After all of the hype surrounding the Bills surprising 5-2 start, the Jets proved to everyone that Bills are still the Bills, regardless of how much “Fitzmagic” they may have. The other New York team cooperated and knocked off the Patriots in dramatic fashion to set up a prime time match up for AFC East supremacy. The Patriots are reeling following two straight losses and if Rex wants to host a home playoff game, the ball is literally in his court as the Jets host the Patriots next Sunday night, a win would make the division the Jets’ to lose. Now that I’ve restated the obvious, let’s hand out some game balls:
The Offensive Line:
The much maligned unit continues to make strides and has vastly improved in both the run blocking and pass-protection. Even the obvious weak link, Wayne Hunter has become less of a liability although he is good for at least one penalty per game. The front five gave Sanchez ample time to throw the ball today and he used it to his advantage (for the most part). In addition, the ground and pound attack is beginning to return to circa 2009 form and imposing their will even when the opposition stacks the box. The Jets controlled the line of scrimmage and as a result dominated the time of possession. So here’s a game ball guys, don’t let this get to your head with the Pats coming back to town.
The Front Seven:
There is only one word to sum up the defense’s performance and that is “dominant.” Fitzpatrick was uncomfortable all game thanks to some work by the big guys up front, especially Sione Pouha who had a team-high seven tackles and forced a key fumble that was recovered by Jim Leonhard early in the second half. The linebackers were especially impressive as they both produced pressure and turnovers in the form of interceptions by Calvin Pace and David Harris. Aaron Maybin also deserves honorable mention here, although he did not register a sack in his return to Buffalo, he provided constant pressure that led to turnovers. You can tell that Rex and Pettine were trying to get Maybin a sack as they continued to bring heavy pressure after the game was well in hand.
I can honestly say that I now have a permanent seat on the Nick Folk bandwagon, last year I was calling for his head but this season he looks like a new man. He went into this game without missing a kick all season and although he missed one today, Folk has been clutch thus far this year, connecting from 49 and 50 again today and for that he gets a game ball.
McKnight should probably share this one with special teams coordinator, Mike Westhoff but nevertheless, this one has been a long time coming for McKnight who leads the league in kick return average. The second-year man out of USC has shown why the Jets traded up to get him and were willing to part ways with both Danny Woodhead and Leon Washington. After a disappointing rookie season, McKnight has burst on the scene this year making contributions on offense, defense, and special teams. However, this game ball is for his special teams abilities as he nearly took another return to the house today and continues to give the Jets offense great starting field position.
Take A Lap:
I didn’t want to make the Sanchize do any laps considering how well he played overall but the laps are for his bone-headed, momentum-killing turnovers. After a drive that ate up almost the entire first quarter, Sanchez threw a potentially costly red zone pick that may or may not have been intended for Dustin Keller because after looking at the tape, it appears as though it was intended for Jairus Byrd. Thankfully the defense was able to bail him out and keep the Bills from turning it into points. Sanchez culminated a sloppy first half by fumbling a shotgun snap after David Harris intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick, costing the Jets an opportunity to add to their lead before half. Having said all of that, I think the passing game has looked better than it has in weeks and if Sanchez can cut down on the turnover, they will be tough to stop.
Could Use A Good Old Floggin’:
The backup, blocking tight end has been a penalty machine in the limited action he has seen this year, today was no different. After Dustin Keller was shaking up after trying to inexplicably helicopter for extra yards (which should probably earn its own award) but I digress, Mulligan was thrust into starting duty where he looked absolutely lost. “Mully” committed a couple of costly penalties, one of which negated a huge run by Shonn Greene. Kudos to Brian Schottenheimer and Brandon Moore for chewing his expendable ass out, which turned out to be precursor to his benching. Mulligan was replaced by undrafted free agent, Josh Baker who fared pretty well before Keller came back in the second half. The Jets signed former Bills tight end, Shawn Nelson earlier this week and if he doesn’t step his game up, Mulligan’s days could be numbered.