Jets safety Kerry Rhodes put it best at the conclusion of Sunday’s 28-24 victory over the Chiefs: “It was very bad, very ugly, but the outcome was good. That’s all that matters in this league.” Yes it does, and as bad as the Jets looked at times, they will take the victory. After suffering a heartbreaking loss to the Raiders one week prior, you would think that the Jets would have opened Sunday’s win by pounding the Chiefs’ last-ranked run defense early with handoffs to Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. Surely you would have never expected the 1-5 Chiefs to make Sunday’s battle with the Jets a close contest with Tyler Thigpen starting at quarterback. But as former Jets’ head coach turned Chiefs’ Head Coach Herman Edwards stood on the Meadowlands’ sidelines, his famous “you play to win the game” rant echoed loud and clear. The Chiefs were not about to just mail it in. Yes it is scary to ponder what the mood around the Jets’ Florham Park, N.J. facility would be had the Jets managed to cough up a loss, but luckily, that direction did not need to be traveled. The Jets escaped, albeit in ugly fashion. Now as the Jets sit in third place in the AFC East with a 4-3 record, the road turns bumpy as three of the next four games will come against playoff-calibur opponents on the road (Nov. 2-Buffalo, Nov. 13-New England, Nov. 23-Tennessee).
Brett Favre (28-of-40, 290 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions) did not look as frazzled as he did in the Oakland loss, due in large part to strong offensive line play which limited Kansas City to just one sack. However, the turnovers contine to mount. Through eight weeks Favre is currently tied with the 49ers J.T. O’Sullivan with 11 interceptions, which is a label Favre may soon bestow as O’Sullivan now finds himself benched by interim Coach Mike Singletary. Favre has always been recognized as an ole’ gunslinger who takes chances, and in some instances those chances work, but there is no need to be throwing into triple coverage repeatedly. But as much as Favre may frustrate with his numerous interceptions, he seems to end up the as the hero in the end. The final drive, which resulted in Laveranues Coles’ 15-yard touchdown grab was a signature moment for Favre as a Jet. He completed 4-of-4 passes on the drive for 46 yards and one touchdown.
Running Back: A-
Heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Chiefs’ last-ranked run defense, you surely would have expected Jones to gain more yardage on the ground, but nonetheless, he proved efficient. Jones carried the ball 14 times for 54 yards and added a one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to hand the Jets a 21-17 lead. The star of Sunday was Leon Washington (three carries, 67 yards, three catches, 34 yards, two touchdowns) who proved to be an effective changeup alongside Jones. The lone question for Head Coach Eric Mangini and Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is can the Jets find that elusive balance between run and pass?
Wide Receiver: B-
Sunday was a nice rebound performance from the loss to the Raiders, in which the Jets’ passing game was held in-check for far too long. Despite suffering a shoulder injury the week before and seeing limited work in practice, Jerricho Cotchery turned in one of his most effective outings this season with nine catches for 102 yards. Ditto for Laveranues Coles, (seven catches, 64 yards, one touchdown) who played despite suffering his third concussion in 22 months in the week prior. His footwork on Favre’s 15-yard touchdown pass proved why he remains one of the league’s top receivers. Chansi Stuckey turned in another solid outing as the slot receiver, catching three passes for 43 yards.
Tight Ends: B
The Jets anticipated an injured Bubba Franks (hip) to miss Sunday’s victory against Kansas City, but they surely did not except to be without Chris Baker, whose hip flared up before kickoff. As Mangini suggusted following the victory, the insertion of offensive tackle Robert Turner at tight end did not provide secrets as to what plays the offense planned to run: “There’s not a lot of disguise when you’re putting an offensive lineman in those packages in terms of what the intent is.” Nonetheless, Turner filled in admirably as an emergency tight end. Rookie Dustin Keller (four catches, 38 yards) continues to make strides in the passing game and as a blocker.
Offensive Line: B+
The newly revamped, high-priced offensive line took some hits after the Oakland loss for the way Favre was roughed up, but they delivered a top performance Sunday. Granted the Chiefs entered the contest with just five sacks in six games, but the Jets provided Favre the time he needed to be effective. Also, the offensive line paved the way for the Jets’ run attack, which gained 135 yards on 24 carries (5.6 avg).
Defensive Line: A-
The defensive line has been a force for the Jets throughout 2008 and on Sunday, it did not disappoint. The line limited Kansas City’s running back duo of Jamaal Charles and Kolby Smith to 60 yards on 16 carries, due in part to solid performances by defensive end Kenyon Coleman (five tackles) and nose tackle Kris Jenkins (three tackles). Defensive end Shaun Ellis, who recorded his team-high sixth sack delivered another consistent performance in what is quietly developing into a Pro Bowl-calibur season.
All that was missing from Sunday’s defeat were the sacks. The Jets recorded four in total, with only one coming from the linebacker unit, courtesy of David Bowens. Calvin Pace (seven tackles) and Bryan Thomas (six tackles) and Eric Barton (five tackles) all delivered in the run defense. However, all that was overshadowed by the loss of David Harris, who left with a hip injury.
Surely the Jets were not expecting a breakout performance from Thigpen, but the second-year quarterback delivered. He completed 25-of-36 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receivers Dwayne Bowe (six catches, 102 yards) and Mark Bradley (five catches, 42 yards, one touchdown) were left open too often.
Kerry Rhodes turned in one of his finest performances of the season, recording nine tackles and one sack. Aside from Rhodes, Mangini still has to be searching for that other key contributor at safety. Eric Smith has been invisible this season minus his helmet-to-helmet hit on Cardinals’ wide receiver Anquan Boldin and Abram Elam remains average at best.
Special Teams: A-
One week after kicker Jay Feely was the star of the special teams with his game-tying 52-yard field goal, his missed 36-yard attempt proved to be the lone mistake from the unit against the Chiefs. Washington averaged 25 yards on four punt returns, which included a 37-yard return to put the Jets into Chiefs’ territory for the winning touchdown drive. Punter Reggie Hodges (three punts, 38.7 avg)also delivered an effective outing
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