Jets vs. Jaguars: New York's Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 14
The defense was stellar, the running game was punishing and Sanchez did just enough with a pedestrian receiver group to keep their season alive.
Here are this week's winners and losers.
Winner: Muhammad Wilkerson
Making his regular appearance in the "winners" column, Wilkerson was arguably the best player on the field.
He had a sack and a tackle for a loss, but stats do not tell the story of Wilkerson's play. Every time he had an opportunity to rush the passer, he applied pressure and caused errant throws to change the complexion of the game.
He took on double-teams and pushed guards into the backfield like they were running backs.
Mike Tannenbaum has taken a lot of heat for the lack of talent on the roster, but he truly struck gold with Wilkerson in the 2011 draft. With Revis out, he is the Jets' best player and the biggest reason why they are still in the playoff hunt.
Loser: Tim Tebow
Despite making the active roster, Tebow did not sniff the field, even for his punt protection duties.
This game had the potential to be a spectacular coming-out party for Tebow: An ugly, low-scoring game in his hometown. Had Tebow entered the game, the Jaguars crowd would have turned pro-Tebow.
When the Jets were scoreless at halftime, a move seemed possible, but Sanchez made enough plays to justify leaving him in.
Ultimately, the Jets won the game, and Rex made the right decision by not benching Sanchez, but Tebow has to leave this game feeling disappointed that he could not even help the team win with some Wildcat or special teams plays.
Winner: Quinton Coples
For some unknown reason, Quentin Coples has not been getting the kind of playing time that his production would suggest he deserves, but he was finally given plenty of opportunities to get after the quarterback, and he delivered.
He finished with a sack and a pair of tackles, but just like Wilkerson, the stats do not tell the whole story. He forced the interception at the last play of the game when he was able to get pressure on Chad Henne from an interior rush.
The Jets still lack edge pass-rushers, but Coples has given the Jets an interior rush when he has been given the opportunity. His play sealed the game and possibly saved the season for the Jets.
Loser: Jeremy Kerley
Despite leading the team with four catches, this was a rare off day for the young slot receiver.
His fumble in the first half halted the Jets' best drive of the game at that point and killed all of their momentum. Mark Sanchez can turn the ball over enough times on his own; the Jets don't need their few good offensive players to start making mental mistakes.
He also only had 27 yards receiving and did not gain a lot of separation against the Jaguars man coverage.
Still, I don't want to be too hard on Kerley because he has far exceeded expectations this season with so little around him, but he simply cannot commit turnovers.
Winner: Shonn Greene
This marks the second straight week in which Shonn Greene was asked to carry the offense on his shoulders, and he delivered.
The Jets came out in the second half and ran. They set the tone with hard running from Greene. He wore down the Jaguars defense enough to the point where the Jets were able to score 17 points with almost no contributions from the passing game.
Greene only had 77 yards on 20 carries, but he was able to have success against a defense that was loading the box against the run.
Loser: Stephen Hill
Coming off one of his best games of the season, Hill was unable to do anything after getting injured in the first half.
He knee appeared to have been hyperextended on the play, but he was clearly in a lot of pain. The extent of his injury is still unknown.
Caught Stephen hill on the way out of the locker room. Heavy limp. Says x rays were fine, MRI tomorrow #nyj— Conor Orr (@ConorTOrr) December 9, 2012
If Hill is out for an extended period, the Jets will be very thin at an already razor-thin receiving corps.
Winner: Bilal Powell
With Powell and Greene, the Jets have found a way to balance the use of their top two backs very effectively.
Powell does not have the power and finishing ability that Greene does, but he has great lateral agility and explosiveness. He is also excellent on third down, making him a terrific third-down back.
His 78 yards on 19 rushes were good for a 4.1 average, and he scored what ended up being the game-winning touchdown to keep the Jets' season alive.
Loser: Receiver Depth
There is no receiver group in the NFL that is lacking more talent and depth than that of the New York Jets.
With Stephen Hill out, the Jets are forced to start players like Chaz Schilens and Mardy Gilyard. Even Jeff Cumberland had to miss some time in the game.
Sanchez hardly put up a spectacular effort, but the Jaguars were able to sit in man coverage and lock up the Jets receivers without breaking a sweat. When Jeremy Kerley has a bad day, this passing game is extremely easy to defend.
Hopefully, the Jets will have Dustin Keller of Stephen Hill back next week to take some pressure off the rest of the offense and give Sanchez some help.
Winner: Offensive Line
Without a doubt, the offensive MVPs of this game are the big guys up front.
They came out in the second half and took over the game, scoring a touchdown by pushing the Jaguars defensive line around on run plays with simple isolation runs. Even with a stacked box, the Jets imposed their will on the opponent.
They did give up a strip sack to Jason Babin (it was the first sack D'Brickashaw Ferguson has given up all season), but the protection was otherwise stellar.
The way their offense is playing, this unit is looking a lot like the 2009 group that led the NFL in rushing.
Loser: Ellis Lankster
Yes, he did have the game-winning interception (that he probably could have fair-caught) and made some nice special teams tackles, but he was picked on in coverage and almost cost the Jets the game.
He was abused on the final drive, allowing a pair of completions that extended the Jaguars drive and put them to within a few plays of winning the game. Had it not been for a handful of drops, he would have been the victim of several more key third-down conversions.
Lankster is currently being thrust into the slot corner position, but he is clearly better suited to be a fourth corner that plays in dime packages and on special teams.