Monday, December 13, 2010

Jets embarrass selves in 10-6 loss to Miami Dolphins

On a grey, dreary day in the Meadowlands, the Jets lost their second straight divisional game, 10-6 to the Miami Dolphins.

The question all week was how the Jets would respond to last week's 45-3 shelacking in New England. While the defense showed up and held the Dolphins to just 131 yards, the offense couldn't manage a touchdown for the second week in a row. In all four losses this season, the Jets didn't score a touchdown. Keep that in mind for next week when you read keys to the game. The Jets are undefeated when they score a touchdown.

The problems on offense started with the quarterback, but the blame must be spread everywhere. In the first three drives, Sanchez didn't manage a single first down and turned the ball over twice. Miami capitalized with 10 points, which turned out to be all they needed.

But like the Green Bay game, it was impossible to know that at that point. Sanchez was off, showing very little confidence and rushing a lot of throws. However, he got no help. The running game averaged 2.8 yards-per-carry, as neither LaDainian Tomlinson nor Shonn Greene could get anything going. Santonio Holmes dropped a wide open touchdown pass in the 2nd quarter, Jerricho Cotchery had a bad drop late in the game, and there were other plays that could have been made to help Sanchez out. The rainy conditions clearly did not help out either group.

The offensive line also didn't block very well. Down the stretch, Cameron Wake was a terror. Sanchez fumbled three times, and was sacked six times. The runningbacks had no holes to run through either. This was an all-around below average game from this highly touted unit.

And the coaching and playcalling were just as bad as the players. If you followed my Twitter (@MackNova) during the game, you'll notice I was not pleased with Brian Schottenheimer. Now, he certainly had his hands tied with both a struggling running game and quarterback, but he was simply way too predictable. 18 of the first 25 first downs (18/29 overall) were running plays. And on third down, the Jets threw the ball 20 out of 21 times with the only run coming on a 3rd-and-1. I'm not calling for the Paul Hackett offense to return. But mix it up a little bit! Throw the ball a little more on 1st down. Run a draw play once in a while. Run the ball out of shotgun once in a while. I can't recall the Jets running out of shotgun in a long time.

Sanchez then is forced to make highly pressurized plays for half of his throws. He should be throwing more on 1st and 2nd down, and maybe a little less on 3rd down. Especially when the Jets are in that grey area of field position between the opposing 35 and midfield where the Jets could be in four-down territory. The Jets need to try to run the ball against nickel and dime formations and possibly break some bigger runs when the defense isn't expecting it. Schottenheimer is just way too predictable of a playcaller, and in five years, this offense has never been very good. I'd be quite alright with a change after the season.

Cotchery was actually the primary target for Sanchez today with 5 catches on 12 targets. Holmes was thrown to 9 times, but only came down with 2 catches. He made them count, with 57 yards, but he left a number of plays on the field, including the dropped touchdown pass. However, the least efficient receiver on the day was Dustin Keller, who caught just 3 passes on 12 targets. After scoring 2 touchdowns against Miami earlier in the season, the Dolphins clearly tried to take him out of the game, and they did a great job. Braylon Edwards was a complete non-factor, catching 1 of 2 balls thrown his way for 17 yards. Greene, Tomlinson, and Joe McKnight combined for 6 catches for 39 yards.

Virtually all those players can be considered guys who can make big plays. Yet, the Jets had one play over 20 yards all game, on a 42-yard diving grab by Holmes in the 4th quarter. There is no reason this offense, even with Sanchez playing spottily, should not score a touchdown in back-to-back games. 

As for the defense, it actually played very well. After last week's dose of humble pie, they came out hungry, completely shutting down the Dolphins after the 1st quarter. Chad Henne had just 55 yards passing, but his touchdown pass was a major difference. For some reason, Bart Scott was lined up opposite Brandon Marshall in the slot with Eric Smith on top of him. Scott gave a good bump at the line, but Marshall quickly recovered, got open, and Henne hit him for the easy touchdown.

But you can't blame them for the loss. Virtually everyone played well, with Sione Pouha, Bart Scott, David Harris, Calvin Pace, Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Shaun Ellis, and Brodney Pool all making big plays.

It was the 2nd year in a row, the Jets more than doubled the Dolphins' yardage total but couldn't beat them at the Meadowlands. This year's yardage disparity (280-131) was nowhere near last year's (378-104), but it's still pretty amazing.

The unsung hero of this game was Miami punter Brandon Fields, who bombed 10 punts for a 56.4 yard average. Even when the Jets were forcing three-and-outs, Fields would switch field position every time with his booming kicks.

While the offense's ineptitude was pretty embarrassing, it wasn't nearly as disgusting as what strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi did. On a punt, while Nolan Carroll was running out of bounds out the sideline, Alosi stuck his knee out and tripped Carroll. That puts a black eye on a franchise that has already given the rest of the NFL a reason to hate them. That was a classless move. Alosi immediately apologized for it, but he's going to face further punishment, either from the team or by the NFL. It wasn't completely blatant, but it was enough where he'll be lucky if he keeps his job.

The Jets really could not look worse right now. After all the preseason talk, the 9-2 start was a good way to quiet the haters. But scoring 9 points in two divisional games is a good way to become a punchline, especially the brash way the Jets have acted at times. Alosi's trip could not have come at a worse time, as now the Jets appear like classless losers.

Now, the Jets have to be careful not to let this season spiral out of control. With road games coming up against Pittsburgh and Chicago, it will be very dangerous. The week 17 home game against Buffalo should be enough to put the Jets in the playoffs, if they can win it, but they obviously don't want to go on a four game losing streak this late in the season.

The defense ran into a buzzsaw in the Patriots, as the Bears found out Sunday. This was more indicative of how good they can be, and it's because of this defense that the Jets should at least be in every other game this season. But the offense is in its worst slump of the season. There is no identity, the quarterback is struggling, and two of the best defenses in the NFL are on deck. Sanchez needs to play better immediately because the best way to beat both the Steelers and the Bears is by passing the ball.

The defense will prevent this season from collapsing into a free fall. But it's not good enough to carry them to the Super Bowl. The offense must pick it up not just to give the Jets any hope of reaching their lofty preseason goals, but to avoid a four game losing streak against opponents whom they will be underdogs against.

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