If there was any doubt over how good these New York Jets are, review yesterday’s 34-13 win over the Titans. It was hard to imagine that the Jets could upstage their overtime victory over the rival Patriots, but they did just that in knocking off the NFL’s lone unbeaten. The Jets overmatched the Titans in every asset of the game. While Eric Mangini and his players continue to dispel any thoughts about the playoffs with five games remaining, the Jets look to be in prime position come January. Their remaining schedule reads like this: vs. Denver, at San Francisco, vs. Buffalo, at Seattle, vs. Miami. Those five teams have a combined winning percentage of .418 (23-32). The Jets have to be licking their chops.
*Another week, another statement win, another dominant performance by Favre. Sense a pattern? In the last 11 days, the Jets have traveled on the road and have defeated their longtime rivals, the class of the AFC East for the past five seasons and they have knocked off the NFL’s lone remaining unbeaten. If there’s any doubt over what makes the Jets’ motor, look toward the quarterback, who is performing at an elite level. In victories over the Patriots and Titans, Favre has completed 51-of-65 attempts (78.4 completion percentage) for 482 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. After spending the previous 16 seasons in Green Bay, Favre has finally mastered the Jets’ playbook which has allowed offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to diversify the offense. He’s become the vocal leader between a mix of rookies and veterans and he gives the team a chance to score each time it steps on the field. However, most importantly for the Jets, Favre has bought into the notion of playing smart football. While Favre will retire as one of the game’s all-time greats, the one criticism centered on his play has been his fearless yet reckless decision-making. Favre just continues to deliver for the Jets now.
*Earlier this season, it sure seemed as though Schottenheimer just could not catch a break. Whenever the Jets’ offensive coordinator decided to run the football, he was questioned for not unleashing Favre, yet when Favre was allowed to throw the football downfield, the focus centered on Thomas Jones’ limited carries. However, yesterday Schottenheimer delivered his finest performance of the year. The Tennessee defense was caught off balance by a balanced (35 passes, 38 rushes) gameplan which featured an assortment of screen passes and reverses. The Jets’ neutralized Tennessee’s dominant pass rush by calling several three-step dropbacks for Favre. Schottenheimer’s only blemish came during the third quarter, when he had wide receiver Brad Smith line up in the wildcat formation. Smith gained eight yards on the play, but it also left Favre lined up as a defenseless receiver. Titans’ cornerback Cortland Finnegan wasted no time in delivering Favre a heavy hit. With the Jets at 8-3, why put Favre in a position where the Titans can hand him his shots.
*Suddenly those doubts about Dustin Keller’s blocking have subsided. No, the criticism has not faded because Keller has turned into an elite blocker, it’s more because he’s turned into Favre’s go-to guy. Keller caught six passes for 42 yards yesterday, four of which gave the offense a first down. Keller’s athleticism has created matchup problems for defenses and has left the middle of the field open for quick slants to wide recievers such as Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery.
*Favre made one of his finest throws as a Jet on his two-yard touchdown pass to Coles. While Coles attempted to break free in the back of the endzone, Favre scrambled in the backfield and threw a strike across his body. But as impressive as Favre’s strike was, Coles has to be given credit for his toughness on the play. The Tennessee defense was ready to deliver a heavy hit on Coles, but he did not shy away from grabbing the football. A lot of wide receivers would’ve ducked out of that route.
*Last season, running back Leon Washington was awarded the Curtis Martin MVP Award by the Jets’ coaching staff. While either Favre or nose tackle Kris Jenkins may unseat Washington this season, there remains little doubt over how important Washington is to the Jets’ offense. Washington carried the football eight times for 82 yards and two touchdowns. His 61-yard touchdown run in the third quarter demonstrated how electric the Jets’ running game has become. After being pounded by Jones (27 carries, 96 yards, ten-yard touchdown catch) for a majority of the game, the tired Tennessee defense simply could not catch up to Washington. His lone misstep was his lost fumble in the first half.
*Mike Nugent seems to be recovered from his right thigh injury and is ready to kick, but why unseat Jay Feely now? Feely connected on both his field goal attempts yesterday and is now 20-of-24 on field goals as a Jet. The Giants are dealing with the same issue as John Carney replaced the injured Lawrence Tynes in the season-opener and has connected on 24-of-25 attempts this season. While Tyones replaced Carney two weeks ago, Carney was back as the Giants’ kicker yesterday. Special teams mistakes can derail a team, so why fix something that’s not broken?
*Vernon Gholston only recorded one tackle yesterday, but it was pleasing to see the first-round pick put pressure on Kerry Collins. With the Jets winning and the defense performing at a high level, Gholston can continue to take those baby steps.
*Abram Elam’s recent performance at safety leaves you wondering why he hasn’t been there all along. Elam led the team with nine tackles yesterday and also forced a key fumble which led to Coles’ touchdown reception. While Elam does not possess the playmaking abilities of Kerry Rhodes, he always seems to be making the big play. In the Jets’ 47-3 win over the Rams, Elam stripped quarterback Marc Bulger which led to Calvin Pace’s fumble return for a touchdown. In the Jets’ 26-17 win over the Bills, Elam returned a Trent Edwards interception 92 yards for a touchdown. Elam just continues to make plays.
*Linebacker Eric Barton recorded another seven tackles. He just continues to make plays for the Jets’ defense.
*LenDale White, meet Kris Jenkins. Jenkins stuffed White for a one-yard loss on a third-and-one attempt, representing the first time this season White has converted such a situation. While Jenkins’ contribution may not show up in the stat sheet (three tackles) his impact yesterday was clearly evident. Collins was repeatedly pressured and Jenkins had much to do about that.
*I know the Jets’ run defense has been stout this season, but why did Tennessee abandon the run so soon? The Titans only carried the ball 11 times (45 yards) despite being within two scores of the Jets throughout the game. Collins has enjoyed a revival with the 10-1 Titans, but there’s no reason why he should repeatedly be throwing 30-yard passes downfield in the first half. The Jets were only up 7-0 and yet Tennessee continued to unleash Collins. The plan backfired.
*LenDale White…one carry for negative yards. Only one measley carry. I feel your pain LenDale.
*After winning in both New England and Tennessee, these Jets are primed for the tough road come the playoffs. Oh wait…finish strong and enjoy your stay at the Meadowlands in January.
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