Big test for the Jets’ defense this week facing the league’s #1 scoring offense in the New England Patriots, they need to be on their A game. And not just the defense, either, but the entire team.
It’s the defense that gets most of the credit with Rex Ryan’s New York Jets, but the Jets coach knows the defense isn’t giving up any yards or points if they’re not on the field. That’s a big part of the ground & pound philosophy that you hear Rex beat his chest about. Running the football successfully can break an opponent’s spirit, but it can also take time off the clock. A lot of it. The Jets are #2 in rushing offense this year, and boast one of the top teams in terms of time of possession, holding the ball more than 32 minutes a game. The Patriots are one of the bottom teams in that same category, holding the ball just 28 minutes a game. The Jets need to control the ball -and the clock- in this game to keep Tom Brady off the field. He’s not hurting anyone from the sidelines!
The Jets also boast some of the league’s best special teams, helping to control field position. It’s a lot easier for the defense to keep the other team from scoring (only three teams in the NFL give up less points per game than the Jets) if their opponent always has poor field position. The Patriots believe that they’ve performed addition by subtraction by unloading Randy Moss, but they also lost their primary quick strike threat. The Jets, meanwhile, have one of the best special teams units in the league. They’re #4 in kick off return average allowed, and in the punting game they lead the league in punts inside the 20 and fair catches. When Steve Weatherford isn’t running for it on 4th & 20, he’s doing a great job back there. By giving the Patriots a long field to work with, they force the Patriots to work that much harder to score.
Now of course, the defense itself has to do it’s job. In addition to being #4 in scoring dee, they’re #3 in total defense by yardage (297 yards/game). And -surprisingly- for all the points the Patriots manage to put up on the board, they’re actually ranked behind the Jets offensively in total yards, averaging just 350 yards/game. This is not the offensive juggernaut from the famed 18-1 season just a couple years ago. The Patriots run game has improved since the return of Logan Mankins, but the Jets boast the second stingiest rushing defense in the league and need to completely shut down the Pats rushing attack. From there you get a snowball effect in terms of time of possession.
The Jets two losses this year have come in the opener and after their bye week. This week is like a bye, with 11 days between Thanksgiving and next Monday night. Hopefully the Jets have learned from their two losses and don’t try to get to creative and outsmart themselves in this one. Outside of the QB position, the Jets have more talent than the Pats. They just need to line up and play. Bill Belichick will have his team ready for any trickery, but there’s only so much he can do if the Jets simply line up and smack ’em in the teeth. Brian Schottenheimer has his detractors, but he’d be smart this week to not try to pacify them too much. A simple gameplan of running the football and throwing high percentage passes can get it done in this game. The one thing the Pats have done well on defense this year is take the football away, the Jets have to make sure not to help them do that.
Control the football, control the clock, control field position, and control the game. If the offense and special teams continue to do their jobs, the defense will have a much easier time of it doing theirs.