East Rutherford, N.J.– Man, did this game have it all. There was great play and terrible play, a sibling rivalry (Rex vs. Rob), New York vs. Dallas, turnovers sacks and blocked punts, all the emotions that come with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and an amazing comeback capped off by a 50-yard game-winning field goal.
A game being held on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 was always going to be a bit of an emotional roller-coaster, but no one could have foreseen just how crazy of a ride it would be.
The Jets did what the Jets do best, they dug themselves a giant hole and somehow worked their way out of it to emerge victorious. Last season Jets fans suffered throughout slow start after slow start only to watch their team find a way to squeeze out a late win more often than not, but those close calls last year where nothing in comparison to what the Jets went through tonight.
Yes the game was sloppy, yes the Jets tried six different ways to lose this game and yes the Jets are lucky to have survived, but if it was excitement you were looking for, then you walked away from this game one satisfied customer.
The offensive line of the Jets got used and abused all night long, they couldn’t open any holes for the running backs (a measly 16 carries for a pathetic 45 yards on 2.8 yards a carry) and they couldn’t protect Sanchez at all, as he was constantly pressured play after play. Sanchez played great at times (was very accurate for much of the night, even if those passes weren’t that far down the field) and terrible at times as did his counterpart on the Cowboys, Tony Romo. The Jets defense took turns looking like the dominant squad everyone expected to see and the defense that still has some glaring weaknesses, mainly their inability to cover running backs on screens and big, talented tight ends.
But just like last year resilient is the key word when describing what makes this Jets team such a dangerous opponent for the other 31 teams in the league.
“There is a stat about them (Dallas) being 241-0 when they have a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter. It just shows you the resolve of our football team.” Rex Ryan said after the game. “You talk about a team effort – that was it. There is no doubt. From special teams getting the blocked punt to Nick Folk nailing a 50-yard field goal… all we needed was a little more time for our offense to throw the football.”
The truth is, the Jets were outplayed for most of this game. The Cowboys were simply the better team and made far fewer mistakes for most of the night, that is until the Cowboys started to unravel and Romo gift-wrapped the game for the Jets and their fans. After taking a 14-point lead in the fourth, the Cowboys came unhinged. Romo fumbled the ball a measly three yards away from the goal-line, then they allowed Joe McKnight to sneak through the line and block a punt and to top it all off Romo threw an interception to Darrelle Revis, that literally looked as if it was designed to go to Revis.
“It was cover 5, we disguised it as a blitz.” Revis said of the play call on the interception. “We showed Tony Romo a blitz and then on the hike of the ball everybody went to their places in the defense where they needed to go. It’s definitely a disguise, it’s a cover zero disguise. We show man-coverage against the board. Cover zero, usually you blitz and that’s what we showed him.”
But what they showed him and what they actually did were two completely different things as they didn’t unload the pressure on Romo. Instead Revis took the underneath on Dez Bryant with safety help over the top and Romo softly tossed it right into the hands of Revis to set up the game-winning field goal.
“I kind of went into preparation mode when we got the ball back before we punted it.” Nick Folk said, “I kept telling TJ (Conley), ‘You don’t need to punt. You don’t need to punt in the net. We’re not going to need it. We’re going to drive down and score.’ We ended up punting it and then as soon as he (Revis) started returning it, I think I kicked two balls in the net and I was already ready. I just said, ‘Let’s go.’
“I hit it really well. I hit it just about as good as I could. I just trusted myself tonight, made sure it looked just like an extra point and just put it down the middle.”
The field goal by Folk is what ultimately won the game for the Jets, but the play of the game had to go to Joe McKnight and Isaiah Trufant on the blocked punt returned for a touchdown to tie the game at 24-24. With the Jets down seven, time running out and the offense still not fully clicking the crowd wasn’t exactly feeling very hopeful, but then all of that changed the second McKnight’s paws slapped the punt out of the air and the ball bounced into Trufant’s hands.
“It was a great call, great block by Joe McKnight and I was hoping to not bobble the ball.” Trufant said after the game. “I got a good bounce on it and was trying to run it in.
“Your eyes light up and you pick the ball up and run. I saw daylight and fans cheering.”
“It really wasn’t supposed to be for me.” McKnight said at his locker. “It was supposed to be for Eric Smith. It just happened that it opened up for me, so I had to take advantage of it.
“I just dove for it. The punter has a fast hit off time, so Mike Westhoff told me when you get back there, just try and get it. I took two steps past the line and just dove out for it.”
And with that dive, McKnight saved the Jets from starting the season out in an 0-1 hole. This team clearly has a lot of room for improvement and as thrilled as they were to get the win, there is not a person on the team that doesn’t know they have to get much better in every facet of the game.
But that resiliency is still as strong as ever. It’s not always pretty, in fact it’s usually rather ugly, but somehow these Jets know how to find a way to win and their strong will and determination is exactly the reason why.
“(You have to) win the game when it counts.” Santonio Holmes said, “Play the game for four quarters, however many minutes on the clock, until the clock strikes zero. We never think about giving up, just like our gloves said, ‘We never forget,’ we never give up on this team.”
The Jets don’t always show up for the entire 60 minute game (something they definitely need to fix), but they sure seem to have a knack for showing up just in time to be declared the victor when that clock strikes zero and tonight they had perfect storybook timing. When the clock struck zero the scoreboard read, 27-24 Jets over Cowboys, a perfect ending to the night for this team as well as the City.
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