Monday, November 24, 2008

The Entire NFL is on Notice: Jets 34, Titans 13

The Jets proved they were a playoff contender last week, conquering the Patriots and finally taking control of the AFC East for the first time in years. But blowing an 18 point first half lead and allowing the Patriots to tie the game on the last play of the game ruined many people's perceptions of who the Jets are and what they can be.

Now those doubters are all gone. The Jets have now won back-to-back games on the road against New England and Tennessee, after dominating the previously undefeated Titans 34-13.

But more impressive than the victory itself was the way the Jets shoved around the Titans. They led 10-3 at halftime despite two turnovers as the defense simply could not move the ball against a stout Jet defense on a consistent basis, and they certainly did not help themselves out with several early drops.

The key to this game was time of possession. It has been an area of the game that both teams had been able to dominate in recent games. Something had to give, and to the surprise of many, it was the Titans' defense. Brett Favre was able to convert on third down 7/13 times, while Tennessee was just 4/11. As a result, the Jets held the ball for 40:30, over two-thirds of the game.

This dominance of the football allowed for the Jets' defense to stay fresh and the Titans' defense to stay on the field. As the game went on, Nick Mangold, Alan Faneca, and co. were able to physically overpower what had been the best defense in football more and more.

There is simply no category that Jeff Fisher can say his team won the football game in. Favre picked apart the Titans with quick, precise passes to the tune of 25-32 for 224 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT. Thomas Jones and Leon Washington ran for 96 and 82 yards apiece, with Washington gaining his yards on just eight carries. In the second half, both players were able to find holes and break consistent runs. Even seldom-used blocking back Tony Richardson had a 14-yard run.

Laveranues Coles had his best game in a few weeks with seven catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. Jerricho Cotchery, Dustin Keller, and Thomas Jones all had over 20 yards receiving.

On the other side, Kerry Collins was held to well under 50% passing for most of the game. He ended up 21-39 for 243 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions, but until the fourth quarter, those numbers looked much worse. His leading receiver was former Jet Justin McCareins with 43 yards, but he dropped a pass in the game, much to the delight of his former fans. Bo Scaife, Quinton Ganther, and Brandon Jones each had 40 yards receiving, and Justin Gage had one big catch for 37 yards.

Their two-headed rushing attack was pretty non-existent. The Titans were never on the field, and when they were, they were usually behind. As a result, Lendale White received just one carry, losing a yard. Rookie Chris Johnson fared better with 10 carries for 46 yards, but at the end of his best run, Abram Elam forced the ball out, giving the Jets a key turnover leading to a three-score game.

Elam was one of a number of defensive stars for the Jets in this game. Darrelle Revis and Ty Law pretty much shut down the Titans' top two receivers, and the front seven played very well.

But the key to this game was time of possession. When you're not on the field, it's hard to score. The Jets had realized that lately, as they had time-consuming drives in each of the last two games that pretty much used up the entire fourth quarter. This time, they had three drives over 6:49, whereas the Titans two best drives were 3:05 and 5:06. Tennessee punted on their first five possessions, even after two Jets turnovers, one in the red zone, putting their defense on the field a lot early, and the Jets made sure it stayed that way.

Now the entire NFL has to take notice. The Jets will come in, shove you around, give the ball to Coles, Cotchery, Keller, Jones, and Washington, with all five having the ability to be a number one target, giving the Jets fantastic balance on offense. The defense will make you throw the ball to beat them, and when the weather gets colder, that will only become a bigger advantage.

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