Rex Ryan has an idea how NFL teams ought to play defense. Step 1: Play hard and aggressive. Step 2: Whenever possible, ATTACK! Step 3: Challenge the opponent to respond to what you are doing. Step 4: When you hit ‘em, smash ‘em in the mouth and knock their teeth in. Step 5: Keep it simple. Step 6: Return to step 1. It’s simple and direct. The kind of thing you can teach to a rookie. It’s instinctive, and it works. Mike Westhoff has got a similar idea of how to play special teams. Westhoff and Ryan are a perfectly coherent pair. If football were played only on defense and special teams, the Jets would have won last night by thirty points against the Baltimore Ravens in their home opener, instead of losing 10-9 in heartbreaking fashion. But they didn’t win and that’s because NFL teams also play on offense and the Jets’ offense hasn’t got a clue.
Do they have a rookie quarterback? Nope. Not enough talent at wide receiver? Nope. Not enough talent at running back? Nope. A poor offensive line? Nope. Do the players know the system? You’d have to think so after all this time. Was the opponent the ’85 Bears? Not really. None of these weaknesses plagued the Jets. So why did they go 60 minutes with only six first downs and no third down conversions? Well, if the way the defense and special teams play, is playing like a Jet, then the offense is playing like a World War I biplane—a broken one.
Just for a minute, let’s remember the way Rex’s defense plays and design an offense. What would it do? Step 1: Play hard and aggressive. Step 2: Whenever possible, ATTACK! Step 3: Challenge the opponent to respond to what you are doing. Step 4: When you hit ‘em, smash ‘em in the mouth and knock their teeth in. Step 5: Keep it simple. Step 6: Return to step 1. How does the Jets’ offense actually play? Step 1: Try to ram the ball into the teeth of the defense. Step 2: Waste the talents of all your skill players. Step 3: Never challenge the opponent to respond to what you are doing. Step 4: On every play, make the pre-snap movement so intricate that it uses up the clock even with less than a minute left in the game. Also, make the movement so complicated that your own players don’t always know where they should be. Step 5: Take your instinctive, gunslinging, 23-year old quarterback who loves to play, and make him so cautious that he checks down on every snap. Step 6: Never throw down the field except when the pre-snap movement has already produced a flag for illegal shift. Oh and by the way, ignore the first down marker, even on fourth down, even at the end of the game where you only need another half yard to keep a game-winning drive alive.
Can anyone convince me why a head should not roll after this dung-stain of a football game? If I was the offensive coordinator, I’d blow my brains out. Brian Schottenheimer has absolutely no excuses. This was the worst performance I have ever seen from a Jets’ offense. That’s too limiting. From an NFL offense. Six first downs the entire game. I’m told that’s a record for futility for the Jets. One third down conversion, in eleven chances. One hundred seventy-six net yards. The defense and specials gave the offense the ball with fantastic field position, time and time again. On average, their drives began at the 45 yard line (Baltimore at their own 18). The defense forced a fumble on the Baltimore eleven yard line on the opening play of the game. Three and out. Another turnover gave the Jets the ball inside Baltimore’s forty. Three and out. Cromartie intercepts and runs it back to the Baltimore 31. Two and out as Shonn Greene fumbles for the second time. Finally, down only by 4 in the fourth quarter, the offense gets the ball on the Baltimore 35. Three and out. Did I mention that they were not playing the ’85 Bears. Everyone knew the Ravens had weaknesses in the secondary. Was there a game plan to exploit that weakness? Was there a game plan?
The first half was, by any standard, a slugfest—not between the Jets and the Ravens—but between the Jets and Walt Anderson’s crew of officials who called the Jets for 100 yards of penalties, several of which saved Ravens’ drives. A holding penalty against Kyle Wilson was the most egregious since it was away from the play, barely a grab, and it was on a 3rd and 28. I realize that this crew of officials is known for calling lots of receiver-favoring penalties, but this was ridiculous. The league can simply not permit a single crew of officials to be so one-sided in their interpretation of the rules compared to the other crews. Moreover, if the league is happy about all the publicity they’re getting from the Jets (and every NFL advertisement these days features Mark Sanchez), then they had better get this corrected. The Jets play defense and the rules have become so heavily in favor of the receiver, that they stifle any natural fairness in the encounter between the receiver and the defender. Put that together with an aggressive, offense-favoring crew and you’ve got a game that loses all its playfulness.
Commissioner Goodell, I saw you in the stands. Is this the kind of football you want—an overenthusiastic crew of martinets in stripes, affecting play more than the other team? Is this the football equivalent of judicial activism? The tally on the Ravens 76 yard drive that ended with a one yard touchdown run by McGahee? Ravens 7 yards. Officials: 69 yards including a nullified field goal which was about as lame a call as I’ve seen. You decide.
But, the game didn’t turn on the officials. If the Jets had done one positive thing on offense, they would have won. One decent drive. Hell, I would have been happy with one throw down field. These officials were just waiting to call a penalty on the defensive backs—any defensive backs. If the Jets had challenged the Ravens and their weak corners, they would have gotten the calls, too. Not these Jets.
LT was a bright spot. Shonn Greene was as mess dropping a chance at redemption on the final drive. Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery went to Sonic, where theymet Dustin Keller who overslept. Slauson played ok, but got blown up at a critical moment in the fourth quarter by Haloti Ngata, who blew past him like he wasn’t there. Tony Richardson, sadly, seemed overmatched. The Terminator’s day is coming.
On defense, Kyle Wilson got burned repeatedly, mostly by Boldin, but Revis got burned a lot, too, in his first year. Can’t blame the kid. Boldin’s a Pro Bowler and a veteran. Cromartie’s technique needs improvement. He repeatedly didn’t get his head around when he was in position to make a play on the ball. Instead, he made plays on the receivers. Brian Thomas and Sean Ellis played really well and there were several promising sightings of Jason Taylor. Jimmy Leonhard played pretty well but was late over the top on a Boldin long-gainer and failed to cover Heap in the fourth quarter which would have left the Ravens in a bad spot. The run defense was stout, even without Kris Jenkins who left the game early with pain in his knee. Ugh!
I hate to say it, but at this point, Mark Sanchez should not be starting because he’s so afraid of throwing downfield or taking a sack and fumbling that the team cannot develop any rhythm or put the opposing defense under stress. Still, we can’t blame Sanchez. He’s a great kid with a lot of talent. The blame will have to lay elsewhere. Fact was, the team didn’t show up on offense. Whose fault was that?
You know what I think.