Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How the Battle was Won: New York Jets defeat New England Patriots

The New York Jets shocked everyone by dominating the New England Patriots for the majority of their playoff game this Sunday. The Jets did an excellent job at doing everything right, while the Patriots proved to be great choke artists. Although it was only a seven point game, the Jets were clearly the better team, and there is more than one reason why the mighty has fallen.

Going back to their roots, the Jets used their elite defense to lead themselves to victory. The defensive scheme that was displayed was nothing sure of mind boggling. The Jets were able to cover the Patriots receivers so well, which disabled Brady from getting good throws off. Since Brady couldn’t find an open man, he took too long in the pocket, which led to five New York sacks. The Jets were very confusing by making it look like they were playing man coverage when it was actually zone, and vice versa. This puzzled the Patriots and did not allow them to correctly audible. Shaun Ellis had a great game with two sacks. David Harris picked off Brady for this first time in a long time. And all in all, Brady looked helpless. He didn’t understand why or how they were getting beat. He couldn’t comprehend why his super team wasn’t able to figure out the Jets defense. He was harassed in the pocket all day long, which made him hesitant and inefficient. A great thing that the Jets did was put extra men across the middle to clog it up so that way the two tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, would have trouble making plays. They had the blueprint to stop the Pat’s high octane offense, and their execution was nearly perfect.

On the offensive side of the ball, New England had its fair share of miscues as well. The fake punt at the end of the first half was dumb, and Patrick Chung dropping the ball made it look even worse. There were some key drops as well as fumbles, which if the Jets recovered, could have turned this game into a blowout. Finally, there were also several pass plays where Brady threw the ball to a receiver who wasn’t even looking. They were clearly not on the same page, and that really killed the Patriots, who seemed scared and unprepared. So what happened to the unstoppable Patriots? Lack of experience. The two rookie tight ends were basically a non factor in the game. Devin McCourty and Brandon Merriweather were burned on big plays in the secondary. It’s clear that this Patriots team is not the same one that won three Super Bowls. They have an awful defense and a suspect running game. The Jets knew this, which is why they really put the pressure on all these players. This put enough on Brady, who couldn’t overcome the Jets ferocious attack. If Bill Belichick wants his team to go into the Super Bowl, he’s going to need to make a lot of changes so they can get over their slump. New England has lost its last three playoff games.

Mark Sanchez gave the Jets the boost they needed and although there were plays made by everyone, he was truly the MVP of the game. Sanchez completed 16 of 25 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns. The reason why his yardage was so low was because the Jets ran the ball often and effectively. Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson combined for 119 yards on 27 carries. They were able to open up the passing game for Sanchez who, after a shaky start to the game, passed like a champion. He made tough throws in tight spaces to Braylon Edwards and Dustin Keller. He threw catches that were extended by Edwards and the firey Jerricho Cotchery. And his touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes was beautiful. It reminded me of his game winning touchdown catch in the Super Bowl a few years ago against Arizona. When you’re getting compared to that, you know you’re on the right track. That’s exactly what Sanchez is on after beating his second Super Bowl MVP quarterback in two weeks. All three of his receivers made great plays which they will need to do next week at Pittsburgh. Cotchery’s 58 yard catch to set up the Holmes touchdown swung all of the momentum to the Jets. Sanchez played very well against a weak New England secondary that was 30th in the league in passing this year, so he will have to be even better next week. But they won, and Sanchez was excellent. He outdueled Brady, and showed who the better team was. Another interesting stat is that the Pats had the ball for 35 minutes, while the Jets had it for only 25 minutes. The time of possession battle was thought to be a key, but it didn’t seem to matter in a game that the Jets had complete control of.

At the beginning of the week, Rex Ryan said that this game was going to be him against Belichick. After the game, Ryan said that Belichick won that battle like he always does. Ryan was just being very humble, and we all know that statement wasn’t true. Ryan outcoached Belichick so well, that he knew the game was over before it started. Ryan talked this up so that he would relieve pressure from his players, but at the same time, pumping them up with all the trash talk that was going on. He got them very motivated and had every single one behind them. He coached his team like a family. Also, as I mentioned before, the defensive packages he employed left the Patriots wondering what had just happened. Simply genius. But it doesn’t stop there, because Belichick was very bad too. The benching of Wes Welker was a foolish and cocky movie that showed Belichick didn’t think there was any way they could lose. The fake punt was an unnecessary gamble that showed how overconfident he was in Brady and the rest of the team. They couldn’t really figure out the Jets’ defense until the end of the game, and by then it was too late. And finally, the clock management in the fourth quarter was absolutely terrible. Too many running plays when you have a future hall of fame quarterback combined with no hurry up offense or sense of urgency lead to the Pats having not enough time at the end of the game to make one final push at a comeback. Belichick sat in cruise control and thought he could do whatever he wanted because the game would work itself out. He was sadly mistaken.

In the end, the Jets will take a spot in the AFC championship game that they deserve to be in. Ryan and Sanchez have got something special going in their first two years, and they may finally get over the hump. This is their hardest task yet, however. The Steelers are a complete team with arguably the best defense in the league. Troy Polamalu was not playing in the last matchup, so it should be a whole different ball game. If the Jets can play the way they did against the Patriots, they could pull off another stunner and head to the Super Bowl. As for the Patriots, they will ponder all offseason about what went wrong and what needs to be fixed. And if they can’t figure it out, there could be some major changes made to this continuously disappointing team.

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