The Jets shocked everyone from fans to experts to the Saints, topping New Orleans 26-20 in the game before their bye week, improving to 5-4 on the season. The narrative this game was, of course, the Ryan Bowl, with Rex calling defense for the Jets and Rob calling defense for the Saints. In Rob vs. Rex games, Rex is 5-0 in the NFL.
Things started off a little shaky. Instead of touchdowns, the Jets scored two field goals and Drew Brees hooked up with Jimmy Graham twice for touchdowns, and New York was down 14-6 early.
The Jets began getting it together in the middle of the first half. The running game was working, and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg shoved the ball down Rob Ryan’s throat. Chris Ivory arrived this week, rushing against his former team for 139 yards on 18 carries with one touchdown. Bilal Powell carried the ball nine times for 29 yards.
Geno Smith didn’t have a huge game, he threw 19 times with 8 completions for 115 yards and a 62.4 rating. He had one rushing touchdown, but Smith, who needed to show progress in his ability to protect the ball, was brilliant in that he didn’t turn the ball over, and only forced one throw that had Jets fans holding their breath. The Jets featured Josh Cribbs in the offense today, both rushing and passing. The former college quarterback had one pass for 25 yards.
Jeremy Kerley left the game in the first half with what, for now, is now being called an elbow subluxation – a dislocated elbow. Jeff Cumberland was out with a concussion, Kellen Winslow is serving out a suspension, and Santonio Holmes is out with a hamstring injury, but other guys stepped up in their place. Greg Salas had two receptions for 58 yards. Zach Sudfeld, called “Baby Gronk” on some parts of the internet, actually looked like Rob Gronkowski today, with two impressive receptions for 46 yards.
The defense that so epically failed against the Bengals last week didn’t return today. Brees threw for 382 yards with two touchdown, but he also threw two interceptions – one by Antonio Cromartie, who finally contributed to something positive, and one by Demario Davis. It was Davis’s first career interception. The defensive line had another great game. Brees was hurried and forced out of the pocket all afternoon. Brees was lucky there were only two interceptions. A penalty negated another one by Cromartie, and Mo Wilkerson nearly had one on a ball he batted up into the air. Rookie cornerback Dee Milliner just barely missed on at the end of the game.
Milliner, who had been struggling, definitely had his best game of the season, knocking balls down. Antonio Allen managed to hold Jimmy Graham in check for most of the game, which was no easy task. The first touchdown Graham scored was when he was being covered by Jaiquawn Jarrett. Mo Wilkerson picked up his eighth sack. Quentin Coples, reemerging after a number of quiet weeks learning a new position, hit Brees three times. Jets free safety Josh Bush also had what should have been a sack, but it was negated by a roughing the passer call that was so blatantly bad that even Fox commentators Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch were indignant on the Jets’ behalf.
To top it all off, the defense allowed the Saints only 41 rushing yards, and held them to 3 for 11 on third down. They also made two impressive fourth down stands late in the game. On 4th and inches, the Saints handed the ball off backwards, and Coples crushed the runner in the backfield. On a 4th in 19, Coples (again) pressured Brees, forcing him to throw the ball into the ground.
Finally, Nick Folk continued his perfect season. He made four field goals today, improving to 24 for 24 on the year. Josh Cribbs is shaping up to be a decent kick returner on kickoffs and punts, getting the Jets decent field position – way better than anything Jeremy Kerley and Kyle Wilson were getting for them.
There is still a lot of work to do. The pass defense needs work. There were echoes of Brian Schottenheimer at the end of the game when the Jets needed first downs to keep the ball out of Drew Brees’s hands – run, run, pass, punt. And the Jets have to score touchdowns in the redzone. Still, it was impressive win over a better team. There’s a lot to build on here.
The Jets have their bye week next weekend. They return to the field Sunday, November 17th against the Buffalo Bills. Kickoff is at 1:00.