What a night for Brett Favre and the first-place New York Jets. When the Jets traded for Favre back in August, the Hall of Fame-bound quarterback was welcomed for games like these. If the Jets had any aspirations of putting the Patriots’ dominance to rest and grapple AFC East supremacy, last night was a game the Jets needed to take. While the Jets grabbed their hated rivals by the throat in the first half by jumping out to a 24-6 lead, they ultimately turned to their legendary quarterback to help them escape from what would have been a monumental defeat. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the resilient Patriots regroup from this defeat and make a playoff push, but a loss for the Jets last night would have haunted them for quite some time. But after all, such cringing thoughts don’t need to be explored because Favre was magical. Favre completed 26 of 33 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns, making several outstanding throws. While Favre is bound for the Hall of Fame once he finally decides to end his legendary career, the one knock on him has always been his penchant for making costly decisions in big games. Last night there were none to be made, as each of Favre’s throws seemed to fit exactly where only his receivers could catch the ball. Favre not only displayed the talent, but he demonstrated the smarts that can carry teams a long way.
*Enough can’t be said about Favre’s performance, especially during the final scoring drive in the fourth quarter and the game-winning drive in overtime. With the game tied in a hostile environment, after the Jets had already surrendered 18 unanswered points, Favre engineered a 14-play, 67-yard drive which resulted in a one yard touchdown run by Thomas Jones. Favre completed 4-of-5 passes for 29 yards on the drive which ate up 11:50 off the clock. However, after the Patriots grabbed the momentum back with Randy Moss’ amazing touchdown catch, Favre orchestrated his finest drive as a Jet in overtime. The offense easily could have folded after the first two plays resulted in a sack and an incomplete pass, but Favre connected with tight end Dustin Keller for 16 yards on a 3rd-and-15. Overall, the legendary gunslinger was flawless on the drive completing 5-of-6 passes for 56 yards. If the season ends with a division title, that will be the drive the team can look back on as a turning point in the season. It’s been a long time since the Jets had a drive as memorable as that.
*Keller is quickly turning into a force within the Jets’ offense and a go-to guy for Favre in clutch situations. The rookie tight end showed solid poise for four quarters after dropping a touchdown pass in the first quarter. However, just like Favre, Keller shined when it mattered most. He caught three passes for 32 yards on the game-winning drive, two of which came on third down. Overall he recorded a career-high eight receptions for 87 yards. While he still has ways to go before the Jets can call him a reliable blocker, he impact in the passing game is noticeable. With Keller producing, Mike Tannenbaum’s decision to trade up into the first round is looking smarter by the minute.
*Jones doesn’t receive the glory such as the likes of LaDainian Tomlinson, but he just continues to produce. Jones carried the football 30 times for 104 yards last night and punched in the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. He recorded his fourth 100-yard game of the season and added to his league-leading rushing total of 854 yards. Even though Jones may not be the most flashy of runners, he’s the type of runner who will take a pounding on one carry and demand the ball on the very next play. Those runners are called “workhorses” around these ranks and the Jets should enjoy the fact that they have one.
*The stage wasn’t nearly as high, but Jerricho Cotchery’s acrobatic grab in the second quarter reminded me of David Tyree. Even though Favre’s pass was thrown to the inside of the route, Cotchery bounced around the defensive back and made a diving grab while pinning the football against his head. He also showed impressive elusiveness on his 15-yard touchdown grab, by breaking two tackles and barely streching the football into the endzone. Luckily for the Jets, Cotchery’s third-quarter fumble didn’t appear as costly as it first might have. The Patriots were only able to turn the mistake into a field goal. Overall, five catches for 87 yards and one touchdown will surely bring a smile to the Jets’ offense.
*Mike Nugent better continue to keep that seat on the bench nice and toasty. While it appears that Nugent’s right thigh injured is healed and he’s ready to return, Jay Feely continues to step up for the Jets. First it was his 52-yard field goal in Oakland, last week it was his 4-for-4 afternoon on field goals and yesterday he delivered the game-winning 34-yard field goal in overtime. Feely has been nothing but clutch for the Jets since joining them back in Week Two, as he’s 18-for-22 on field goal attempts. Surprisingly, Feely’s 32-year old leg has displayed some impressive power on kickoffs. His success makes you wonder why the Dolphins released him after he connected on a franchise record (21-23 FG) 91 percent of his kicks last season.
*After watching Leon Washington repeatedly torch the Patriots’ kick coverage last night, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostowski can be handed an award for his performance in the Patriots’ 19-10 victory over the Jets back in Week Two. Gostowski nailed five touchbacks on that afternoon, basically eliminating Washington from returning any kicks. Last night, Washington burned the Patriots with a 92-yard kick return for a touchdown. Overall he averaged 44.3 yards on his four returns. On second thought, have you ever seen a better executed return than Washington’s touchdown? Other than Gostowski who whiffed on his chance to tackle Washington, no New England player came within ten yards of touching him.
*Patriots’ linebacker Jerrod Mayo’s performance last night makes you wonder why the Jets passed on him back in April’s draft. Mayo, who was selected tenth overall by the Patriots, was an absolute machine on the defensive side of the football. He recorded 20 tackles (16 solo) and stuffed Jones on multiple 3rd-and-short runs. Perhaps Mayo’s performance wouldn’t be so painful for the Jets if Vernon Gholston had done more than record three special teams tackles.
*Jets linebacker Eric Barton recorded 17 tackles…need I say more? The ten-year veteran doesn’t receive the accolades, but he just continues to produce. Barton leads the defense this season with 73 total tackles.
*Nose tackle Kris Jenkins delivered another dominating performance and you have to place him among the top defensive players in football. He likely won’t be recognized near the ranks of the Defensive Player of the Year voting because he plays a self-described “grunt” position and thus he doesn’t record the sexy statistics, but Jenkins is playing as well as any defensive lineman in football. He single-handedly drove center Dan Koppen back into running back Heath Evans on 3rd-and-1, stuffing Evans for a loss of two yards. Jenkins’ presence was so intimidating that New England decided to pass the ball on 4th-and-1 rather than run. His forth quarter sack of Matt Cassel was simpy a matter of him overpowering the left tackle.
*The Ty Law signing was questioned earlier this week, but Law delivered for the Jets. He was physical with Randy Moss at the line and limited the All-Pro wide reciever to just three catches for 26 yards. Of course Moss also caught the game-tying touchdown on which Law had him blanketed. Cassel delivered the perfect pass and Moss responded by recording the perfect catch.
*Call it luck or call it smarts, but safety Kerry Rhodes delivered for the Jets….in the coin flip. The Patriots gained 511 total yards on the Jets and Cassel was threading the Jets’ secondary, so keeping the ball heading into overtime surely helped.
*He’s not Tom Brady, but Cassel delivered a career-performance for New England last night. He still has to be smacking himself for overthrowing a wide open Moss in the third quarter, but completing 30-of-51 passes for 400 yards and three touchdows is nothing to be ashamed about. Not to mention, he led New England in rushing with 62 yards on eight carries. Cassel’s touchdown passes to Moss and Jabar Gaffney were perfectly thrown and he surely has to give New England confidence heading into the final strech of the season. Keep your head up Matt, you played one hell of a football game.
*I’m in the same school of thought that believes that prevent defense “prevents” you from winning the game. Mangini should be applauded for his decision to challenge Laveranues Coles’ first-quarter catch which was ultimately overturned, but he played not to lose in the fourth quarter. The Jets pressured Cassel repeatedly on the drive prior, so it doesn’t make sense to give him the middle of the field to pick apart the Jets’ secondary.
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