East Rutherford, N.J.– Sure 9-2 is great and all, but it’s becoming tougher and tougher to figure out just what to make of this Jets team right now.
It’s getting tiresome to continue talking about how the Jets keep having to dig themselves out of a hole by waiting until the second half to show up and they can’t possibly hope to bring this type of weak nonsense to New England next week and expect to earn a victory.
For now, though, the Jets have somehow managed to find another way to overcome their own mistakes and clamp down in the second-half to earn their ninth victory of the season.
Yet another game with the Jets playing anything but perfect football, and after Sanchez and the offense bailed out the defense the last couple of weeks, it was the defense and Brad Smith’s turn to pick up the slack for a struggling Sanchez.
Sanchez officially hit one of those proverbial bumps in the road everyone was waiting for (16-28 for 166 yards one TD and one pick) and as bad as his numbers look on paper, they looked even worse in action and if the Bengals made a couple of plays the Jets might not have been able to pull this one out.
“I’m just proud of our defense and special teams for playing so well and lifting up the offense today, because we weren’t at our best and I was pretty much the reason for that.” Sanchez said, “I made some poor reads, some poor throws and a couple of bad decisions. To get a win when your quarterback doesn’t play that well, means we have a pretty good team and I’m really proud of the way they helped us out.”
After another lethargic start the Jets found themselves behind 7-3 at half-time, due to more costly penalties and a stalled offense. Whatever was said in the Jets locker room at half-time, it worked as Brad Smith immediately took over the game.
After the game Rex Ryan opened up the press conference saying, “This is a great win for us. We’re 9-2. We knew the Bengals would give us their best shot. They played well, but we found a way to get it done. Today, it was our special teams and Brad Smith that got it done, along with our defense.”
The Jets managed just three points in the first-half, but it only took them 47 seconds to score seven points in the second-half as Smith took the kickoff to the Jets 31, then Sanchez hit Santonio Holmes for 16 yards and on the next play the Jets ran a end-around to Smith that he took straight to the house for a 53 yard touchdown run to give the Jets a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Jets safety Jim Leonhard, who had a interception earlier in the game, was asked about Smith’s end-around touchdown and said, “The whole atmosphere in the building just flipped once Brad made that run. That’s what he does. He’s so explosive and you know that you’ve got to get him touches because whenever he gets his hands on the ball that’s what can happen. Somtimes offensively it’s going to be a struggle for awhile, trying to figure things out and how the defense is attacking you, but Brad was that spark today.”
“(It was an) excellent play-call.” Smith said of the end-around, “The blocking, I think it was Dustin (Keller) and Braylon (Edwards), had some tremendous blocks. I just had to read it and I would’ve felt sick if I didn’t score on it because of how well it was executed. It’s not as much what I did, but the team executing, whether it was the return or the reverse.”
The Bengals and Jets then exchanged worthless possessions, a few three-and-outs, a turnover here and there and a missed field-goal combined with some very questionable penalties. The Bengals however couldn’t capitalize off the Jets mistakes and the Jets made sure to take advantage of the Bengals errors.
Leading, 10-7, the Jets were forced to punt after Sanchez just barely avoided throwing his second interception of the night, and the Jets benefited from a lucky bounce. Weatherford blasted a 61 yard punt that apparently bounced and hit the Bengals Andre Caldwell and the Bengals players all just stood around and watched as James Ihedigbo pounced on the loose ball giving the Jets possession on the Bengals 14.
Two plays later, the Jets found themselves in the end zone after running what has become their favorite and most productive pass play, a slant play to Holmes for a 13 yard touchdown extending their lead to 17-7.
“We have a great thing going on here, and it’s not just me.” Holmes said, “It’s Dustin Keller. It’s Braylon Edwards. We’re definitely waiting on Jerricho (Cotchery) to get back here. Look at what Brad Smith did for us today. We have weapons all over this team and we’re going to use them and continue to use them until they run out.”
Jets fans are hoping they won’t be running out of those plays anytime soon, but even more so they are left racking their brain trying to figure out reasons why the offense can’t stay in ‘click mode,’ for an entire 60 minutes.
After the touchdown to Holmes both teams had a few more back and forth possessions, that eventually led to a Bengals field-goal to cut the lead to 17-10, but little did the Bengals know they had just put the nail in their own coffin by making that field-goal.
On the ensuing kickoff, Smith (dubbed the, “Bengal killer,’ by one member of the Cincinnati media, due to his performance’s against the Bengals last year as well as tonight) made another breath-taking play as he returned the kickoff, bobbing and weaving his way through defenders and cutting all the way across the field as he ran for an 89 yard touchdown, managing to run the last 45 yards or so without his left shoe.
“He is an amazing guy and an amazing talent… He had 200 total yards and two touchdowns today. I’m definitely glad he was on our side. He’s a phenomenal athlete.” Ryan said, “Everything we ask Brad to do, he does. Quite honestly, when our DB’s were down, I was like, ‘We’ll put Joe McKnight in there, and we’ve always got Brad Smith.’ He’s just a great football player.”
“I don’t know. I think one of the guys dove and tried to tackle me and kind of knocked it off a little bit. I was running and trying to stick my shoe back on. After a while, I just said, ‘Forget it.'” Smith said.
With that phenomenal play from the uber-talented, multi-faceted, Swiss Army Knife of a football player, the Jets took a commanding 24-10 lead. They would tack on a safety when Trevor Pryce exploded through the Bengals line and tossed Carson Palmer to the ground as he intentionally threw the ball away while in the pocket causing a safety and two extra points to add to the final score for the Jets.
The Jets got their ninth win to set the stage for a heavyweight AFC East title belt matchup next Monday in New England, but the Jets still continued to be plagued by the same problems that have been hurting them all season.
Eight penalties for 64 yards, a couple of the penalties were complete head scratchers as the refs continue to struggle with the whole unnecessary roughness penalties issue, but regardless the Jets have to stop shooting themselves in the foot. They continued to struggle on third-down’s and red zone offense, luckily their defense out played the Bengals defense in those same categories.
The Jets finished the game 3-13 on third-downs and the Bengals just 4-15 and the Jets were one-for-two in red zone chances, but the defense held the Bengals to one-of-three red zone attempts as they repeatedly had to stop the Bengals on a very short field.
If not for Smith, there would be almost no offense to talk about. The Jets defense started out strong and only got stronger after half-time. Palmer went 17-38 for 135 yards (3.6 yards per reception) one touchdown and two costly interceptions, including one where Palmer tried to force a pass to Terrell Owens who was covered by two different defenders before a third defender (Cromartie) slid his way in front of the pass and jumped up and snagged the pick in the end zone stopping a potential scoring drive.
The defender who was called, “just an average corner,” by the Bengals Owens had a solid day for just an ‘average,’ corner as he shut Owens down once again, this time holding him to a season-low three catches for 17 yards.
After the game Revis was asked how he felt he did for being just an ‘average corner.’
“Is that the first question?… Say the question again (smiling).” Revis said, “Not bad, not bad. You know I’m just trying to go out there and make end’s meet for an ‘average corner,’ and they stuck me on the best receiver, Terrell Owens. So I was kind of shocked that they put an average corner on one of the best receivers in the league, but I managed to do okay against him.”
“I didn’t like it. I felt it was disrespectful and I’m sure he felt the same way when I called him a slouch last year so, it goes vice-versa with the feelings. But I felt that he was calling me out.” Revis said of how he felt about Owens’ comments.
At the end of the day Revis knows all the talking, is just that, talk. Nothing more. The stats tell his story. “That stats show. I don’t know if you interviewed him yet? He called me average and today I showed him how an average corner plays. The stats don’t lie, you can’t change the stats.”
After being peppered with questions about Revis after the game Owens said, “I know what type of corner Revis is. Despite me calling him average, real talk, the guy is pretty good. At the same time, I did what I was supposed to do with the plays that were called.”
Palmer and his receivers weren’t the only part of the Bengals offense that struggled, running back Cedric Benson is the last back to rush for over 100 yards against the Jets (in the playoffs last season) and was held to only 41 yards on 18 carries as the Bengals only mustered up 163 yards of total offense, or less yards than Brad Smith earned on his own.
For all the Jets struggles the defense came to play and completely shut down the wounded Bengals, but as good as the defense played, the Jets wouldn’t of had a chance of winning this game without number 16.
Smith downplayed his heroics after the game saying he was just simply trying to make plays to help his team. “You want to be a catalyst when you’re on the field.” Smith said, “That’s what it’s really about. When you’re down a little bit, just being able to be a spark.”
And be a spark he was. With a 9-2 record (Jets best starting record since 1986, 10-1) the Jets and their fans have a lot to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving night, but there is no doubt that tonight the Jets and their fans are most thankful to have Smith wearing their teams colors.
“He’s an electric player. He’s really provided a spark for our team. When our offense was sputtering and I wasn’t playing well, Brad Smith comes in and does a great job for us to with the return and the end-around.” Sanchez said, “He really carried us on offense and that was big. We needed it and it’s the ultimate team sport, so we’re thankful.”
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