Monday, November 2, 2009

Dominant defense not enough as Jets fall to Phins

A quick glance at the numbers would lead you to believe this game was a blowout in favor of the Jets. Here are a few key stats:

Total Yards: New York 378, Miami 104
Passing Yards: New York 251, Miami 52
First Downs: New York 23, Miami 10

But when the final whistle blew, these numbers mattered little compared to the score: Dolphins 30, Jets 25.

Two third-quarter touchdowns on kick returns from the recently-benched Ted Ginn, along with a Jason Taylor fumble return for a touchdown spelled doom for the Jets, who dominated this game otherwise. Ginn became the first player in NFL history with two 100-yard returns in the same game.

The first half was rather mundane, but the second half was full of fireworks. After a Jay Feely field goal put the Jets up 6-3 early in the third quarter, Ginn returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. The Jets were moving the ball towards midfield on the next drive before rookie Shonn Greene fumbled, which Jason Taylor returned 48 yards to put Miami up 17-6.

The Jets answered right back, going 67 yards in just five plays with Mark Sanchez scoring on a play-action bootleg from one yard out. Everybody in the stadium thought Thomas Jones had the football and nobody was within 10 yards of Sanchez as he crossed the goalline.

Just as Jets fans got their hopes up for a comeback, Ginn struck again, this time returning a kickoff 101 yards for a score. He made two Jets miss inside the 20 and was off to the races after that.

A three-play, 74-yard drive followed for the Jets and ended with a spectacular grab from Braylon Edwards, who has earned the trust of Sanchez since day one. He caught the ball around the goalline between two defenders and fought his way into the endzone. The Jets would miss a two-point conversion and trailed 24-19.

After the Dolphins went up 30-19 after a fourth-quarter touchdown pass and missed conversion, the Jets answered quickly again, this time going 81 yards in six plays. But they missed yet another two-point attempt after a Dustin Keller touchdown catch, leaving them down 30-25.

The game ended when the Jets missed a fourth-and-13 from the Miami 15 after marching down the field on their final drive. Many naysayers will point to the fact that the score would've been 30-27 if they had chosen to kick extra points after their previous two touchdowns.

But those same naysayers overlook the fact that Miami would not have gone for two with a 24-20 lead, meaning New York would have been down 31-27 and still needed a touchdown to win.

Sanchez finished 20-35 for 265 yards and three touchdowns (two passing), while Chad Henne was just 12-21 for 112 yards for Miami, getting sacked six times by the aggressive Jets defense.

Dustin Keller had a season-high 8 catches for 76 yards and his second touchdown, while Edwards had 74 yards and a score and Jerricho Cotchery added 70 yards on 3 receptions in his return from injury.

Thomas Jones ran a season-high 27 times for 102 yards and has 75 carries for 433 yards in his last three games, all 100-yard efforts. Shonn Greene ran eight times for 18 yards, but carried just twice after his crucial third-quarter fumble.

The Jets will continue to lean heavily on Jones in the absence of Leon Washington, as Jones is on pace for 1,408 yards and 14 touchdowns, both of which would be career-highs in a season where many thought his numbers would drop significantly.

Jones was labeled a bust after his first four NFL seasons, when he carried just 499 times. His light workload at the start of his career has allowed him to remain productive into his early 30s, when most backs begin to decline (see: LaDainian Tomlinson this season).

The Jets come out of their Week 9 bye with matchups against Jacksonville, New England, Carolina, Buffalo and Tampa Bay. Outside of the Patriots, the Jets' other opponents have combined for just nine wins this season.

If the Jets shore up their kickoff coverage, stay aggressive on defense and Sanchez continues to improve, this team could be 8-5 before games against Atlanta, Indianapolis and Cincinnati to end the season. The playoffs seem unlikely at this point, but they're not completely out of the realm of possibility. At least not yet.

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