Sunday, November 14, 2010

Reflection: Jets hang on to beat Browns 26-20

Another week, another tight road victory. Except this time the script was flipped, as the Jets blew a late 20-13 lead only to pull the game out in overtime 26-20.

The game probably shouldn't have come down to overtime, after kicker Nick Folk missed three of his five field goal attempts, including a 47-yarder in overtime that would have won the game with 4:51 to spare. Instead, the Jets needed 14:44 of the 15 minutes allotted in overtime to find the game-winning points on a strike from Mark Sanchez to Santonio Holmes.

Sanchez's day was up-and-down again, but he showed pocket presence and escapability to make big plays late in the game to help the Jets win. He almost wasn't around to play the end of the game after he hurt his right calf on a sack in the 4th quarter. But despite the injury, he made some big plays escaping the rush, including a first down strike in overtime to Jerricho Cotchery, who made a great diving catch, which was made more spectacular by the fact that he injured his groin earlier in the play, only to dive and make the catch when Sanchez called on him.

Once again, the game was put on Sanchez's shoulders late as the Jets were only average running the ball. Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson combined for 38 carries for 129 yards but didn't break open any plays longer than 10. Brad Smith was a healthy change-of-pace, totaling 39 yards on his 5 carries behind center.

Sanchez spread the wealth throwing the ball, finding eight different receivers, with Cotchery and Holmes catching touchdown passes. Braylon Edwards added 59 yards on 4 catches in his return to Cleveland. He was booed every time he was near the ball by the Browns fans who clearly don't forget the way things ended for him in Cleveland.

The defense, for the most part, was solid. The Browns posed an interesting challenge to the Jets. The Browns don't rely on their receivers that much, so Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie were barely factors. But one of the few times a receiver did make a play, former Jet Chansi Stuckey fumbled along the sideline in Jets' territory in overtime, giving the Jets new life.

While the defense was able to force a big turnover in overtime, the way the Jets reacted to taking a 7-point lead with 2:35 to go was poor. The kickoff was returned all the way to the 41 yardline, when McCoy went to work. He completed four passes to first downs to his tight ends before finding Mohamed Massaquoi on a quick slant in the endzone to tie the game.

Then, instead of going for a score with 35 seconds left and three time outs, the Jets sat on the ball and opted for overtime. Sanchez attempted one pass, then handed off to Tomlinson for 5 yards and went into the break. I understand not wanting to give the Browns another chance, but running just two plays when all you need is about 35 yards to have a chance was a poor decision by the Jets' brass.

The Jets once again won the coinflip in overtime, but this time, the offense couldn't strike on the first drive. Cleveland went down to the Jets' 36 yardline before Stuckey fumbled. The Jets answered with a nice drive, but Folk couldn't hit a 47-yard field goal. After a Cleveland three-and-out, the Jets drove into Cleveland territory. However, on 3rd and 14, Sanchez threw an interception to rookie Joe Haden at the 3-yard line.

The Browns could have run the ball three times, conceded that they probably weren't going to score, and finished the game in a tie. Instead, they tried a pass on first down, which gave the Jets enough time to get the ball back if they could force a three-and-out. They did, almost sacking McCoy in the endzone for a safety, so the Jets got the ball back with 24 seconds left at the Cleveland 37. The Jets opted for a quick slant to Holmes to get into field goal range, but Holmes broke free and ran into the endzone for a touchdown. It was the second straight week the former Super Bowl MVP came up clutch in overtime.

Once again, the Jets did not put it all together, but they found a way to win when it mattered. Even though they couldn't make a big stop late in regulation, Drew Coleman's forced fumble on Stuckey as well as a pair of three-and-outs gave the Jets just enough extra chances to put the necessary points on the board. The run offense was average and the passing game wasn't consistent enough. However, all that matters is the win, and at 7-2, the Jets could lead the AFC East at the end of the night if the Patriots fall to the Steelers.

Houston should be a welcome sight for this Jets team. Their offense fits the Jets' style perfectly, as the Jets can be physical and take Andre Johnson out of the game. Defensively, the Texans may be the worst team in the league, especially on the road. The Jets will probably miss Cotchery next week, as it sounds like he could miss several weeks with his groin injury. Left guard Matt Slauson also might not play, as he left today's game with knee swelling. Rob Turner took his place. Sanchez should be fine, despite his calf strain.

Still, the Jets have plenty of weapons left at their disposal, there's no excuse this offense can't put up at least 3 touchdowns next week. This team needs another big week to show just how good they are, especially at home, where the Jets are just 2-2.

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