It’s always frustrating to lose to a division rival. Doubly so when they look vulnerable. Even more so when you beat yourself.
Unfortunately for the New York Jets, that is precisely what happened to them in their overtime loss to the New England Patriots in Week 7. They had a chance to win a game no one expected them to, but they let it slip away.
I won’t spend too much time dwelling on the Jets’ snafus. Stephen Hill dropping a crucial third-down pass late. The special teams uncharacteristically handicapping the team, etc.
Instead, I want to focus more on the positives that the team will take out of this, and why they have so much to build upon going forward, even if they were frustratingly unable to close out this big rival game in the final minutes.
First and foremost, Mark Sanchez played quite well on Sunday. I wrote on Sunday morning that if the Jets wanted to even sniff a potential upset, Sanchez would have to bring his A game. To his credit, he did.
Sanchez played well despite throwing 40+ passes on Sunday, something he’s only done 9 times in 59 career games (including playoffs). Sanchez completed 68.3%, with a solid 8 yards per attempt and a 90.3 quarterback rating.
Sanchez wasn’t perfect. He woefully underthrew a bad interception in the first half, and he should’ve just tucked the ball and taken the sack in overtime rather than try to make a play, fumbling the game away in the process.
But the Jets have to be encouraged by the progress Sanchez has made after losing his top playmaker, Santonio Holmes, for the season. A lot of it has to do with the chemistry Sanchez is developing with Jeremy Kerley.
Kerley (above) has been terrific this season, and his performance in New England was no exception. The 23-year-old Kerley set career-highs with 7 receptions and 120 receiving yards, and he looks better each and every week.
Kerley even went up and got a jump ball, as the 5’9 receiver leaped to tip it to himself for a first down. The 2011 5th-round pick has become an absolute gem for the Jets after being pressed into service this season.
Speaking of little guys having big games, Rex Ryan debuted a bold new wrinkle on defense and somehow it actually worked. 5’8 cornerback Isaiah Trufant guarded All-Pro receiver Wes Welker, and he held his own.
Trufant is primarily a special teamer. In fact, he had never played more than 10 snaps on defense in any game of his NFL career. Sunday, Trufant played 71 of the Jets’ 80 defensive snaps, and held Welker in check.
On plays where the undersized Trufant covered him, Welker only had 25 yards on four targets. There was even one sequence in which Trufant tackled Welker for a loss, then tackled another runner for a loss on the next play.
Trufant had six total tackles in the game. Not bad for a 5’8, 170 lb man playing in a league littered with behemoths.
Jets fans wondered how in the world the Jets would survive the loss of Darrelle Revis, and Rex Ryan going with Isaiah Trufant on Wes Welker was a stroke of genius. He would’ve gotten a game ball if the Jets had eked it out.
Of course, the true superstar of the Jets’ secondary this season has been Antonio Cromartie. He has played at a Pro Bowl level all year long, and Week 7 was more of the same. He only allowed a single catch in five targets.
Yes, there are plenty of things for Jets fans to be excited about going forward. Nobody wants to lose, but the Jets have shown some serious fortitude in the past three weeks, and they’re on the verge of breaking out.
They need to build on these positives going forward. A win next week to go to 4-4 entering the Week 9 bye would put the Jets in a pretty good place. There are still kinks to work out, but it’s getting there.
Bottom line. The Jets are not dead. No circus, no nonsense, just hard-nosed football. They’re just getting warmed up.