Jets vs. Saints: Takeaways from New York's 26-20 Win over New Orleans
The pattern continues, this time in extreme fashion: the New York Jets follow up their worst loss of the season with a huge win over the 6-1 New Orleans Saints to become perhaps the most surprising 5-4 team in the NFL.
The defense returned to its stingy ways, while the offense rode Chris Ivory and careful game management from Geno Smith to outscore the usually potent Saints offense.
Here are the takeaways from the Jets' biggest upset of the season.
Chris Ivory Proved the Saints Wrong
With a slew of talented running backs on their roster, the Saints were virtually forced to part ways with at least one of them, trading Chris Ivory away to the Jets.
Despite a slow start, the Jets turned the Saints' trash into their treasure.
Running with emotion against the team that deemed him useless, Ivory had his best game as a Jet, going for 139 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown—a staggering 7.7 yards per carry.
Ivory took advantage of some shoddy perimeter run defense by the Saints to rip off a couple of huge runs, including a 52-yard dash. Ivory appears to have finally taken hold of the "bell cow" role of the Jets offense.
With Geno Smith and the passing game struggling with a lack of weapons at the receiver position, Ivory and the rushing attack was the difference in the game.
A New Type of Game for Geno Smith
Through the first eight games, we have seen Geno Smith put up a lot of different "types" of performances. Whether he was making big throws to win games or turning the ball over at an alarming rate, Smith has played at both ends of the spectrum.
What Smith hasn't done to this point, however, was play a game in which he had a minimal impact on the final outcome. His stat line was far from impressive: 8-of-19 for 115 yards.
The most important stat of the day was Smith's turnover total: zero. He simply refused to force passes that might put his team's chances of winning in jeopardy.
Smith wasn't a fantasy star, but he did what he had to do to win the game—which is all the Jets ask of him.
Defensive Line Returns to Form
While the Jets secondary was much improved since last week's debacle in Cincinnati, most of the credit for its impressive showing against the high-powered Saints was the pass rush coming back to life.
The New York defensive front may have only sacked Drew Brees twice (Brees escaped several pressure in several situations), but the sack totals don't do justice as to how much the D-line disrupted the Saints' game plan.
As the game wore on, Brees started to feel the pressure, which resulted in a lot of rushed, inaccurate throws.
The best news for the Jets is that they were not just reliant on defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson to get the job done. All four young defensive lineman contributed in getting pressure on Brees. Even Quinton Coples started showing signs of life for the first time since his ankle surgery.
If the Jets can be this dominant up front on a weekly basis, they are going to be a tough team to beat.
Nick Folk Remains Perfect
Now a perfect 23-for-23 in field goals (with three game-winners), Nick Folk has been the most valuable kicker in the league by a wide margin.
If Nick Folk's kicking was anything less than stellar, the outlook on the Jets season (and Rex Ryan's job security) would be much grimmer. When Nick Folk runs out to make a kick, there is hardly any doubt that he is going to make the attempt no matter the distance.
At this point, the Jets are just hoping that he isn't saving his misses for an even more important situation later in the season.
Dee Milliner Shows Improvement
Despite allowing one deep completion early in the game, the embattled 2013 first-round pick, cornerback Dee Milliner, finally showed some improvement this week.
Unlike last week's performance—one that got him benched before halftime—Milliner was much more confident and decisive in his coverage. He broke up a pass and was much more aggressive in his tackling.
Milliner still has a ways to go before he reaches his potential, as he was still out of position on a handful of pass attempts and was the benefactor of a dropped pass. Still, he rewarded the loyalty of his coaches.
Cromartie Continues to Decline
For a player who was playing as well as anyone at his position a year ago, the decline of Antonio Cromartie has been nothing short of shocking.
He did intercept a pass, but his coverage on a play-by-play basis was discouraging. He tripped over himself on a long completion early in the game. He did not get his hands on receivers, and it became obvious that Cromartie—and not Dee Milliner—was the weak link in the Jets secondary.
Earlier in the season, Cromartie's play could have been attributed to his hip injury or just an arbitrary dip in game.
However, now that the season is nine weeks old and Cromartie is no longer listed on the injury report, his disturbing play could signify a permanent decline.
The Jets were able to get away with a win this week, but Cromartie's continued issues on the back end may cost his team an important game down the line.
Antonio Allen Is the Answer to Tight Ends
For years, tight ends have been the Achilles heel of Rex Ryan's defenses—until now.
Just about all of Graham's production came when Allen was not on Graham. Allen was physical with Graham and even defended a crucial third-down pass in which he outjumped Graham to knock away a pass.
Unfortunately, Allen did not finish the game after leaving with a head injury (via Darryl Slater of The Star-Ledger). With the bye week coming up, the Jets are certainly hopeful that he will return for their next game in two weeks.
Consistency Is the Enemy
In games like this, the Jets show that they can beat just about anyone in the league—if they play a clean, smart brand of football.
However, as they showed seven short days ago, they are more than capable of looking like an expansion team.
The next step must be to find a way to avoid yet another letdown after a big win, as the Jets have yet to win two games in a row this year.
A young team with a rookie quarterback is expected to have rapid, extreme changes in its week-to-week performance. However, now that they are nine weeks into the season, the Jets must begin to show the maturity necessary to build upon their success.
Of course, this is much easier said than done. After all, the other team gets paid too. The fact that the Jets have alternated wins and losses could be as much of a coincidence as it is a trend.
The future looks bright for the Jets, but if they have aspirations to be a playoff team this year, then they must mature into a more consistent team coming off big wins to avoid future letdowns.