had been missing for quite some time. All-in-all an outstanding performance deserving of the day’s first Game Ball.

Quinton Coples

I guess my weekly “Missing Persons Reports” are finally paying off as Quinton Coples was actually spotted making plays on a consistent basis. I have always been of the contention that Coples is the best pure pass-rusher on this Jets defense, which is pretty high praise considering he plays alongside the would-be/should-be Defensive Player of the Year. It looks like “Q” is fully recovered from the ankle injury that sidelined him from the first few games and boy did it show yesterday.

His official stat line won’t even come close to telling the whole story as he only recorded two official Tackles and three QB Hits but Coples was a menace for the Saints Offensive Line all day, providing consistent pressure on Drew Brees throughout the game. Arguably his biggest play came on a crucial Fourth Down with the Saints looking to extend their drive and wage a comeback, Sean Payton dialed up a reverse that Coples snuffed out right away, annihilating the back and giving the ball back to the offense. If Coples can bring this type of performance on a weekly basis, it will only make this Jets Defense all the more formidable and scary for opposing Offenses.

Muhammad Wilkerson

This should be self-explanatory at this point.

Greg Salas/Zach Sudfeld/Josh Cribbs/David Nelson

Yes, all these guys will be sharing a Game Ball this week because each of them stepped up in a big way yesterday despite the fact that only a few weeks ago, many of them were sitting on their respective couches. With injuries to Jeremy Kerley, Santonio Holmes, and Jeff Cumberland each of these guys were pressed into starting roles and delivered when their names were called. Greg Salas recorded his first reception in his first game as a Jet and also led the team with 57 receiving yards, including a big 44 yard catch and run.

Sudfeld had a big reception of his own, coming off of the “Gadget Wrinkle” of the Jets’ Wildcat Package. David Nelson is a great blocker and has been arguably one of the best pick-ups the Jets have made in a while as he is turning into one of their most reliable targets, of which I’m not exactly sure how to feel.  One would be remiss without talking about Josh Cribbs, who makes most of his plays on Special Teams both as a returner and covering punts/kicks. However, the former College Quarterback has found a new role in the Jets’ version of the Wildcat (which I think should be put out to pasture unless they plan on throwing it but that’s a story for another day).

The Jets finally let Cribbs throw the ball, which is something they were more comfortable doing now than at any point when Tim Tebow was a member of the team. In fact it was Cribbs that connected with Sudfeld on his aforementioned 25-yard reception. This may not be the most talented or explosive group of Offensive Weapons in the NFL but yesterday they got the job done in a Game Ball-worthy performance.

Marty Mornhinweg

Marty always walks the fine line between getting a Game Ball and “Taking a Lap” but the good most definitely outweighed the bad yesterday so we won’t put him through any rigorous cardio today. It takes a great offensive mind to come up with a Game Plan that will compensate for a fundamental lack of talent and weapons and Marty Mornhinweg is definitely that guy. You can’t talk about the performance of the Jets rag-tag band of misfits on offense without talking about the guy who puts them in a position to look good. It was an overall excellent Game Plan that emphasized the run and being efficient in the passing game (perfect for a Rookie QB with no weapons).

However, the things that drives me crazy is the timing of his trademark aggressiveness, Mornhinweg has shown a tendency to get too conservative in crucial spots and too aggressive when in good field position. For example, the decision to go out of the “Empty Set” in the Red Zone instead of running the ball only to have the drive stall out and kick another Field Goal. On the flip side, with the Jets needing a First Down to run out the clock and seal the game, he calls three straight runs against a stacked box. It’s hard to second guess when you win so hopefully the Jets keep on winning.

Rex Ryan

If there’s one thing that Rex Ryan knows how to do, it’s calling a Defense and also making adjustments on the fly and yesterday was just another prime example. The Jets’ Defensive Line was getting pressure and collapsing the pocket on Drew Brees from the start but his ability to move the pocket and make plays was hurting the Jets early. Brees was going to his favorite target, Jimmy Graham early and often to great success but then Rex made the astute decision to double-team Graham, which completely changed the momentum of the game.

Without Graham, Brees was hard-pressed to find someone that could dial up the big play and the Jets capitalized with two Interceptions and quite a few more balls that could have been picked off. Rex is known for his ability to get the most out of his players on defense and the beleaguered Secondary rose to the occasion, even Dee Milliner had a pretty good game. Although it’s highly unorthodox, Rex gets a Game Ball.

Dawan Landry and Most of the Secondary:

Dawan Landry leads this group because very seldom do the Safeties get much love on this team despite the fact that the Safety play has gotten appreciably better as the season has progressed. Landry had two official Passes Defensed but should have been credited with an assist on DeMario Davis’ Interception as it was he who deflected the passed and tipped it “alleyoop-style” to Davis. Aside from Landry’s play it was a much better week for the Secondary as a whole after getting torched by Andy Dalton, granted a good amount of credit should go to the Defensive Line but the back-end more than held up their end of the bargain.

The starting Cornerbacks played well with Antonio Cromartie hauling in a crucial Interception and finding himself in the right place at the right time on a number of Occasions. As I mentioned Dee Milliner had a nice bounce-back game and hopefully it’s a sign he has turned the corner (no pun intended) and how could we not mention Antonio Allen who once again very good before leaving with an injury. This unit still has a lot of room for improvement but it’s trending upwards.

Nick Folk:

Last but not least is our under-appreciated kicker, who still has yet to officially miss a Field Goal this season and must be consuming ice-water intravenously on the sidelines because he is on a historic roll. The Jets have to be thankful they have a kicker that can bail them out the way Folk has done this season making clutch kick after clutch kick, especially in moments where the offense has stalled out in the Red Zone. Don’t worry Nick, kickers are people to, have a Game Ball.

Take A Lap!:

Honestly there is not much to hate on this week but I did some digging deep within my soul and the game tape and found a couple culprits:

Jaiqwan Jarrett

The back-up Safety drew the unenviable assignment of covering Jimmy Graham after he was set into motion. Jarrett proceeded to get burned as Graham hauled in a long reception on the five-yard line and was then carried the final five yards of the journey on the back of Graham, who made Jarrett look like a fly he just couldn’t swat. This will undoubtedly turn into a “Come On, Man!” moment and for that he will be doing some extra running today.

The Officials:

Like I said, there is not much to be angry with but the “Roughing the Passer” call they called on Wilkerson in the first half was simply absurd. It seems as though if a defensive player so much as breathes on a Quarterback after he releases the ball, flags will come a flying. This may be a commentary on what the NFL has turned into or simply bad officials with a quick trigger but give me a break here, today I have the whistle and it’s time for sprints.