The New York Jets started out by setting a negative tone at the Edward Jones Dome in their NFL game against the Saint Louis Rams. For the first time this season, they found the key to take a negative situation and flip it into a positive. And boy, did they need this huge swing in direction, considering the negativity which was swirling around Florham Park all week.
After receiving the opening kickoff, the offensive unit comes out showing some rare fire, with RB Shonn Greene (18-64 RU) running people over and QB Mark Sanchez (15-20-178-1TD) looking good in completing some passes. Even QB Tim Tebow, who showed why he should be used at running back, did his best John Riggins impression with a cutback move in the offensive back field. And so it begins.
On second down and six with the Jets driving in Rams territory, Sanchez throws a perfect strike to rookie WR Stephen Hill across the middle, which looks like big yardage. Hill almost expectedly drops the pass, as he has done often this season. The good news is even Jets great WR Wesley Walker dropped a few as a rookie.
The bad news is Sanchez gets rushed on the following play, has the ball knocked out of his hands and recovers it for a sack out of field goal range. Hill needs to work on his hands, like Wesley did and ultimately succeeded in becoming sure handed.
This has been the story of the entire Jets season. They have been unable to rebound from adverse plays on the field. And considering the trying week they had just come off, rebounding from adversity is what they would need most.
On the Rams first possession, Rams RB Steven Jackson (13-81 RU) does what many backs have done against the porous Jet rush defense: run through them. A great throw by Rams third year QB Sam Bradford (23-44-170-2TD-1INT) and a diving reception has the Rams marching quickly down the field.
On fourth and goal from the Rams one, Bradford has two guys wide open in the end zone in the same vicinity. He picks one: WR Brandon Gibson (3-9-2TD REC) for a 7-0 Rams lead.
On the subsequent drive, the Jets offense rebounds somewhat, drives down the field and settles for a 51 yard field goal by K Nick Folk (2-3 FG), who has been kicking very well.
The Jets defense also rebounds on the next Rams possession with an interception by FS Eric Smith deep in Saint Louis territory. Considering the Jets offensive problems in the red zone, cautious optimism is usually required in these situations.
Once again, the Jets show their offensive incompetence in the red zone and they stall out. The bad news does not end there, as the poor special teams play continues, with Folk’s field goal attempt being blocked. A big play by the Jets defense is once again flushed down the toilet by an inept offense.
Midway through the second quarter, the Jets are moving the ball, only to shoot themselves in the foot once again, as they have all season. Yet another baffling amd disorganized Tebow substitution is botched, as a handoff to WR Jeremy Kerley (3-43 REC) loses yardage. On fourth down the Jets get cute and a Tebow shovel pass out of a fake punt formation does not work.
On the subsequent Rams possession, DE Muhammad Wilkerson, as he did against Seattle the previous week, makes another monster defensive play and strips Rams QB Bradford from behind. Jets LB Bart Scott picks up the loose ball and subsequently runs out of gas, getting caught from behind at the Rams 28. Time for cautious optimism again?
Well, how about we drop the cautious already? On a fake pump of a quick screen to the right sideline, Sanchez finds WR Chaz Schielens (4-48-1TD REC), who makes a great adjustment on a 25 yard td pass reception. The Jets stop being cautious and it pays off big, finally converting on a turnover and scoring their first offensive touchdown in ten quarters.
The dome fills up with a giant sigh of relief from the entire Jets offense, as the Jets take a 10-7 lead and are ready to take off and soar on their newly found confidence. Very refreshing to see Jets OC Tony Sporano open it up a bit with the fake and have Sanchez look downfield for the quick score.
After the Jets stop the Rams, Sanchez connects on a second down and sixteen downfield for a first down. Now Sanchez is starting to look like the Sanchez fans expected as the #5 overall draft pick. Sanchez continues his run as he completes a vital eight yard pass on third down and ten, moving the Jets into field goal range.
After another 51 yard field by Folk, the Jets are very happy and relieved to go into halftime with a 13-7 lead over the Rams. Especially after a long touchdown kick return by the Rams was called back due to a hold.
Most of the third quarter is uneventful, until Sanchez makes the best play of the game, if not the season for him. Deep into the third period, Sanchez, doing his best used car salesman impersonation, sells the fake on a handoff, looks right and throws a strike left to WR Konrad Reuland (1-18 REC) for eighteen yards and a first down to the Rams five.
Now this was the Sanchize the Jets expected as a #5 overall pick. Where had he been all this time? Where has this entire Jets team been all season? Maybe some things are better left unanswered.
Then it was Jets OC Sporano to take his turn in making his best call of the season, when RB Bilal Powell (11-42-2TD RU) powers into the endzone from the Rams five on a third down and five delay from the shotgun. With an unfamiliar, but highly welcomed thirteen point lead in the fourth quarter, the Jets turn the game over to their defense, which was ball hawking all day.
Another fumble recovery by a revitalized Jets defense (looks like Rex finally got on their ass) and another Powell touchdown run, and the Gang Gang everyone expected had suddenly found the keys to a victory in the Gateway City.
With their newly found confidence, the Jets return to Florham Park to greet the restless natives, who, with this complete performance, have succeeded in beating back the savages for now. With a similar performance by both Jet offensive and defensive units and improved special teams play, the Jets have a very good chance of taking down the New England Patriots Thursday Thanksgiving night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.
A win against the post-dynasty Patriots will get the Jets back into the thick of a wide open AFC. After turning a negative into a positive, the Jets now need to build on that positive. Let’s hope they keep finding the key.