Jets vs. Steelers: New York's Biggest Winners and Losers from NFL Week 2
While this certainly was a poor performance from the New York Jets that erases just about all of the good they did the week before, the end result was not as bad as the 27-10 score would indicate.
The Jets were playing without their best player in Darrelle Revis, and Mark Sanchez was without his security blanket, otherwise known as Dustin Keller.
Still, the Jets' lack of talent at the receiver position was apparent, as the Jets offense was unable to much of anything going after a fast start.
Here are 10 winners and losers from Sunday's game.
Loser: 3rd-Down Defense
Yes, the offense only put up 10 points and special-teams turnovers did them no favors, but the inability of the Jets defense to get off the field on third downs had a rippling effect on the rest of the game. The offense got few chances and the defense grew tired from extended time on the field.
Not only did the Steelers extend drives over and over in going 8-of-15 on third-down conversions, but they scored a long touchdown to Mike Wallace on a 3rd-and-16.
The Jets drew up some pretty good blitz concepts and got to Ben Roethlisberger, but they just could not actually bring him down once they actually made contact. Roethlisberger's ability to shake off tacklers was a huge difference in the game.
As ineffective as the Jets offense was, they got very few possessions as the Steelers were able to eat up a ton of clock.
Winner: Garrett McIntyre
With Bryan Thomas out with an injury, the Jets were forced to insert undrafted free agent Garrett McIntyre into the starting lineup.
Not only did the Jets not miss a beat with their edge run defense, but he was the Jets' best pass-rusher of the game, notching a pair of sacks starting at outside linebacker.
Once viewed as a player on the roster bubble, McIntyre has cemented the Jets' belief that he can play in the NFL.
In fact, McIntyre played so well that the Jets may have to consider giving him a bit more playing time even when Bryan Thomas returns.
Loser: Stephen Hill
By my count, Hill was only targeted once in the game on a deep pass from Sanchez that probably should have been a touchdown.
Otherwise, Hill was a complete non-factor. He struggled to get any kind of separation from Keenan Lewis, which was evident by the way Mark Sanchez started to stare down Santonio Holmes. While Holmes had his share of drops, he was at least getting open and making a few plays.
Without Hill being any kind of deep threat, the Jets became exponentially easier to defend as the game went on.
Winner: Bilal Powell
After Shonn Greene went down with a head injury, the Jets looked to Powell to pick up the running game, and he responded.
Powell may not be nearly as powerful as Greene, but he is more explosive and shiftier in tight quarters. He also brings an element in the passing game that the Jets lack with Greene in the game.
Powell's stats may not be very impressive, as the Jets were forced to abandon the run as the game went on, but they should have no qualms about putting him in if Greene goes down again.
Loser: Jeremy Kerley
After scoring two touchdowns in the season opener (including one on special teams), it appeared as if Kerley was ready to break free of the rookie mistakes that overshadowed an otherwise impressive first season.
However, Kerley muffed yet another punt, making it fair question whether or not he can be trusted to handle the punt-return duties. There is no doubt that he has plenty of ability, but turning over the ball is the fastest way to find yourself on the bench.
I would be surprised if the Jets benched Kerley after just one muffed punt, but this could become a mental issue that keeps recurring if this happens again.
Winner: Bart Scott
Inside linebacker play is hardly a big talking point on Monday morning radio shows, but this was easily the best game I have seen Bart Scott play since last year's season opener.
Scott was flying to the ball and being a huge force in the run game. He also made a great play to jump the snap count and force an intentional grounding call.
It is only Week 2, but it looks like Scott is delivering on his promise and playing more like his 2008 counterpart than his slower 2011 version.
Loser: Mark Sanchez
Sanchez is in the "loser" column this week, but not because of his own play.
While he certainly has had sharper games and had underwhelming numbers, the players around him simply did not do enough to put him in a position to succeed. His receivers did not get open, the protection did not hold up, and most importantly, the defense was unable to get off the field and get him more possessions.
Sanchez is a "loser" because his confidence and rhythm have taken a hit after starting off the season with a near-perfect debut. A streaky player like Sanchez needs consistency around him, and he's simply not getting it from his teammates.
Plus, if you close your eyes and listen hard enough, you can already hear the Tebowmaniacs coming out of their caves to drum up a controversy.
Winner: Muhammad Wilkerson
After a rather unimpressive preseason and an uneventful season-opening performance, Wilkerson finally began to show off the dominant play that coaches have been raving about.
He may not have recorded any sacks, but his dominance was a big reason why the Jets were able to get so many huge tackles for loss. He took on double-teams and was still able to push the pocket.
If injuries to the Jets defense keep piling up, continued dominant play from Wilkerson is going to be key moving forward.
Loser: Pass Protection
After a very encouraging outing against a talented Bills defensive line last week, the pass protection took a step back.
Sanchez was not sacked an inordinate amount of times (twice), but he continuously had to keep stepping up into the pocket and was unable to get comfortable and get into a rhythm. As a result, the Jets offense began to resemble the 2011 version that had its share of protection issues.
To be fair, the Steelers do have an array of quality veteran pass-rushers, and the fact that the Jets spent most of the game playing catch-up put them in a vulnerable position.
Still, James Harrison, Pittsburgh's best defender, did not play. If he did, this game would have been a lot more ugly for Sanchez and company.
Winner: Tim Tebow
Oddly enough, the Jets decided to not use Tebow until about halfway through the game when the offense began to stall.
Tebow did exactly what he was brought in to do—with a couple of long scrambles out of the Wildcat, he was able to jump-start a stalling offense and throw the Steelers off.
The Jets were unable to go back to the Wildcat as the score differential increased, but if anything, Tebow was able to prove that he could, in fact, have a useful role on the team in the event that the base offense finds itself struggling, even if it is just for a few plays.
This is not to say that Tebow will ever challenge Sanchez to be the starter, but I would not be in the least bit surprised if the Jets gave the Dolphins a heavier dose of the Wildcat package next week.