The Jets left the Superdome with their first loss Sunday 24-10 to the high powered Saints. Two key rookie mistake by Mark Sanchez (14-27, 138 yds 3 int) essentially did them in. The Jets suffered their first loss under rookie cooach Rex Ryan and fell to 3-1. They proved to themselves two things however. That they could be down a ton early in a hostile environment, settle down and be in the game late. Secondly, that their defense is undoubtedly for real. Slowing down the Saints is tought to do. The defense kept the Jets in the game.
The Jets were down 3-0 after one, and driving. They got out of the first quarter, despite struggling on the ground again while holding Drew Brees with a solid pass rush and tight secondary coverage.
Then Sanchez made his biggest mistake of the year. Staring down TE Dustin Keller in the end zone one the 1st play of the second quarter, Sanchez failed to look off FS Darren Sharper. Sharper read the eyes of Sanchez, stepped in front and went 99 yards for the TD, 10-0 Saints. A huge emotional game changer. On the brink of going in for the lead now down two scores, the mountain to climb suddenly felt long and steep.
The Saints went for the knockout on the ensuing drive but a Jet goal line stand that saw two incompletions by Brees left the Jets still down 10, but backed up on their own 2. Then the mountain grew even steeper and longer.. The Jets came out throwing but Sanchez failed to find any open receivers and took too long in escaping. DE Will Smith (no, not the actor) caught him and stripped the ball. It was recovered by Remi Ayoldele for the TD, 17-0 Saints.
The Jets tacked on 3 and got out of dodge with a 17-3 deficit. Needing to take better care of the ball, but not out of the game.
While Sanchez and the ground game struggled, thanks to a Saints defense that smothered the Jets all day (sacks, int) the defense continued to thwart the most high powered passing team in the NFL. Then the Jets finally broke through. After having a fire lit under him by rookie Shonn Greene (yds, left with an injury or he would’ve gotten more), Thomas Jones rambled through the middle of the Saints line to cut the lead to 17-10. Thats how the third ended. The Jets, with guts and
a fighting attitude, had a chance.
The offense had two possessions with the ball but failed to pick up the first. One was a thrid and one slant thrown too hard by Sanchez to WR Jerricho Cotchery. A play that Alan Faneca was quoted Sunday as saying he wished were kept on the ground. That because that is the O line’s time to take on the responsibility.
Finally, in the middle of the fourth, the Saints broke it open. Pierre Thomas (86 yards ), who got going in the second half, while the defense fatigued and continued to keep their focus on Brees, rushed in for a () touchdown and a 24-10 lead. A fourth and less than a yard offside’s by NG Kris Jenkins, on the Jet 43 kept the drive alive. The gamble to time the play perfectly backfired for Jenkins but he and the Jets have nothing to be ashamed of. A second Sanchez int to Sharper on a roll out under pressure around midfield on the next drive sealed the win for New Orleans.
The most telling moment of the game was not the result from a play on the field. It was when Jenkins put his arm around the rookie Sanchez to console him and remind him that the team has faith in him. That’s because for the first time in years, the Jets ARE a team. Gang Green has a pulse, a soul. Their ability to trail big early on the road against a great offense, settle down and have the ball in the 4th with a chance to tie are the kinds of situations a team growing into winners will value as October becomes November and playoff December. Tough loss but spirits are high. “THe mistakes killed us. you turn the ball over like that in this league and you can’t win.” Sanchez said, taking responsibility for his role in the loss like a field leader the Jets need.
The 1-3 Miami Dolphins are next. Monday night Football. Another divisional battle. Another classic Jets Miami game on the way. Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams and the Wildcat await along with QB Chad Henne, who now runs the offense thanks to the season ending injury to Chad Pennington. He was was solid in his first NFL start, a 38-10 blowout win against the often times pathetic Buffalo Bills Sunday. Henne will be getting a dose of Rex Ryan’s crew though next week at Landshark stadium. That will be a different experience for Henne than the lost Bills. Quarterback play on both sides will be the key next Monday night as the 3-1 Jets look to keep pace with the streaking 3-1 New England Patriots in the AFC East .
A look back at the FRO three keys to beat the Saints:
Brees vs Jet blitz. I asked for sacks, not pressure: The Jets didn’t get any. Hence, no major drive killers that included turnovers, over a loss of inherited field position.
Jet ground game vs Saints front seven: A fast start running the ball was essential against the high scoring Saints. The Jet’s didn’t get one. This prevented the Jets from controlling tempo and clock in the first half. They trailed 17-3 at halftime.
Dustin Keller vs Saints linebackers: I envisioned a big dose of Keller, all over the place a la Jason Witten. In the flat, over the middle, behind New Orleans MLB Jonathan Vilma. It didn’t happen. Saints pressure and the Jets inability to run effectively were part of the cause but Keller was targeted but too many times in the flat. None of the attempts were deep post patterns that could’ve provided the big play threat the Jets lack right now in their passing game. The Jets tried to offset the pressure with slants but none went to Keller. A key third and one try went to WR Chansi Stuckey and was not converted. Keller finished with just 33 yards.