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Well it wasn’t pretty, but the Baltimore Ravens eeked out a 10-9 win over the Jets. Although there’s no shame in losing to a fellow Super Bowl contender like the Ravens, the Jets have got to be kicking themselves after the way they played Monday night.
The Jets defense was stout, allowing just 3.8 yards per offensive play, but they were matched by the Ravens defense, which only allowing 4.0 yards per play, as the Jets finished with a franchise-low six first downs, including a dismal 1-of-11 on third downs.
The biggest culprit, however, for the Jets' loss was not just the inept offense, although that certainly didn’t help. The Jets had 14 penalties for 125 yards, including 10 for 100 yards in the first half.
There were multiple pass interference and defensive holding calls against the Jets cornerbacks that gave the Ravens numerous second chances.
One of the pass interference calls against rookie CB Kyle Wilson gave the Ravens 1st-and-goal at the 1-yard line, leading the Ravens to the game’s only touchdown three plays later.
The referees certainly made a few ticky-tack calls that could’ve gone either way, but repeatedly Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson were flagged for aggressive play against Ravens' receivers.
But at the end of the day, the Jets' offense couldn’t capitalize on good field position, and the defense wasn’t able to score for them either.
The run defense for the Jets was tremendous, holding New Rochelle native and former Rutgers star Ray Rice to only 42 yards on 21 carries, as the Ravens normally strong rushing attack was held to 49 net yards.
Sione Pouha had two fumble recoveries in the first quarter. I joked with my brother that as of the end of the first quarter of Week 1, Pouha was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.
LaDainian Tomlinson showed some good burst, rushing for 62 yards on 11 carries. He looked very comfortable in the Jets’ zone blocking running scheme and showed flashes of the running back who won the league MVP award four years ago.
The special teams unit in general looked pretty darn good, as a Mike Westhoff unit usually does. Braylon Edwards nearly blocked a field goal in the first half by leaping over the line and just missed getting a fingertip on the ball.
Unfortunately for the Jets, Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff alertly noticed an opportunity to show off his acting chops and he took a dive near Edwards to draw a penalty that enable the Ravens to get a first down.
In addition, Jim Leonhard had a few nice punt returns as well, sparking the team on special teams when the offense could not. His importance to this team as a leader and as a football player cannot be understated.
Nick Folk looked good in his Jets debut, going 3-of-3 on field goal attempts, including a 48-yarder in the fourth quarter.
Antonio Cromartie, although he was picked on heavily by Flacco and the Ravens receivers (as well as the refs), had a ridiculous interception near the goal line that he returned 66 yards.
Cromartie did a balancing act after leaping up to get the football, nearly stepping out of bounds as he tried to regain his balance before making a few nice cutbacks, aided by a big block by Darrelle Revis on Anquan Boldin to return the ball to the 31-yard line.
The pass defense showed a few kinks, allowing Joe Flacco to go 9-of-14 for 137 yards and nine first downs on third down conversion attempts. The Ravens were 11-of-19 on third downs, although they had six first downs via Jets penalties. Flacco finished 20-of-38 for 245 yards with no touchdowns and only the one pick.
In comparison, Mark Sanchez looked like the same inexperienced quarterback as last year, completing only 10 passes in 21 attempts for 74 yards with no interceptions. Sanchez looked tentative, afraid to challenge the Ravens’ suspect secondary downfield, often throwing the ball to the checkdown running back instead of attempting a pass over the middle of the field.
One of the few times Sanchez threw the ball deep was negated by a penalty that wiped out a long completion to Dustin Keller that would’ve set up 1st-and-goal. Another deep throw intended for Jerricho Cotchery fell incomplete, and other than that, Sanchez rarely looked to throw anywhere else but to the running back in the flat.
That being said, his receivers didn’t help his cause. Braylon Edwards was called for an illegal shift in the first quarter, and the normally sure-handed Jerricho Cotchery dropped a catchable ball on third down.
Shonn Greene was a colossal disappointment in his first career regular season start. Greene was held to only 18 yards on five carries and one catch for nine yards before being benched in favor of Tomlinson after fumbling twice in the first half, including a lost fumble two plays after Cromartie’s interception return.
Greene only touched the ball one more time the entire game, a drop of a Mark Sanchez pass in the flat. He reportedly left the stadium without talking to the media, obviously not in the mood to talk to anybody. The Jets desperately need the young running back to regain his confidence and step up if they’ll have any shot at playing in February.
Kyle Wilson looked like a rookie at times, often getting picked on over the middle with the slot receivers, including the brutal pass interference call in the end zone on T.J. Houshmandzadeh that was essentially the decisive play of the game. Wilson was also flagged for a holding call on 3rd-and-28 that gave the Ravens an automatic first down.
The Jets put a big burden on Wilson, the 29th overall pick out of Boise State in this year’s draft, by playing him in one-on-one coverage with the likes of Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Derrick Mason, as the Jets brought the big blitzes over and over against Flacco. Wilson played mostly well considering the circumstances, but he found out rather quickly that the NFL is not the WAC.
After recovering from a torn left ACL that ended his 2009 season, Kris Jenkins’ return was one of the biggest feel-good stories for the Jets in camp.
Jenkins left the game in the first half after injuring the same left knee in an awkward collision with Bart Scott and did not return. Jenkins’ knee injury last year was due to a collision with Shaun Ellis, and it would be a terrible break for both the Jets and Jenkins to have the big man out for a long time again.
The Jets do not yet know the severity of this knee injury, but Jenkins will have an MRI tomorrow. The Jets reportedly optimistic that the injury is not season-ending.
The penalties. Not to beat a dead horse, but the Ravens did not beat the Jets, the Jets beat themselves. You just cannot shoot yourself in the foot over and over against a good team and expect to win.
The disparity in third down conversions was the theme of the game. The Ravens held the ball for over 38 minutes despite having only 49 rushing yards. The Ravens ran 75 plays on offense, the Jets only ran 44. The Jets only had six first downs, the Ravens had six first downs due to penalty alone.
The Jets and Ravens are very similar teams that both rely on a strong defense to set the tempo and a young offense that will have its ups and downs. Credit the Ravens for making the plays they needed to win, even if those plays were drawing flags instead of moving the football.
A lot of people believe that the Jets and Ravens are two of the best 10 or so teams in the NFL. There’s no shame in losing to a team like that, as painful as it may be.
Rex Ryan stressed post game that he knows this Jets team can be better. “We weren’t at our best today,” Ryan said, “but that’s a credit to the Ravens. But I know we can get better...We have to get better, and I believe we will.”
The Jets will try to be better next week when the host the New England Patriots.