49ers vs Jets: 10 Keys to the Game for New York
Boy, how things have changed.
The 49ers are now one of the best teams in the NFL, and are coming off a disappointing loss to the Vikings. The Jets, on the other hand, are trying to make something of their season without their best player.
Here are 10 keys for New York to pull off the upset.
Stop the Run
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The 49ers may not be the most explosive offense around, but they are a tough team for any defense to deal with because of their creativity and physicality in the run game.
Not only is Frank Gore one of the toughest runners in the NFL to bring down, but they use a variety of shifts and motions to throw off defenses and keep them guessing.
The Jets must stop the run early on to make defending the pass easier. If the 49ers are able to have success on the ground early, they will make the Jets pass-rush even less effective.
So far, the Jets have struggled to deal with the run. Reggie Bush was gashing them before he went down with an injury in the first half, and they could not contain C.J. Spiller in the opener. Getting off blocks and making sound tackles are the keys to getting the Jets off to a good start.
Leave Cromartie on an Island
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Without Darrelle Revis, the Jets are going to have to play more two-deep looks and take fewer chances.
Or do they?
So far this season, the Jets have used Cromartie in "island" situations more than you would expect. He was given little help against Mike Wallace, and for the most part, did a great job with him.
If the Jets leave Cromartie on an island against Moss, it will allow the Jets to use some of the concepts they used when they left Darrelle Revis on an island.
Maintain Offensive Balance
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Based on what the Jets have done on the ground through three weeks, there is no way they're going to have success running against the best front in football.
Still, the Jets cannot revert to throwing the ball on every down once the 49ers have established their dominance against the run. Letting Justin Smith and Aldon Smith pin their ears back is going to spell disaster for Sanchez.
Therefore, the Jets need to stay with the run, even if all they are getting is a yard and a cloud of dust. This will slow down the 49ers pass rush and give Sanchez a chance to succeed.
Involve Dustin Keller Early
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Signs are pointing to Dustin Keller returning for Sunday, as ESPN's Rich Cimini reports. The Jets have missed Keller's presence dearly, as the Jets receivers outside of Santonio Holmes have struggled to get open.
The 49ers will have no idea just how healthy Dustin Keller is coming into this game. The Jets should let them know how much of a threat he will be by getting him involved early in the game and getting him back in a groove.
Once Keller establishes himself, it will stretch out the 49ers and open things up for the other receivers.
Give Bilal Powell More Carries
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While his line has not done him many favors opening up holes, Shonn Greene has been unable to be effective as the lead back.
Powell on the other hand, has been able to provide a bit of a (relative) spark when he has gone in. He has quicker feet and provides something in the passing game.
So far, Greene is averaging 2.8 yards per carry, while Powell has managed to get to the 4.0 mark.
It still is a bit too soon to completely remove Greene from his starting role, but the Jets are only hurting themselves by keeping Powell on the bench.
Bracket Vernon Davis
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The Jets have always had trouble covering tight ends under Rex Ryan, and Darrelle Revis' absence only makes the task of dealing with Vernon Davis even more difficult.
Despite improved safety play this season, the Jets (and every other team in the NFL) don't have anyone that can deal with Vernon Davis on their own.
Bracketing Davis with a linebacker and a safety is the best way to get it done, even if it takes away a player to deal with their receivers. The Jets have a better chance to be successful taking chances with their cornerback depth than to rely on LaRon Landry to deal with Davis all by himself.
Take Deep Shots Down the Field
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The worst thing the Jets can do in this game would be to go into a shell and keep everything underneath and easy for the 49ers defense to pick apart.
If the Jets fall into the Schottenheimer trap of throwing slants and check-downs all game, the 49ers defense is going to be able to shrink and defend it all with ease.
So far, the Jets have been able to make a few downfield plays in their first three games. Against the 49ers, they will probably have less success, but they still need to try. Spreading out the 49ers to make them stay honest in the deep passing game will open things up underneath.
Put the Game in Alex Smith's Hands
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The Jets need to play the 49ers offense much like most teams play against the Jets defense: take away the run and make the quarterback make throws into tight windows.
How does one go about doing that? The Jets should dedicate most of their resources to containing the run and keeping Vernon Davis under wraps, leaving the receivers on the outside in man coverage.
Throwing against man coverage is not easy as the windows are smaller, but it also allows for more big-play opportunities.
If Alex Smith can make those throws, and so be it. If there is anywhere the Jets should gamble, it should be on the arm and accuracy of Alex Smith.
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It is a common misconception that the Jets cannot be aggressive without Darrelle Revis in the lineup, when in fact, Revis' absence should cause the Jets to be more aggressive than ever before.
The Jets have struggled to generate a four-man pass rush, allowing quarterbacks to pick apart the Jets secondary at times.
Now, the Jets cannot let quarterbacks get comfortable in the pocket without Revis to bail them out in the back end. Even if it's more risky, the Jets need to send more guys at the quarterback to force the ball to come out quickly.
Cromartie and Wilson are no Revis, but they should be able to hold up well enough to prevent completions against five-, six- and seven-man blitzes.
Mix in Some Wildcat
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Chances are, Sanchez and the base offense are going to struggle against arguably the league's best defense.
Which is exactly where the Wildcat comes in.
Since the Bills game, the Jets have been cautious to use much of the Wildcat package. Perhaps the 49ers will spend less time preparing for it, assuming that the Jets are just about done using the package.
Plus, using the Wildcat in the middle of the game could help keep the 49ers in a more vanilla defense.
If the Jets need a spark, look for them to take a shot with a play-action pass and look for a big play.