New York Jets Report Card: Grading Each Unit vs. the San Diego Chargers
In a game dominated through much of the first half by visiting San Diego, the Jets left no question about whether they had the collective sand to overcome adversity in what was a critical home win for New York.
Through the first two quarters of play the Jets were unable to capitalize on the opportunities created by a sloppy performance from San Diego who, somewhat uncharacteristically, committed 13 penalties for 95 yards. The momentum shifted in the second half, though, as New York was able to rattle Rivers into two second half interceptions, allowing Sanchez and Burress to light it up for the win.
While, at least at first, it seemed as though the Chargers could not give the win away if they tried, in the end the Jets found a way to take advantage of San Diego's mistakes, ultimately snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
Things looked bleak out of the gate for Sanchez when, on his first offensive series, Chargers' inside linebacker Donald Butler stripped the ball from tight end Dustin Keller and took it the distance for six.
Further disconcerting for Jets fans early on was when, on the Jets last possession of the first quarter, an ill-advised deep throw into double coverage was intercepted by safety Eric Weddle. The pick, Weddle's third of the season, would ultimately lead to a long touchdown drive for San Diego.
Sanchez settled down in the second half, though, finding his groove and hitting Plaxico Burress for three scores which tied a personal best for Burress. With a quarterback rating on the day of 87 it wasn't necessarily pretty, but it was a productive performance by Sanchez. Perhaps most important was the statement made to Sanchez' critics who had begun to question whether he could put the team on his shoulders when asked. Clearly, he can.
As is often the case in such situations, the hype surrounding LT's first regular season meeting with his former team turned out to be an anti-climatic performance, Tomlinson managed only 14 yards on the ground on five carries catching just three passes for a total of 51 all-purpose yards on the day.
Shonn Greene on the other hand turned in a solid, if not spectacular performance with 112 yards on only 20 carries. Although not exactly dominant, Greene busted a long of 24 yards and averaged nearly five yards per carry against what has been a fairly stout front seven for the San Diego Chargers.
Receivers and Tight Ends
Plaxico Burress was the lone bright spot from what was otherwise a relatively quiet day for the Jets wide receiving corps. Outside of Burress, the Jets wide receivers combined for just 10 receptions, 102 yards and no touchdowns.
Burress, though, turned in a career-high, three-touchdown performance against the Chargers in what was effectively a coming-out party for him in New York. Covered for most of the afternoon by the normally solid Antoine Cason, Burress made him look silly several times..
The Jets offensive line didn't exactly dominate either, but they did do just about everything you could ask from them in the trenches. Against a formidable defensive front, ranked first in the league coming into this season, the offensive line kept Sanchez upright for the majority of the contest, only allowing two sacks on the afternoon. Additionally, they managed to open enough holes for the Jets' running backs to put up a respectable 135 yards on the ground.
Give Sanchez his due credit for demonstrating excellent pocket awareness in avoiding San Diego's pass rush. The offensive line did get just enough push up front, though, to play a critical role in Sunday's impressive comeback win.
Defensive Front Seven
If there was one weak spot to point to after what could turn out to be a pivotal win, it was the performance of Jets' defensive front seven. While they may not strike fear into the hearts of upcoming opponents, they did hold their own by keeping the Chargers to under 100 yards rushing on the day. They also recorded two well-timed sacks of quarterback Philip Rivers.
In the end this unit did enough to give the Jets a chance to win it late. They did leave a lot of coverage sacks out on the floor, though, as Rivers struggled to find anyone open down field. This was especially true as the game wore on. The jets linebackers also had trouble covering the Chargers tight ends off of the line of scrimmage, at least early on, as well as the running backs coming out of the backfield, up until late in the second half.
With the exception of letting the Chargers tight ends run wild for a brief stint early on, the Jets secondary was tough as nails all day long. Darrelle Revis was predictably spectacular in doing what Darrelle Revis does: completely shutting down the Chargers primary deep threat, Vincent Jackson, for the duration of the game.
Antonio Cromartie also turned in a solid performance against his former team, even if only by the fact that Rivers threw very few passes in his direction. The infrequency with which Cromartie's name was called was an indication of the quality of coverage Cromartie maintained.
While the safeties did have some trouble helping the Jets' linebackers bottle up the Chargers tight-ends in the beginning, they did seem to make the necessary adjustments at the half in order to slow down Pro Bowlers Antonio Gates and Randy McMichael.
Arguably, the Jets secondary deserves the lion's share of the credit for the win. They were able to accomplish something no other team has done during the regular season dating back to 2009, by holding Rivers to under 180 yards passing. Rivers, who has led one of the more prolific passing attacks in recent years, was picked off twice and forced into throwing the ball away on numerous occasions as a result of the Jet's outstanding pass coverage.
While not a spectacular performance by the Jets' special teams units, it was at least solid in that the coverage on kicks and punts were very effective in limiting the Chargers return yards. A couple of gaffs by San Diego return man Patrick Crayton allowed the Jets to pin the Chargers deep in their own territory at a couple of critical points during the second half.