Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sanchez, Jets Fall to Bills in OT - Initial Reaction

How all your hopes and dreams can fade in a four hour period...

The Jets fell at home to the Buffalo Bills 16-13 in what can only be described as a total embarrassment. A team that lost its last game at home to the Cleveland Browns 6-3 was able to beat the Jets. Buffalo suffered their low point in the Cleveland loss because they couldn't beat a team whose QB went 2-17 for 23 yards and an interception. You had to wonder just how bad the opposing quarterback had to play for the Bills to win.

Today, you got your answer.

6 interceptions, 5 by Mark Sanchez, was enough to give the Bills just enough chances to win the game. In one of the ugliest football games the Jets have played in years, Sanchez was simply atrocious. He finished 10-29 for 119 yards and 5 interceptions.

Now, even though the opponent was the lowly Bills (who are now just one game behind the Jets), there were a few positives to the game. The Jets ran for an astounding 318 yards. Thomas Jones set a franchise record with 210 yards on 22 carries, including a career high 71-yard touchdown. Both Jones and Leon Washington ran well, and the Jets had a 13-3 lead at halftime.

But that was the last good time for the Jets all game as the second half was a disaster. All three possessions in the third quarter ended in a Sanchez interception. Braylon Edwards didn't help Sanchez's cause on two of them, but all were either poor throws or poor decisions.

The defense held up for the most part. Giving up 16 points in almost 5 quarters despite its team throwing 6 interceptions on paper looks great, even though their best field position from the picks was the 43 yardline. David Harris and Marques Douglas sandwiched Trent Edwards in the first half to knock him out of the game, leaving Ryan Fitzpatrick to man the offense. For the most part, he struggled, except on a quick slant in which Lee Evans exploited Lito Sheppard on a quick slant, split defenders and sprinted into the endzone to tie the game at 13. When the Bills threw to their receivers, they usually picked on Sheppard, who was beaten a few times. He would have had one interception, but it was called back on a borderline illegal contact call earlier on that drive.

However, there's longterm cause for concern for the defense, as Kris Jenkins suffered a right knee injury that Rex Ryan called "probably severe." If Jenkins is out for a long period of time, and it appears he's probably done for the season, then the defense certainly won't be the best in football as Kerry Rhodes predicted. It might not even be a top 10 defense anymore. The run defense was average before this week with maybe the best nose tackle in football. Now, it may become a real liability.

And the penalties were absolutely inexcusable. 14 penalties in the game is not how you win football games, and there were numerous drives that began with a penalty, either on special teams or on the first play of the drive, or even both. The most egregious penalty came in overtime when the Jets were already at the Bills 24 yardline, where it would have been a 41-yard field goal. Ben Hartsock was called for holding on a Thomas Jones run that would have given the Jets a first down inside the 20, and almost a sure victory. Instead, Steve Weatherford couldn't handle the snap, and Jay Feely never got a chance to try a potentnial game-winning 50-yard field goal.

Now, it's back to the drawing board for the Jets. At 3-3, the good will from the first 3 weeks has evaporated. Oakland is on the schedule next week, a place where the Jets have struggled in recent years. Rex Ryan and the rest of the coaching staff need to stop the stupid penalties, figure out a way to compensate for Jenkins on defense, and most importantly, figure out a way to get Sanchez back on track.

At different times this season, the Jets have done everything well. Sanchez and the passing game showed they could score points when they needed to in the passing game, and today, they nearly had two 100-yard rushers, including Jones's record-setting effort. The pass defense has been stout all year, and the run defense hasn't been bad. There's still hope for the year if they can get things straightened out. But it's starting to look painfully clear that Sanchez's rookie season is going to be a roller coaster, and the loss of Jenkins might render the defense not quite good enough to make up for it.

I hate to look ahead, but if the Jets beat Oakland, something that looks much harder right now than it did 12 hours ago, the Miami game will really define the Jets' season. If they win that game and are effective enough at slowing Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, they will be 5-3 at the bye, and maybe Ryan will have shown he can scheme his way out of missing his nose tackle. A loss would give the Jets three divisional losses and be a massive blow to playoff hopes this year.

Of course, a loss to Oakland next week, and things will truly begin spiraling out of control. Right now, it's just an extremely disheartening loss, and there's plenty of blame to go all around. The primary culprit, of course, is Mark Sanchez, but it's also time to take a more critical look at the Ryan regime. This loss was primarily because of one player's self-destruction, but it's still the Bills, and the defense hasn't making enough big plays for what it thinks it could be.

I can't wait to see the Sanchez video this week. I'll try to get that up as soon as possible, though it still should take a few days.

By the way, 318 yards rushing in a loss is the 2nd highest rushing output ever in a losing effort, and the most since the merger. The previous record was 320, set by the Cleveland Rams in 1944.

And here's the best stat of the game.

Sanchez' passer rating: 8.3

Jones's yards per carry: 9.5

Wow.

And I would give anything tomorrow to read that Jenkins is alright and he'll be okay later this season because right now, it's hard to have hope in terms of contending or being a playoff team this season. I have to see it to believe that this defense, even with Ryan and the new additions, can last without him. Nothing has been confirmed yet, but there's no reason Ryan would admit it's "probably severe" unless it probably was.

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