When your team has dropped six out of their last seven games, you’re not looking for pretty wins. The ugly variety will do just fine, thank you. The Jets gained their first home win since Week 3 with a pedestrian yet efficient performance in a 17-6 victory over the Carolina Panthers, who dropped to 4-7.
Although they still have a long way to go, the Jets (5-6) can at least think about the playoffs if not talk about them. But that word didn’t even come up after the game. “This was a great team win,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “It feels good to say that. It’s been a while.”
The team’s much-maligned secondary stepped up on this day with four interceptions and sent 76,381 fans home happy. It all began on the Panthers’ opening drive, one in which they converted three third down plays. Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme then tried to hit Steve Smith on a slant that would have gone for a big gain, but there was apparent miscommunication and the wideout had yet to turn in. The ball caromed off his heel up in the air and right into the hands of Darrelle Revis, who returned it 67 yards for the Jets first defensive touchdown of the season.
“The great ones are lucky,” joked Ryan.
After trading field goals, the Jets capitalized on Delhomme’s third pick of the day when Kerry Rhodes – who was removed from the starting line-up this week in favor of Eric Smith – pulled down the floater and brought it back to the Carolina 38-yard line.
“The message was sent to me by Coach and now I’m moving on,” said Rhodes, who also had another interception and received a game ball. The Jets extended their lead to 14-3 when Thomas Jones (25 carries for 75 yards, 1 touchdown) plunged into the end zone from three yards out.
The big talk all week leading up to this game was that Ryan was going to take a more active role in the offense to try to cut down on the mistakes of his rookie quarterback. A more conservative game plan seem to benefit Mark Sanchez, who completed 13 out of 17 for 154 yards and one interception, but the USC product was not totally satisfied with his performance.
“I was playing smart on offense and we still gave up a couple of turnovers,” he said. “They (the coaches) were telling me in the meetings, ‘If you take a sack, that’s OK. Just don’t lose the ball.’”
Ryan added, “I thought he did a great job. He really managed the game well and had some nice runs. When in doubt, he checked the ball down.”
At one point in the third quarter, Sanchez was shaken up with an apparent knee injury and missed the majority of one series, but returned the next one. “He said he was good to go,” Ryan said. “I was just anxious to get him back in there.” Sanchez had the knee checked out by the team’s medical staff after the game and said that there was nothing abnormal found.
The Jets sealed the win with a 47-yard field goal by Feeley with 3:39 left to make the score 17-6. The big play on the drive was a 16-yard completion to converted running back Danny Woodhead on third down to move the chains.
“Coach put me in a great situation, Mark put the ball on me and the line did a great job so I just had to make the catch,” the wide receiver humbly said.
The Jets do not have much time to enjoy this win due to the Thursday night affair against the Bills in Toronto. “This is a short week for us, so we can enjoy it for about five hours,” said Ryan.
Better to enjoy the victory than wallow in another loss.