It wasn't supposed to be competitive, but New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan had other plans. His aggressive style of play-calling—highlighted by a fake punt from Tim Tebow, a 4th-and-1 attempt from inside their own territory and a questionable onside kick in the third quarter—proved that he is not going to let the Jets go down without a fight.
If anything, that may be the new normal for New York.
That doesn't necessarily mean it will always work, or that the Jets will always keep games close as a result of those plays, but Rex wasn't shy about embracing those gutsy calls as a part of the team's identity (via ESPN):
Well you try to steal a possession if you can, but the other thing is that was us. We're just going to go for it. I think I've always been (that way). I think we have a guy in Tim that gives you some opportunities on that punt team, and we probably won't get a punt rushed—I wouldn't rush us—because you never know when he's going to fake it, and we're crazy enough to fake it any time, no matter where the ball is.
The way the game went early, there was no reason not to take a few risks.
Two drives into the game, everything was going according to the script: The Houston Texans had marched down the field with a 3:55, eight-play, 85-yard touchdown drive to start the game, and the Jets went three-and-out on theirs.
They could have mailed it in right there, just as 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers accused them of doing last week after a 34-0 thrashing.
No one, from the coaches to the players, seemed all too interested in calling it a night.
It was obvious that the Jets weren't going to roll over right from the opening offensive drive, when quarterback Tim Tebow launched a well-aimed (not a typo) deep pass for wide receiver Jason Hill—a pass which was dropped.
And although the fight continued throughout, it was mistakes like that drop—including a pair of tipped-ball interceptions by quarterback Mark Sanchez, missed assignments in pass protection and blitz pickup, the failed onside kick and other missed opportunities—which led to the Jets being unable to pull off the upset.
As for how his aggressive decision-making worked out: Two of them worked (fake punt, 4th-and-1 inside Jets territory). One did not. The ratio will not always work out as such, but executing in those spots is the surest way to give a coach confidence to go for it in those spots in the future.
Those nothing-to-lose plays are indicative of the Jets nothing-to-lose season, and as such, they should become a weekly treat for spectators. But will they be the difference between winning and losing?
If so, then one thing we learned on Monday night is that the Jets need to make those plays—every one of them—if they want those plays to make such an impact.
The questionable kick will be the primary topic of discussion this week, and was the first question asked of Ryan at his press conference:
That (decision) was me all the way, because I came here to win, that's it. Whatever it took: faking a punt in your own territory, going for it on fourth down in your own territory, I came here to win. And I think when you ask your players to lay it out there, to do whatever it takes to win, that's me included, and certainly that was us.
Rex Ryan has made a habit of using his words to give his players confidence. On Monday night, he did it with some risky play-calling.
The never-say-die attitude of the coaching staff was channeled through the players at times, with big plays on both sides of the ball and an improved performance on defense in the second half.
But when you roll the dice too many times, it shouldn't come as a shock when they turn up snake-eyes.
The Jets should use Monday night's loss as a reference point for their season on how to fight until the end in the face of tremendous adversity. If Monday night was any indication, the Jets won't be going down without a fight.
Let's not act surprised that the Jets offense struggled again, or that Mark Sanchez completed less than 50 percent of his passes for a fourth consecutive week and had a passer rating of 54.5 against a Texans defense that was holding opponents to a 68.2 rating before this game.
Let's not get apoplectic that the Jets running game, which has been nowhere to be found for weeks, was relatively silent yet again and averaged just three yards per carry (69 yards on 23 carries).
Certainly, let's not jump off the ledge about the Jets defense, which didn't put up much of a fight before halftime before buckling down significantly in the second act.
Let's take note of those things, but let's take them as they came—against one of the best teams in the league.
And finally, let's not forget that the Jets ran into a force of nature in J.J. Watt, who finished the night with six tackles, a sack, three pass deflections and two quarterback hits. He's probably going to be the NFL Defensive Player of the Year if he keeps this up, and the Jets ran into a game-changer at his peak form.
There are no moral victories in football, but instead of all that, let's at least acknowledge that the Jets were in position to hand the Texans their first loss of the season, largely because they didn't play scared in the face of crisis.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.
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