BGA: Special teams have a major bearing on result

Rookie Jalen Saunders did not help the team’s cause when he muffed a punt early in the second quarter. The resulting turnover set up a touchdown which gave the Bears a 14-0 lead from which the Jets were never able to recover. Saunders has not looked comfortable fielding punts all season and was replaced by Jeremy Kerley.

Kerley’s return to the role just served as an immediate reminder how frustrating he was in the same role. While you can rely on him to catch the ball, he has a poor instinct for when to call for a fair catch and when not to. Sure enough one of the first punts he fielded saw him get nailed in a situation where losing him to an injury would have been a total disaster. He did beat the first man on one return and drew a penalty on another but…no, thanks. Let’s give Walt Powell a shot.

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BGA: Jets biggest weakness laid Bear

Give Rex Ryan credit because this wasn’t an easy match-up for his inexperienced cornerbacks and the outcome could have been a lot worse. Ryan mixed up coverages all day and dropped linemen or linebackers into coverage to try and prevent the Bears from being able to exploit any mismatches too routinely.

In truth, the Jets may have got a bit of a gift when Brandon Marshall re-injured his ankle. Marshall was able to return to the game though and although he only had one catch, his presence definitely necessitated plenty of defensive attention.

Jay Cutler ended up with 225 yards and two touchdowns, one of which came on a completely blown coverage by Phillip Adams, making his first defensive appearance of the season. The other came as Darrin Walls was in position at the back of the end zone but couldn’t prevent Martellus Bennett from making the catch.

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BGA: The free Bears

The linebackers didn’t really make a major impact for the Jets last night, but each had their moments. Had Demario Davis’ potential go-ahead touchdown not been wiped out by an inadvertent whistle, perhaps we’d have reason to feel better about their performance.

Davis has received a lot of positive publicity recently and is emerging as a leader for the Jets, but despite a productive performance which featured a team-high 12 tackles, half a sack, a pass defensed and a fumble recovery, he still has some work to do, especially in coverage. There were two plays in particular where he was fooled, leaving a man wide open over the middle for an easy first down. All-in-all he gave up five catches for 46 yards and had one missed tackle.

Even so, Davis hasn’t put a line like that together before, so it’s a sign of how his playmaking is starting to bubble to the surface. He also almost added an interception. They can’t afford for him to leave receivers free underneath though, so hopefully he will continue to work at getting better.

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BGA: Bearing down on the quarterback

First things first, let’s hope that the reports from the Jets that Muhammad Wilkerson’s knee injury is not serious are accurate. Wilkerson looked terrific yesterday, bouncing back from his ejection in Green Bay, but the season looked set to go up in smoke when Wilkerson collided with Pace and was shown on TV writhing in pain as he let out that same blood-curdling scream that Darrelle Revis did when he tore his ACL.

Wilkerson and fellow linemate Sheldon Richardson combined for 2.5 sacks, four quarterback hits and five pressures, getting in Jay Cutler’s face all day. For Wilkerson this is nothing new, but for Richardson that’s now three games in a row with four or more pressures, something he failed to achieve even once last season.

They each played their part in the run defense too, which held the Bears to 60 yards on 21 carries (27 of which came from Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery). Wilkerson had two tackles for a loss and one for a short gain and Richardson fought off a double team to stuff one run for a three-yard gain and was in on one other run stuff. Richardson also drew a penalty which negated a touchdown.

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BGA: Jets’ thread-bear receiving corps falls short

Eric Decker was able to go, although he lasted only 14 snaps before aggravating his hamstring injury. I would hope the Jets were smart here and pulled him at the first sign of any twinge, but we’ll have to see whether he can play on Sunday with a short week of preparation. While out there, he did make one nice downfield catch, hanging on despite a big hit. He also contributed a good downfield block.

While the injury was obviously a factor, Decker’s production through three games (10-156-TD) falls short of Santonio Holmes’ production through the first three games in each of his seasons as a Jet (11-198-TD on average), so you’re left to wonder how much of an upgrade he is over what the Jets used to have in Holmes. Having said that, his contract is significantly less, so broadly equivalent production would be a net win for the Jets, even if it would pale in comparison to his achievements in Denver.

Without Decker, Geno Smith was still able to be pretty productive, but it’s probably fair to say that the red zone was where they missed him most.

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BGA: Johnson Bear-ly able to get it going

As we’ve already mentioned today, the Jets looked to get Chris Johnson in space early and while the blocking was set up well, the Bears were ready for it with the resultant pick-six putting the Jets in an early hole. While I would hesitate to blame that play on Johnson, it’s worth noting that despite his production as a pass catcher over the course of his career, I was left underwhelmed with his receiving skills and instincts when I reviewed his film back in April. Maybe a more natural pass catcher could have made the adjustment on that play to get out and create a better passing angle, but it’s hard to say.

Unfortunately, this was the second straight game where they’ve been unable to get Johnson going. On 10 carries, his longest gain was a six-yarder on a direct snap play. Then when they finally seemed to have him open in space early in the fourth, he dropped the pass.

We’ve already observed in preseason that Johnson can make a slow start and then look sharper as the game goes on, but the Jets are struggling to find a balance between giving him enough looks to get him going and leaving enough reps available for the other backs if they’re playing well.

This week, Chris Ivory did play well and perhaps should have seen more than the 10 carries he also received. Ivory had a career-high four catches and totalled 96 yards on his 14 touches, breaking six tackles in the process. It’s the first time really that he’s produced as a pass catcher, so that adds another dimension to his game.

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BGA: The Unbearable Lightness of Brian

I was fairly critical of Brian Winters last week and before I go any further, I must say that he was definitely more consistent in last night’s game. In fact, he made some good, positive contributions in the running game. However, his occasional lapses seem to always come at the worst possible time.

Stephen Paea – hardly the most challenging pass rushing opponent Winters has or will ever face – cleanly beat him three times on crucial plays. The first one was on third and three on the first possession after Geno Smith’s pick-six and caused the pocket to collapse with the pass being batted down. The next saw Smith have to throw the ball into the ground on 3rd down on the series following the David Harris strip-sack. Most damaging of all came on the fourth down at the end of the game, where a clean pocket would have given Smith a couple of different options with three bunched receivers breaking towards the end zone on his right side. However, Winters got cleanly beaten one-on-one and Smith did the only thing he could and lofted a desperation fade to Jeremy Kerley which he had little chance of coming down inbounds with as Smith had to rush the throw.

Winters has improved since last year. That’s being reflected in the more impactful performances from Nick Mangold at center. However, it can be extremely frustrating when one player fails to do his job on a drive-killing play where everyone else was able to execute. Unfortunately, I don’t know if they have much choice but to just keep him out there and hope his consistency improves.

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