The Jets went into the Black Hole of Oakland on Sunday at 3-3, searching for the swagger and consistency that led them to a surprising 3-0 start under rookie head coach Rex Ryan and rookie QB Mark Sanchez. They found it all right, pounding their hated AFL rivals the Raiders into oblivion all day, on both sides of the ball.
The win moves the Jets to 4-3, a game behind the Pats with a rematch against the Dolphins at home next week in the final game before the club’s bye week. Oakland has been a place of heartache for Jet fans over the years. Miserable dramatic regular season losses coming at inopportune times coupled with a bunch of playoff defeats had Jet fans chomping at the bit for revenge. They certainly got it on Sunday, and some.
The Jets took control from the opening kickoff and didn’t let go all afternoon. JaMarcus Russell who was awful and later benched, was his usual clueless self in the pocket . A penalty on the Silver and Black’s kickoff return team on the game’s first play, left the Raiders pinned inside the 5 on their first series. The Jets defense, humbled and bottled up after 3 straight defeats, were chomping at the bit for a chance to break out. On first down, unaware of Calvin Pace blitzing into his sights somehow, Russell held the ball too long and was stripped by the Jets dangerous game changing LB. From there the Jets rammed it in on a 4th down Thomas Jones TD. 7-0 Jets. That would turn out to be all they needed.
Russell then threw the first of 2 interceptions, the first one, to safety Jim Leonard who returned the pick into the red zone. From there Mark Sanchez (9-15 143 yds. 2 TD), trying to rebound from a dismal 5 int performance against Buffalo, ran it in for the 14-0 lead. The plan for Sanchez was clearly pared down by Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, in an attempt to lessen the rookie’s turnovers that have become the primary cause for the teams three game skid. “Ground and pound,” a term Ryan likes to refer to regarding running downhill with the lead late In games, may now become the sensible game plan motto for the NFLs #1 rushing offense.
The Jets 3rd fake punt of the season at the end of the first quarter kept a drive alive that led to a Shonn Greene TD, his first in the NFL. That made It 21-0 Jets. Greene (19-144 yds) impressed many in his first extended time. Playmaker Leon Washington’s season ending broken leg during the first half yesterday led to the unplanned arrival of Greene onto the scene. Washington who was carted off the field, was in a contract year. The likeable Washington chose to be a team player and not cause waves by holding out In the final year of his contract during training camp so lets hope the organization will be classy enough to return the favor. The potential emergence of Greene ( a 3rd round pick as Washington was 4 years ago) from here on in though may make for tough decision making between GM Mike Tannenbaum and owner Woody Johnson during the offseason. For now however, Greene looks ready to take on the carries. As for replacing Washington , a special teams pro bowler in 2008, kick returns, that’s another story.
Maybe speedy WR David Clowney could be a candidate. Clowney’s 35 yard TD grab put the Jets up 31-0 in the 3rd quarter. His 4 catches for 79 yards in the absence of WR Jerricho Cotchery due to a hamstring injury that has now kept the starting WR out for 2 games, showed off some of Clowney’s exciting big play potential. He’s a speed demon, a threat to score at any time like Washington, who will be sorely missed on offense for his versatility in the kickoff, run and short passing game.
The defense meanwhile was embarking on their first week without star NG Kris Jenkins, out for the season after suffering a torn ACL during the OT loss to Buffalo in week 6. The three man rotation of Mike Devito, Sione Pouha and the recently re-signed Howard Green, filled In somewhat admirably as the Jets for the second straight week forced the opposition to go to the bullpen at QB. Raider RB Justin Fargas was able to break off a few nice runs in the first half, but the Raiders trailed by so much so early, throwing became the emphasis for head coach Tom Cable’s club. The true test for this new revamped Jet front will come next week against the vicious Wildcat combo of Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown.
Raider backup Bruce Gradkowski replaced Russell (6-11 2int 1 fumble 61 yards) when It was 21-0, in order to provide a spark. The Jet defensive engines however, were already humming. Greene later added insult to injury with his second rushing TD, a 33 yard explosion against a downtrodden Raiders defensive unit, to make It 38-0. The win gives the Jets that much needed good feeling again. A feeling that got lost during a losing streak that dropped Gang Green from the NFL’s new darlings, into second place. A win against the hated Raiders was essential for a club that can now as a result of the thrashing, still entertain division title hopes.
A Look Back on the Three Keys against Oakland:
Sanchez Ball Control: Excellent game plan that worked to perfection thanks to the ground and pound combo of Jones and Greene. Sanchez was left to simply have to manage the game, make a few throws and be smart with the ball in the pocket. 0 int’s looks a lot better than 5 doesn’t it?
Jet run game controlling the ball: We asked for more Shonn Greene in the Oakland preview piece. However, we didn’t want it coming on the heels of a Leon Washington season ending injury. Regardless, the #1 rushing team in the NFL gave Sanchez the day off essentially. We’ll take more of those any day.
Jet D Rallying: With Jenkins gone for 2009, It was clear that the Raiders would try their luck keeping It on the ground. They tried. 21-0 Jets threw that plan out the window. We asked Pace to step up and change the game. He did so on the first play and the team never looked back We also noted that TE Zach Miller was the key player to stop in the Raider passing game. Miller caught 2 passes for 15 yards.