Moral victories in the NFL do not count for much in the standings.
But after the shellacking the New York Jets took a week prior, it was encouraging in some respects to see the Jets battle with one of the elite teams in football to the very end, as they did in their Week 5 loss to the Houston Texans.
Mark Sanchez had an awful stat line for the fourth game in a row, but he held his own against one of the best defenses in the NFL, playing with a severely depleted receiving corps that included two guys signed just this week.
Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller and Stephen Hill were supposed to be the top three options in the passing game this season. All three of them were inactive due to injury, as was starting fullback John Conner.
Chaz Schilens and Jeremy Kerley started on the outside and did an admirable job filling in, combining for nine catches and 123 yards. Jeff Cumberland added a 27-yard touchdown catch, the first of his career.
Clyde Gates, who might be the rawest route-runner in the league, made a nice catch down the sideline before he too left with an injury, leaving Jason Hill, a Jet of all of five days, was the third receiver for most of the game.
Jason Hill’s most memorable moment Monday was dropping a beautifully thrown pass deep downfield thrown by Tim Tebow that hit him right in the facemask as he beat his man deep.
Tebow, for what it’s worth, played pretty well, as the Jets utilized him more effectively this week. Tebow ran well, attempted just that one pass, and converted a fake punt for a 4th down conversion for the second time this season.
However, the world will have to wait for the Tim Tebow train. With rumors rumbling that Sanchez’s starting quarterback job could be in jeopardy, Sanchez played well enough to convince the Jets he’s still their lead conductor.
Sanchez looked more decisive in the pocket than he had been in weeks, and he put the Jets in position to win a game that would’ve been one of the bigger upsets of the year, all things considered.
Antonio Cromartie played lights out, as he has all season long, limiting the perennial Pro Bowler Johnson to just one catch for 15 yards.
Cromartie also added an interception while shadowing Johnson, and he even lined up at wide receiver and beat Pro Bowl cornerback Johnathan Joseph deep down the field, nearly coming down with his first career reception.
But the Jets could not stop Arian Foster, who had 168 total yards and a touchdown, and J.J. Watt may have saved at least one touchdown with his knack for knocking passes down at the line of scrimmage.
Watt had another sack Monday night, and tipped a ball in the red zone that got deflected for an interception just before the half that turned a potential 7 points for the Jets’ into an easy field goal for the Texans.
Both of Sanchez’s interceptions were good reads that went awry thanks to some rogue hands, once on Watt’s deflection, and on an awful drop by Cumberland that ended the Jets chances of a comeback in the final minutes.
The Jets face the Indianapolis Colts in Week 6, and that should be an exciting game, with two hungry teams looking to build some momentum.