by Tom Shane
The Jets hung in and slugged it out against the Bills, but lost 27-17.
Vinny Testaverde (12 of 26, 2 INT’s) was fairly efficient for most of the day, firing darts to Justin McCareins and Lavernues Coles when he was given time to throw. Unfortunately for Vinny and the Jets, when he was rushed Vinny reverted to the turnover machine of old, throwing two back-breaking INT’s and fumbling a snap that cost the Jets any chance at a comeback.
RUNNING BACK: A+
Curtis Martin (18 carries, 148 yards, 1 TD) took advantage of a soft Bills run defense to rip off two huge runs and keep pace with young Bills stud Willis McGahee. Martin, struggling all season to find holes to run through, shredded the Bills defense up and down the field. Jerald Sowell’s blocking was spectacular at times clearing the path for Martin
Getting open against the Bills dynamic duo of Nate Clements and Terrence McGee is no small chore, but Justin McCareins (5 catches, 116 yards) was able to do just that, taking advantage of his height against the much smaller McGee. It was McCareins’ first career 100-yard game. Lavernues Coles (4 catches, 33 yards) continues to struggle against coverages designed specifically to bracket him, taking away the Jets’ lone downfield receiving option. Wayne Chrebet, absent most of the season, made an appearance at the end of the game, getting into a scrum with Bills’ DB Eric King, showing more fight than the Jets defense did all day. After his big opening day, Chris Baker has become a non-factor. Doug Jolley, hoping to build on his success from last week, was invisible.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Run Blocking- A+/Pass Blocking- D
Mawae and company did a great job opening holes for Curtis Martin to have a big day, but couldn’t keep the Bills defense from getting to statuesque Vinny Testaverde. Jason Fabini continues his decline, giving up two sacks to little-known Ryan Denney. Kevin Mawae and Brandon Moore were especially effective opening up the middle of the Bills defense for Martin jaunts.
DEFENSIVE LINE: F
Apparently the strain of living up to the standard of winning the AFC Defensive Player of the Week was too much for Dewayne Robertson, and he, along with Josh Reed, took this week off. Two sights that Jets fans have grown accustomed to, John Abraham limping off the field and Bryan Thomas disappearing on it, were back in force for all to see. Sean Ellis had a sack. None of them could tell you what Willis McGahee looked like, however, as the Bills weak offensive line pushed the Jets front around at will, paving the way for McGahee’s 143 yards.
The Jets linebackers make outstanding plays each week, and this week was no exception. Jonathan Vilma and Victor Hobson each had big hits on McGahee, and Mark Brown had a big INT of Holcomb late in the game to set up Testaverde’s one-yard TD run. The LB’s, though, missed too many tackles on McGahee and were out of position on his numerous cutbacks.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: D
Eric Moulds and Jonathan Smith both caught TD passes that started out in front of Jets DB’s, and after several missed tackles by those same DB’s, ended up in the end zone. Life was far too easy for Kelly Holcomb, with the exception of a Ty Law pick that led to Jets points. Kerry Rhodes was active, applying the pressure on Holcomb that led to Mark Brown’s INT. David Barrett was burned badly on Bills TE Mark Campbell’s 27-yard catch that led to the Ryan Lindell FG that put the Bills up by 10.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Terrence McGee averaged 35 yards per kick return, including a huge 43-yarder late in the game after a Jets score. Justin Miller had a powerful 39-yard kick return of his own, and handled every kick cleanly. Mike Nugent did not miss any field goals, but his kickoffs are still puny. The Jets have officially used 47 different punt returners this season. Ben Graham continues to shine, booming a 56-yarder out of the Jets end when the game was still in doubt.
Herm Edwards still has his team believing they can win even in the face of tremendous odds. Whether or not they can win, however, is questionable at best. Mike Heimerdinger is trying to run his extremely demanding offense without a legitimate quarterback a full six weeks into the season, as Chad Pennington was a gimp-armed disaster from Day One and Vinny Testaverde remains a work in progress (the Brooks Bollinger Era will be burned in Dinger’s memory for life). Donnie Henderson’s defense is clearly starting to crack under the pressure of carrying an under-achieving offense, as evidenced by the huge differential in time of possession. If they don’t get help soon, Henderson’s defense will start to look like a MASH unit. Three weeks in a row they have delivered big plays to put the Jets O in position for easy scores. Pretty soon the offense will have to get down the field by themselves.