The New York Jets held on to spoil the first game of the new Brett Favre and Randy Moss era for the Minnesota Vikings. On a rain soaked Monday night, the Jets withstood a second half Brett Favre rally to beat the Vikings 29-20.
While the stats of this game ended even, the early parts of this game were far from it. The Jets had a 9-0 lead at halftime, despite heavily out-gaining the Minnesota Vikings in almost every statistical category. The Jets were simply breaking down, and unable to get the ball into the end zone. When halftime finally came, 9-0 was a very lucky score for the Vikings as it should have been much worse.
So who's fault was it that the Jets were only up 9-0? Do you blame Mark Sanchez, who was far from his best Monday night, and was inaccurate on several passes? Or do you look at the Jets wide receivers, who were not helping Sanchez out and dropping some very catchable passes?
The blame really lies on the Jets coaching staff.
Words cannot even begin to describe what Rex Ryan has done for this franchise as a whole; he's given the team a whole new identity.
Heaps of praise must fall onto offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who transformed the offense from a boring Paul Hackett-Mike Heimerdinger led offense, into an exciting down the field threat. However, both of them were far off their games last night and it nearly cost the Jets a victory.
Many critics, including ESPN's Monday Night Football commentators, were very quick to blame the Jets coaches for mismanaging the clock at the end of the 4th quarter. With the two-minute warning approaching, the Jets threw an incomplete pass, stopping the clock with 2:04 to go, forcing the Jets to run another play before the two-minute warning. Everyone blamed the coaches for poor clock management.
I will not do that. During Mark Sanchez's press conference the first thing he said was that the mistake was his fault and that he snapped the ball too early. There is a list of things the Jets coaches did wrong last night, that is not one of them.
The Jets coaches did come close to costing the team a win though.
Most of the blame lies with Brian Schottenheimer. In the first half, the Jets play calling was exceptional. They were mixing the run with the pass, running the ball very well. They were calling play action passes, and those were working and giving Sanchez a lot of time, and open receivers down the field, the fact that the plays didn't amount to anything falls on Sanchez and his receivers.
However, when the Jets would eventually get down the field their drives would stall. They would start in Minnesota territory often, and drives would stall.
At the beginning of the game it looked a lot like the Jets were trying to force the ball to Santonio Holmes, who was making his Jets debut after serving a four game suspension. After that it looked as if the Jets were just trying to get all their wide receivers the ball to keep them happy, let them know that their production would not drop since Holmes came back.
All of this came at the expense of the Jets most potent weapon from the past three weeks. Tight end Dustin Keller was almost non-existent in the offense. Keller was coming off the best three game stretch of his career, a stretch where he had five touchdown catches in three games.
Unfortunately this is nothing new. Keller has had dominant stretches in his career before, and then he will fall back into anonymity. This isn't Keller's fault as much as the coaches. For long parts of the game it seemed as if the Jets coaches forgot Keller was on the team.
When they remembered, it wasn't for the best either. In the second half, it seemed the Jets were trying to force the ball to Keller, especially on third down, forcing bad throws or throws into coverage, all of which would fall incomplete.
For a team that was bragging about an abundance of offensive weapons, they need to learn how to incorporate all of them at once, and not try to target just one of them for extended periods of time.
Rex Ryan does not get off the hook either. The Jets defense dominated the Vikings in the first half, putting pressure on Favre every time he dropped back to pass. In the second half, the pressure stopped, and Favre picked apart the Jets. At the very end of the game, the pressure was back and the Jets got a game clinching pick-six from CB Dwight Lowery.
This isn't the first time we have seen this. Against Miami, Chad Henne could not do anything early and was constantly under pressure, when the pressure stopped, Miami came roaring back. The Jets had a defense that was working, and stopped using it, and it nearly cost them the game, that falls on the shoulders of Ryan.
In the end, you can only criticize Rex Ryan so much, because without him the Jets would have never won this game. Rex Ryan came to the organization and changed the attitude and the beliefs around the franchise. After the game many players said more or less the same thing, "in previous years, we would not have won this game."
The fans know it too, in previous years the Jets would have found a way to lose, and everyone would be saying "same old Jets." But not under Rex Ryan, Rex has changed the way the Jets play football, and it was evident last night when the Jets did something their fans are not used to seeing them do, when things weren't going right for the Jets, they found a way to win.