New York Jets Report Card: Wild Card Round
Jets @ Indianapolis Colts
Mark Sanchez: 18/31, 189 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Of his 4 playoff appearances, this was the first game where Mark Sanchez had to be carried kicking and screaming by his teammates. His throws down the middle (mostly towards Dustin Keller) were efficient, but he consistently overthrew his wide receivers. He left at least 14 points on the field this way. On a positive note, he ended the game the right way. Here’s a little tidbit you might not have heard about: you know the pass down the sidelines to Braylon Edwards that set up Nick Folk’s game winning field goal? Mark called that play. He felt confident that he could deliver on it – and he did. Result: Jets win.
Running Backs: A
L.T.: 16/82/2 TD
L.T. and Greene both got to rest in week 17, and it’s a good thing they did because they were called to carry the ball 38 times, in a nearly 50-50 split. That time off did them well, both backs were gashing the Colts defense all night. L.T. also made a number of plays in the receiving game. It would be tough to ask for a better performance than this one. If Brad Smith’s injury hampers him, we might see Joe McKnight active for next week’s match up against the Patriots, but that’s a decision for another day.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B+
Each of the big 4 contributed in the receiving game, and they did so despite the inaccuracy of their quarterback. Holmes dropped a crucial 3rd and 5 pass while he was wide open, but was bailed out when one of the Colts ran into Steve Weatherford during a punt. Braylon Edwards fumbled, but also had the good fortune of being able to recover it. Other than that, he took advantage of every opportunity he had. It was good to see that Cotchery can still move the chains when needed and Keller really stepped up tonight. All around, very nice game by this unit under these circumstances.
Offensive Line: A+
A few mistakes here: Slauson surrendered a sack (the only one the team allowed) and was out of place at times, and Ferguson was called for a false start. None of these problems were serious enough to erase the A+ the line earned otherwise: they carved the way for a 4.4 yards per carry average on the ground. It’s even more impressive than it sounds: because Sanchez was struggling with accuracy all day, the Colts were frequently stacking the box with as many as 9 or even 10 defenders. Problem? Not at all, the Jets ran for 169 anyway. What an impressive start to the playoffs for this unit. Let’s hope the momentum continues.
Defensive Line: B-
It’s the same old story with this defensive line, which excels against the run but is deficient against the pass. The team mustered just one sack all game, so you know the pressure wasn’t amazing. Still, I was surprised to see how many short passes and screen passes Peyton threw, an indication that he at least got to their heads. They allowed 93 yards total on the ground, but that total may be a bit deceptive… a chunk of that yardage came in 3rd and long situations where the Jets backed off and played with extra defensive backs. Seeing this, Peyton checked to running plays which were highly effective with just 3 or 4 in the box.
Again, not much pressure here (though you can hardly fault them when Jason Taylor is inexplicably dropped into coverage) and you hardly heard a linebacker’s name called. Still, the linebackers did an effective job at shutting down the run when it did reach the second level and there was enough pressure that Peyton Manning keyed in on his short routes.
Tremendous game out of this secondary. Cro was able to limit Garcon for the most part, though he did get beat a few times (once for a huge touchdown – Pool was in on the coverage as well). Revis completely shut down Wayne. Check out this stat line: 1 reception for 1 yard. Is Revis back? Pool made a few plays in the backfield, and Smith held his own in a rather impressive manner. Going into this game, we were all concerned that 3rd and 4th options Jacob Tamme and Blair White would shred this secondary. They ended up putting 100 yards on the board, combined. That doesn’t sound so good in and of itself, but not many of those plays actually hurt the team and they were held scoreless.
Special Teams: C
This was quite a mixed bag, so let’s try to dissect it. Firstly, kicker Nick Folk and returner Antonio Cromartie were largely responsible for the game winning points. Cromartie set the Jets up near midfield with his return, and Folk banged it through. Punter Steve Weatherford was excellent. Twice in the first half he punted the ball inside the 1. That’s the ONE (1) yard line – that’s about as good as it gets. Unfortunately, punt coverage teams weren’t able to STOP it there either time, so that was all a waste. Then there was Santonio Holmes stupid gaffe on the first punt return. Noticing that the ball was going to take a bounce, Holmes wisely attempted to avoid the ball. Unwisely, his idea of avoiding the ball is to stand still and let it roll through your legs as opponents push you into it. What? When have you seen such an absent minded move before? In short, the special teams earned a C – but not in the conventional sense. It was more like: A + F, divided by 2 = C. (Much love for you mathletes out there.)
I have issued a couple controversial grades before, but this may be the most controversial of all. Let me state my case. Coaching grades are problematic: on the one hand, one is enticed to grade coaching by the overall performance of the team on the field. This line of thought typically prevails. On the other hand, it is nearly impossible to have perfect execution on the field by each and every unit, and it hardly seems fair to punish coaching grades for mistakes that are entirely related to the players themselves. I’m going to run with the latter option and attempt to judge tonight’s coaching in a more fair manner – and explain why the coaches truly earned their perfect A+ mark.
Here are some items that I cannot blame the coaches for: Santonio Holmes dropped 3rd down conversion or dumb punt return or Mark Sanchez missing open receivers on numerous occasions due to overthrowing. I’m also not going to blame them for a 12 men on the field call. As Collinsworth pointed out on the TV broadcast, you had an occasion here where the defense stuffed the run on 1st and 10. Naturally, they decided to get their pass rushers out there for 2nd and long. Peyton Manning, being himself, launched a quick snap and caught them. It happens. Hey, like I said, it’s Peyton Manning.
Now I do have questions about Brian Schottenheimer. What’s up with the shotgun on 3rd and short? Do we need REALLY need motion on every play? But look at it this way: how many points would this offense have scored if Mark Sanchez hit every wide open receiver?
The bottom line here – Rex. For the first time ever he outwitted arguably the smartest quarterback in football history in their classic chess match. In a must win, on the road in the playoffs against Peyton Manning: sixteen points. The Colts had to settle for field goals on three separate occasions.