BALTIMORE, M.D. — Ask Rex Ryan what he thinks about the old adage “the best offense is a good defense”.
On Sunday night he watched a Baltimore Ravens defense, the fruits his 10-year tenure, score on three returns against his current team, the New York Jets, which led to the 34-17 road loss.
The Ravens tied a franchise record for most defensive return touchdowns in a single game. Jameel McClain took a Mark Sanchez fumble six yards on the Jets first offensive play of the game. Ed Reed came in untouched from the right side, Sanchez’s blind side, and knocked the ball loose. Jarret Johnson took a fumble 26-yards before LaDarius Webb returned an interception for a touchdown that put the Ravens up 17 points midway through the third quarter.
“I’ve been around football a long time and I’ve never seen anything like that,” Ryan said during his post-game press conference. “The performance by their defense was spectacular. They were coming after us. That’s a Ravens defense. It reminded me of the 2000 and 2006 defenses.”
That’s the words of a shocked man. Shocked is how the Jets offense looked for most of the game, amassing a mere 150 total yards, seven first downs, and four turnovers.
The Jets (2-2) have lost two straight on this crucial three-game road trip. After giving up over 200 yards on the ground to Oakland last week, turnovers by Sanchez ultimately were the difference against the Ravens. His three lost fumbles — two of which led to return touchdowns — and a pick-six interception decided the game. He went 11-for-35 for 119 yards while posting a completion percentage (31.4) that’s half of his season percentage (60.2).
“We all had our share in this loss,” Sanchez said. “I’m fine pointing out my mistakes; as far as my mistakes, I’ll take the blame for it.”
The offensive line earned plenty of the share, giving up two sacks and allowed 10 QB hits to the Ravens. Nick Mangold (high ankle sprain) was a game-time decision, but was ruled out — missing his second-straight game. Undrafted rookie Colin Baxter got his second career NFL start, and the Ravens attacked the middle like an open wound.
He would be benched for starting right guard Matt Slauson, who slid over to the center, and back-up utility lineman Vladimir Ducasse assumed the right guard duties. The adjustment proved fruitless.
Now a game back in the three-team AFC East race, the Jets travel to Foxborough to play the New England Patriots (3-1), currently tied with the Buffalo Bills (3-1) for the division lead.
A relentless Raven attack started early and Chuck Pagano, current defensive coordinator, didn’t let up on the gas. On New York’s first offensive possession Ed Reed came in untouched on Sanchez’s blind side and delivered a blow that jarred the ball loose. McClain picked up the fumble and walked into the end zone. That would be the first of four fumbles by Sanchez on the day.
On the ensuing kickoff Joe McKnight, who assumed return duties after Antonio Cromartie suffered a rib injury last week, took the ball from seven yards deep in the end zone and took a straight shot past the Ravens coverage team for the 107-yard return, tying the game at seven with 11:43 left in the first quarter.
“I had my mind made up all week I was going to run one back,” McKnight told the Newark Star-Ledger.
A three-yard scamper up the middle by the Ravens elusive All-Pro running back, Ray Rice, gave them a 17-10 lead as the first quarter came to a close. They scored 20 unanswered in the first half after a 38-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff and 26-yard fumble return by Johnson to take a 27-10 advantage with 8:11 left in the half.
The Jets got in on the defensive scoring party as well. McKnight, drafted a running back yet playing defensive back, was sent on a corner blitz that spooked Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. His errant pass went to inside linebacker David Harris, who took it back 35 yards for a defensive score of their own. The Jets then trailed 27-17 with six minutes left in the third quarter.
Aaron Maybin, the former Bills pass rusher that signed with the Jets during training camp – was cut – then was re-signed this week, made his impact felt. He nearly missed on his first professional sack early in the first before recording a strip sack on Flacco with four minutes into the second half.
This appeared to be a turn of momentum in the Jets favor. But on the ensuing play Webb took a Sanchez pass 73-yards for a score, making the final score of 34-17.
GAME NOTES: The victory is the Ravens 12th straight at home and marks the seventh straight over the Jets. They defeated the Jets on first game of the 2010 season 10-9. Jets OLB Bryan Thomas left midway through the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return.
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