Rex Ryan ensured that Turnover Bowl 97 would not take place, but if the Jets defense can hold up their end of the bargain, they should be able to capitalize on several Chargers turnovers on Sunday.
The last time these two teams squared off, the Jets defense held the Chargers offense to 14 points—the Chargers scored seven more points on a fumble return for a touchdown on the Jets fourth offensive play of the game (some things never change, huh?).
The Chargers were held scoreless in the second half, with the Jets grabbing two interceptions along the way.
How did the Jets defense turn it around against the Chargers last year? Well, part of it had to do with Rivers absolutely forcing the ball to wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who was covered by Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.
In the first half, Jackson was targeted twice and had just one catch. In the second half, Rivers targeted Jackson another six times, and all he had to show for it was two interceptions—one by Revis, one by Kyle Wilson. Rivers was 8-of-12 overall in the first half; he was 8-of-20 in the second half.
With Jackson now suiting up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Revis on injured reserve, that will not be a factor this time around. Still, Rivers has been prone to mistakes this year, so let's take a look at what happened on those plays.
The first interception could be attributed to a bad read on the Jets defense, or to an off-target throw, depending on how you look at it. Either way, it was a ball they had a chance to complete.
The Chargers came out with three wide receivers, a running back and a tight end. Tight end Antonio Gates was sent in motion pre-snap and was assigned to chip on the edge rusher. Taking Gates out of the equation as a pass-catcher on third down is a curious decision, especially against a Jets linebacking corps that struggles in coverage.
It was made even worse by the fact that he ended up chipping a defensive end and not an edge rusher. The Jets didn't blitz but instead dropped eight defenders into zone coverage.
There was a window, if only slight, for Rivers to complete this pass. Jackson was unable to corral the pass, which was thrown a little behind him and made him turn to catch it.
With Revis waiting behind him in zone coverage, this was an easy interception.
CBS analyst Phil Simms offered some useful insight after the play:
One of the few times all day the New York Jets, on a third down play, played zone coverage. So, in other words, they were all watching the quarterback, so when you're in zone and that football's tipped up in the air, that's why Darrelle Revis was standing there waiting for it.
That would not be the last interception on Rivers' day, but the next one would be a bit different from the first.
This one also came on third down, but this time, the Jets were in man coverage in the secondary with a five-man rush up front. That's hardly sending the kitchen sink, especially by Rex Ryan's standards, but the pressure wasn't the issue. Rivers had plenty of time in the pocket to read the defense, but the coverage was great.
It looked like Rivers might have an opportunity to complete the deep post to Jackson, but Wilson had good coverage the whole way. If he had thrown it out in front of Jackson, it would have been incomplete at worst, but he instead threw it a little behind Jackson, allowing Wilson to cut underneath and make the pick.
The Jets are not much different as a defense this year than they were last year. Even without Revis, they still rank among the top five defenses in the NFL in defensive passer rating (76.2), and a top-10 defense in virtually every indicator of good pass defense.
The Chargers have turned it over multiple times in eight games and are 1-7. For all the Jets' struggles this year, they are 5-1 when their defense gets multiple turnovers.
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 or via team press releases.
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