The New York Jets finally have something to put in the win column, beating the Carolina Panthers 9-6 in an extremely forgettable game that featured more punts than points and a 7-0 turnover-touchdown ratio.
The Jets offense struggled to get anything going all game, including when the starters were out there. Mark Sanchez went 5-10 for a paltry 12 yards as his receivers struggled to get open and he didn't make the best decisions. Two passes were nearly intercepted, although one was tipped first. Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, and Dustin Keller all were held catchless while Jerricho Cotchery had just one grab for seven yards.
The offensive line didn't create many holes for the running game either. Shonn Greene carried six times for 10 yards. The second team offensive line was just as bad, as neither Joe McKnight nor Chauncey Washington could find any holes.
The first drive for the first-team offense was probably the best drive in the game. Starting at their own 8-yardline, the Jets went 67 yards on 13 plays, capped by a Nick Folk 43-yard field goal. The key play on that drive was a 20-yard draw play by LaDainian Tomlinson on 3rd-and-13 from their own 5-yardline. LT showed his trademark burst there and followed his blockers very nicely. But as far as offense goes, that was basically it.
The defense had some mental errors as players let a couple receivers go open on a few plays. But for the most part, they played ferociously, making big hits and big plays when they needed to. Carolina ran fairly well as they are prone to do, but the Panthers struggled mightily through the air. Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen combined to go 15-39 for 129 yards and 2 interceptions. Then again, the Jets' quarterbacks went 12-26 for 46 yards, so maybe that wasn't so bad.
Players who were picked on in the Giants game were much better in this game. Dwight Lowery made a few good plays in pass coverage including a big hit on Brandon LaFell in zone coverage to knock the ball out and set up 4th down. Marquice Cole also covered well and Drew Coleman added a late interception to ice the game.
However, the two biggest positives were two players who have been much maligned for different reasons. Nick Folk was 3-3 kicking field goals, including a 49-yarder with plenty of distance. He also added two touchbacks. All in all, he was able to silence critics and give fans some faith in him going into the season.
But Vernon Gholston was the surprise of the game. After struggling in the first game, the praise Rex Ryan had showered upon him finally manifested itself on the field. He didn't make any big plays, but he was all over the field, leading the Jets in tackles, pressuring the quarterback a few times, and showing good strength and run stopping ability from the defensive end position. It was against 2nd and 3rd stringers, but it still is as much promise as we've ever seen from the former 6th overall pick.
The bad news from this game was the Jets did suffer one injury. DE Ropati Pitoitua, whom the Jets were trusting to play a bigger role on the defense this season, tore his achilles and will be out for the season. He's not a big name, but now players like Gholston, Matt Kroul, Mike DeVito, and Rodrique Wright need to step up.