Arizona Cardinals vs. New York Jets: Instant Grades, Analysis for New York

Rocco Constantino@@br_jets_reportContributor IDecember 2, 2012

Arizona Cardinals vs. New York Jets: Instant Grades, Analysis for New York

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    It wasn't pretty, but it feels great just the same.  

    The New York Jets keep their season alive with a 7-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals to move to 5-7 on the year.

    Greg McElroy came on in relief to lead the Jets to two long drives to give them the lead and also salt away the final 7:55 of the game.

    Losses today by the Titans and Dolphins will help the Jets cause as well.

    Jets fans should be rooting for the Ravens and Chargers in the 4:00 p.m. games.

Quarterbacks: C

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    This was the story of two quarterbacks.  Mark Sanchez garnered an "F" thanks to three interceptions and a general malaise that nearly caused a riot at MetLife Stadium.

    Greg McElroy gets an "A" for coming in cold for the first time in his NFL career and leading the Jets to the win. 

    The Jets went to a conservative game plan behind McElroy and he managed two long drives to put the game away.

    Let the controversy begin!



    McElroy wasn't asked to do much for the entire fourth quarter, but did what he needed to do.  He threw a touchdown to Jeff Cumberland on the first play of the quarter and then led the team on nearly an eight-minute drive to end the game and preserve the one-point win.



    Give an "F" to Mark Sanchez and an "A" to Greg McElroy and it evens out to a C.

    Mark Sanchez looked like he didn't learn anything at halftime.  He should have thrown his fourth interception of the game, but was lucky William Gay dropped the pick. 

    Sanchez's play earned him a spot on the bench as Rex Ryan turned to Greg McElroy to make his NFL debut.



    Ok, so the third interception wasn't entirely Mark Sanchez's fault.  For the second time the Jets took a deep shot with Chaz Schilens and each throw was just a tad short.  The first resulted in a drop and the second resulted in a Patrick Peterson interception.  

    At halftime, Sanchez 9-for-16 for 95 yards and three interceptions.  Three drops have hurt his stats a little bit, but the interceptions are on him.



    The only thing that's going to keep the Cardinals in this game are Jets turnovers, and Mark Sanchez already has two.

    Mark Sanchez started the game with yet another atrocious interception.  On the team's first offensive snap, Sanchez inexplicably tossed the ball into nobody in particular in the middle of the Cardinals secondary for an easy Kerry Rhodes interception.

    His second interception short-circuited what could have been a scoring drive by the Jets.  

    In addition to the two interceptions, Sanchez slightly underthrew Chaz Schilens on what would have been a big gainer.

    He finished 5-for-8 for 66 yards and two crucial interceptions.

Offense: D+

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    A lot of their problems were rooted in the poor play of Mark Sanchez as well as a first-half game plan to sling the ball around the field.

    The first half was one of the most disgraceful performances during the Rex Ryan era.

    However, when Greg McElroy entered the game, the team looked like a different unit.

    While they didn't automatically turn into an offensive juggernaut, they did enough for the win.  

    Shonn Greene plodded away for 24 carries for 104 yards and the receivers made enough plays to help along the two key second-half drives.



    This unit put the game away when it counted, and that's the bottom line here.  They were given the ball with nearly eight minutes left in the game and didn't allow it to be returned to the Cardinals.  Shonn Greene ran well to close out the game and Greg McElroy made the plays he needed to make.

    Throw in a great catch by Jeremy Kerley to convert a 3rd-and-9 and the offense did their job for at least one quarter today. 



    The Jets horrific offensive display continued under Mark Sanchez as it appeared this game was going nowhere fast.

    However, the appearance of Greg McElroy energized the unit as well as everyone in the stadium.  McElroy led the Jets on their best drive of the game as the quarter ended and sent them up for the go-ahead touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. 


    On Mark Sanchez's third interception, Chaz Schilens wasn't exactly strong on the ball.  Peterson ripped a bobbling ball ball away from Schilens for a tremendously athletic interception.

    Jeremy Kerley and Jeff Cumberland dropped a pass, Shonn Greene has gone back to his plodding ways and the offense is playing with little confidence.  

    Dustin Keller injured his knee on a late reception and limped badly off the field.  That's not a good sign at all.



    Aside from Mark Sanchez, the Jets offense is playing pretty well.  Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell are averaging nearly four yards a run and the wide receivers have looked sharp thus far.

    If it wasn't for two disgusting interceptions by Sanchez and a missed field goal by Nick Folk, this game could already be strongly in the Jets' favor.

    Chaz Schilens also had a bad drop of a slightly underthrown ball that would have resulted in a big play.

Defense: A+

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    Although a lot of their success was the result of facing a quarterback who will be pursuing a second career soon, the defense still gets credit for doing what they needed to do.

    When they were given a short field to work with, they were able to hold the Cardinals to field goals and when they were put into normal situations, the Cardinals had no chance against them.

    LaRon Landry had an early key interception, Muhammad Wilkerson had a sack and Bart Scott and Bryan Thomas combined on another one.

    The defense did not allow a touchdown for the second time this year.



    The defense allowed a fourth-quarter field goal after Khalil Bell's fumble and that was it.  The Cardinals other two drives of the quarter resulted in -2 yards.  It was a standout performance by a unit that really needed to show up and be bullies today.  They did just that.



    The Jets defense remained stout and Ryan Lindley really has no chance against them.  They looked refreshed after the long break and haven't allowed the Cards room to do anything.

    If the Jets could remain strong against the run, Lindley really isn't a threat to do anything.

    Bart Scott and David Harris combined for the Jets first sack of the game.



    Add LaRon Landry to the growing list of defenders who have bailed out Mark Sanchez today.  Landry intercepted Ryan Lindley at the 10:00 mark of the second quarter to make up for Sanchez's third interception for the day.  

    Bryan Thomas and Muhammad Wilkerson continue to play well and the entire defense looks very well like it could pitch a shutout today.  



    The defense bailed out Mark Sanchez once again with a terrific 4th-and-inches stop after the Cardinals advanced the ball to the Jets 18-yard line.  Bryan Thomas made the key stop on a 4th down that was set up by another fine play by Muhammad Wilkerson the play before.

    The Cardinals won't be able to get much going at this rate.

    Antonio Cromartie allowed a 23-yard reception to Larry Fitzgerald, but that was more a credit to Fitzgerald and Ryan Lindley than a mistake by Cromartie. 

Special Teams: D

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    In a game as close as this, the two Nick Folk missed field goals could have been killer.  Although they were long field goals, it would have been nice if he made at least one of them.  The Jets also gave up a 40-yad fake punt conversion that led to Jay Feeley's first field goal.



    Robert Malone booted a mediocre 40-yard punt and the Jets and Antonio Cromartie had a 22-yard kickoff return.

    It was an uneventful quarter for the special teams.



    Robert Malone belted a 60-yard punt on his first kick of the half to pin the Cards back at their own 10-yard line.

    Kyle Wilson's illegal block in the back penalty on a punt return at the 8:20 mark didn't help matters for the Jets offense.



    The Jets were fooled badly by the Cardinals who converted a 40-yard fake punt with 1:00 left before half time.  The Cardinals converted that into the only scoring of the first half.

    Nick Folk missed his second field goal of the day in the second quarter, but it was a 52-yard attempt.  The Jets have made it to half time without a special teams turnover.

    Robert Malone nailed a punt inside the 10-yard line late in the quarter. 



    Nick Folk missed a 46-yard field goal that would have given the Jets a lead.  Folk has been very consistent this year, so it's hard to really get on him too much.

    At least the first quarter has gone by without a special teams turnover.

Coaching: A-

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    Rex Ryan didn't just pull this game out of the fire, he pulled the entire season out of the fire. 

    By making the gutsy decision to turn to Greg McElroy, Ryan turned a volatile situation at MetLife Stadium into an all out party.  McElroy received the biggest cheers since their opening-day romp over the Bills by simply walking onto the field.

    The coaches then used a conservative game plan to help McElroy manage the team the rest of the way to the win.

    Ryan went 1-1 on challenges, but was right to challenge both plays.

    Give the coaching staff a tick down for allowing Khalil Bell on the field at a crucial point in the game and for trying to attack the Cardinals' strength for the entire first half.



    The play calling was just what Greg McElroy needed to succeed despite being baptized by fire.  The Jets were ultra-conservative and stuck with what was working all quarter long.  Tony Sparano allowed McElroy to take two shots down the field to keep the Cardinals honest.

    It will be interesting to see the game plan if they stick with McElroy next week.  Such a conservative plan might not work next week, even against the Jaguars.    



    Give Rex Ryan an "A" on guts alone.

    Talk about risky moves, Rex Ryan finally made the decision to try out Greg McElroy.  If McElroy is able to pull out this game, there will be a week-long firestorm in New York.

    Whether it works or not, it was the right move.  The move energized the crowd and turned a developing ugly situation into a positive.  

    Ryan also challenged his second play of the game and this one failed.

    It was a risky move by Ryan as all timeouts will be valuable in a close game like this, but the chance  to gain a turnover deep in Cardinals territory was too good to pass up without trying.  It did put the Jets in a bad spot though as the team was now left without a challenge and down one time out.

    With the season on the line, Ryan is showing some guts.



    Tony Sparano continues to bang his head against the wall by staying aggressive in the passing game.  If he was going to take a deep shot, why not do so with Stephen Hill and do it away from Patrick Peterson?  Also, after Powell showed some early signs of production, they switched back to the plodding Greene.  

    If the Jets would have come out with a conservative game plan, things could have been very different at this point. 

    Rex Ryan took a chance and challenged the spot on a Dustin Keller completion with 4:16 left.  The replays showed that Ryan was correct to challenge the play, and Brian Billick in the booth agreed.  The play was overturned, giving the Jets a first down.



    Tony Sparano came out aggressive against a good Cardinals pass defense.  His play calling has been fine thus far, but it would probably serve the team better if he tried to establish the run, especially since  Bilal Powell has looked good early running the ball.

    Speaking of Powell, Rex Ryan seems to have made the switch over to Powell as the primary back, at least to start the game.  He then switched to Shonn Greene for the third drive and he had similar success.  Ryan hasn't faced any crucial decisions just yet.