As the New York Jets took Heinz field on Sunday no one truly knew what to expect from the struggling team. Would Gang Green continue their downward spiral out of playoff contention? Would the Jets rally the troops and fight their way back into the playoff hunt? Well that question was quickly answered as 12 seconds into the game Brad Smith ran the opening kickoff back 97 yards for a touchdown. The Jets went on to win the game 22-17, which could easily be considered one of the biggest wins in Rex Ryan’s young coaching career.
Hats off to Schottenheimer- New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has been taking a beating for his playcalling, but on Sunday he did a tremendous job. The Jets offensive game plan was solid as it included a short passing game, which opened up the running game and plays down the field. The protection packages only allowed one sack and helped Wayne Hunter through a variety of blitzes.
Offensive line gets physical- The Jets offensive line was up for the challenge on Sunday as they battled all game against a tough Steelers front seven. For the most part the line gave Sanchez time to throw the ball and when the game was on the line, holes were created for the running game.
Sanchez shines- Considering the circumstances you could not ask for a better performance out of quarterback Mark Sanchez. Sanchez played a very smart game and made some huge throws when the game was on the line. It was more than evident that Mark had a firm grasp of the gameplan and felt very comfortable in the hostile environment. Can we please throw out all of the cold weather stats now?
Braylon brings it- Over the past couple of weeks the Jets receivers have been very inconsistent catching the ball. On Sunday Gang Green’s pass catchers, led by Braylon Edwards (8 catches, 100 yards), did an excellent job making plays for their young quarterback. Edwards made several tough catches, including a couple where he was body rocked by the defender. It is performances like this that gives the offense hope as the playoff run begins.
3rd down struggles continue- The New York Jets defense had an up and down day as they continue to struggle getting off of the field on third down. There were several times that the Jets had the Steelers in third and long situations to only give up big plays in the passing game. The problems could stem from a lack of a pass rush, aggressive play calling, the revolving door at the safety position, or a combination of all three. Whatever the reason Gang Green must find a way to close the door on the opposing offense.
Hole in the secondary- It has become painfully obvious that the Jets are having a hard time finding a player that can fill the nickelback position. The Steelers spread out the Jets defense and continued to throw the ball to the receiver covered by either Drew Coleman or Kyle Wilson. In terms of a game plan it makes sense as both Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis are playing at a very high level. Gang Green must find a way to fill the void in the secondary.
Made plays when it counted- Even though the Jets defense struggled at times, when the game was on the line many players stepped up to seal the deal. Jason Taylor had an outstanding game, which included a safety, and the Jets front seven including David Harris, Sione Pouha, and Shaun Ellis had solid games as well.
Weatherford comes up huge- It was no secret that this was going to be a tough, physical game that would put a premium on field position. Jets punter Steve Weatherford had an excellent day as several of his punts pinned the Steelers deep in their own endzone.
This was exactly the type of performance that the Jets needed to get their season back on track. Rex Ryan did an excellent job motivating his team and it was more than evident that the Jets were ready for a fierce battle. The offensive game plan was excellent and it was refreshing to see Mark Sanchez get back in rhythm.
In the past the Jets have talked about having character and being a resilient team, and on Sunday they backed up their words. Hopefully Gang Green can build off of this victory and make a serious run into the playoffs.