Browns vs. Jets: Postgame Grades, Notes and Quotes for New York
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It seemed as if it was the one question he’d been waiting the entire press conference to answer. And now that he was, he couldn’t wait to answer.
Todd, did you have fun out there today?
“Yes,” Bowles said as an ear-to-ear smile spread across his face. “Yes I did.”
Coaching the first game of his New York Jets coaching career, Bowles saw just about everything he could have wanted in New York’s 31-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns. The Jets ran the ball well, threw the ball well, shut down the run, pressured the quarterback and forced turnovers.
If there had been a list put together before the game, Bowles’ team spent the majority of Sunday afternoon adding check marks to each desired accomplishment.
“I thought it was a great win,” Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “To be able to rely on the run game in the second half and grind down the clock with the defense playing well and forcing turnovers, that’s going to be a big thing for us.
“Any win in this league is a good one. So we’re thrilled about it and ready to move on to the next one.”
While New York ended the game playing about as well as anyone could have hoped, the beginning of the contest was eerily reminiscent to New York’s 4-12 campaign in 2014.
Early on, the Jets offense was anemic, and the defense couldn’t stop anything. That was until a timely hit from safety Calvin Pryor and linebacker Demario Davis turned the game around.
After the Jets punted on their first offensive drive, the Browns took over, and quarterback Josh McCown marched Cleveland 77 yards on 16 plays. Facing a 3rd-and-goal from the New York 13-yard line, McCown took off on a scramble.
As he neared the goal line, he took a leap in attempt to cross it. Pryor converged and laid a hit that sent McCown spiraling in the air, jarring the ball loose. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback.
“I broke out of coverage, once I knew I was free, and tried to get the best shot available,” Pryor said. “The main thing: I didn’t want to let him get in the end zone.”
The play was McCown’s last of the game as he was removed following the fumble with a concussion. Replacement Johnny Manziel supplied a quick jolt to the offense with a 55-yard touchdown pass on the next drive because of a blown coverage, but after that, it was all Jets.
New York scored a touchdown on a 10-yard Chris Ivory run to tie things up on its next possession. Two series later, the Jets took a 14-10 lead when Fitzpatrick, who finished 15-of-24 for 179 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception, hooked up with Decker for a 15-yard score.
After the game, Fitzpatrick said of all the throws he completed on Sunday, that touchdown to Decker was his favorite.
“Everything that went into it,” Fitzpatrick said. “The situation, a two-minute drill, having to call it at the line, me knowing pre-snap what Deck was going to do with the look we got. I felt there were a lot of things that came together on that one.”
In the second half, the Jets defense took over. New York forced three of its five turnovers in the third and fourth quarters, highlighted by a pair of strip-sacks by Trevor Reilly and Lorenzo Mauldin and an interception by Marcus Williams.
The Jets offense then turned those turnovers into 17 points, which included a three-yard Ivory touchdown run and one-yard touchdown catch from Brandon Marshall (six receptions, 62 yards) on a goal-line fade.
“We’re just trying to get better in the running game and passing game,” Marshall said. “We’ll continue to build off of what happened today.”
The victory for the Jets makes it five straight in season openers. In that same stretch, New York has not made the playoffs. New York will face the Indianapolis Colts (0-1) next Monday night.
Quarterbacks: Ryan Fitzpatrick did exactly what he had to do in order for the Jets to win. The veteran was solid, made good decisions and methodically moved the Jets up and down the field. If the play wasn’t there, he didn’t force it. The grade? B
Running Backs: Chris Ivory scored two touchdowns, and Bilal Powell added a nice complimentary 62 yards. But overall, it wasn’t anything incredibly spectacular from the backfield. The backs weren’t bad by any stretch, but they were not blow-you-away great. I'm a bit of a harsh grader. B.
Receivers: Brandon Marshall came on quite a bit late and finished with six catches for 62 yards and a score. Eric Decker had two catches for 37 yards, and Chris Owusu finished with four for 55. This group was a 100-yard receiver away from getting an A, but when you combine for only 179 yards, it’s tough to get a mark much higher than a B.
Tight Ends: Neither Jeff Cumberland nor Kellen Davis hauled in a catch and had just one target between the two. This grade, honestly, is pretty nice, because it could, and probably should be, much lower. But a nice block from Cumberland on Ivory’s 10-yard touchdown keeps it at a D.
Offensive Line: An A. No other way around it. The line paved the way for 4.3 yards per carry and two rushing touchdowns, which is good. The fact Fitzpatrick wasn’t sacked at all is great. A.
Defensive Line: The Browns averaged just 3.7 yards per rush, and the defensive line accounted for one of the Jets' three sacks. The unit also forced a couple of holding calls. Really nice day. A.
Linebackers: The linebackers had a nice day with a sack-fumble for Trevor Reilly, a forced fumble for Lorenzo Mauldin and a sack for David Harris. B+
Defensive Backs: Not one Browns receiver caught more than three passes. Manziel and McCown combined to complete just 56 percent of their passes. Marcus Williams had an interception, Calvin Pryor a forced fumble, and Darrelle Revis had a fumble recovery. A.
Special Teams: Nick Folk went 2-of-2 on field goals, but Jeremy Kerley averaged just 6.5 yards on two punt returns, and Chris Owusu didn’t even attempt to bring a kick back. C.
Coaching: In Bowles' first outing as head coach of the Jets, New York pulled out a commanding 31-10 victory. The offense looked good, the defense looked better, and overall the entire team looked disciplined (four penalties, one turnover). Kudos to Bowles for a nice debut. A
Injuries Darken Otherwise Bright Day
MetLife Stadium was rocking.
With Fireman Ed leading the cheers for the first time in three years, there was a different sense of energy, a renewed passion from the home fans as the team took on the Cleveland Browns.
But on two occasions, everything fell dead silent.
Early in the first half and locked in man-to-man coverage, Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie planted and went to cut up the field. When he put his left leg into the ground, his knee buckled, and Cromartie fell to the turf.
Two quarters later, with Johnny Manziel looking to ignite a late Browns comeback, the second-year pro began to climb the pocket. He saw a hole and went to dart through it. As he cut up the field, Muhammad Wilkerson grabbed him, and Jets rookie Lorenzo Mauldin lowered his head to force the fumble.
While he jarred the ball loose, Mauldin fell to the ground. He slowly worked his way up, before collapsing to the turf again.
Cromartie made his way off the field before being carted back to the locker room. Mauldin was put in a neck brace and then carted off the field and to the hospital.
“They haven’t given us a report (on either) yet,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said after the game. “I’m very concerned right now not knowing anything. When a guy gets carted off, you worry about him until you can find out what happened.”
For Cromartie, the cornerback will have an MRI on his left knee Monday, which will determine if he suffered the expected ACL tear. If New York’s worst fears are confirmed, the cornerback will be out for the year.
When Cromartie left the field, the Jets replaced him in two ways. In base sets, Buster Skrine played outside corner. In New York’s nickel package, Skrine played in the slot, while Marcus Williams moved outside.
Williams played quite well.
In three quarters of play, he intercepted a pass and had a bone-crushing hit to disrupt another one. Speaking after the game, Bowles said he was pleased with how Williams filled in.
“He did what he does in practice every day,” Bowles said. “He’s not scared of anyone out there. He is not scared to be on an island. He’s one of my favorite players.”
As for Mauldin, the Jets announced after the game that the linebacker suffered a concussion but no injuries to his neck, which was originally feared. He also had full feeling in his extremities. In the rookie’s place, Trevor Reilly received increased reps and recorded a sack-fumble of Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.
“I just saw him get weak,” Jets running back Chris Ivory said of Mauldin’s injury. “He fell again, and after that it looked like his eyes rolled into the back of his head.”
Jets Have Found True No. 1 Wideout
It’s been a long, long time since the Jets could say they had a true No. 1, big-play receiver. Laveranues Coles was solid for a few years, but really, the last one was Keyshawn Johnson.
It appears that wideout drought is over.
Appearing in his first regular-season game of his Jets career, Brandon Marshall displayed exactly what he brings to an offense. With New York focusing primarily on running the ball, Marshall still finished with six catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. At times, he was unguardable and proved that last year’s off-year was just that: an off-year.
But Marshall’s biggest play on Sunday? It wasn’t any reception. In fact, it’s near impossible to find in the stat sheet.
With the Jets trailing by seven, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick looked left and fired a pass in Marshall's direction. Tashaun Gibson undercut the route, intercepted the ball and began to make his way up the field.
Without hesitation, Marshall ran up behind Gibson and ripped the ball out of his hands for a forced fumble/fumble recovery. Two plays later, the Jets scored their first touchdown of the day.
“That was huge,” Bowles said. “Brandon plays everything. He plays offense. He plays defense. He plays aggressive. To me, that was the play of the game.”
Speaking to the media, Marshall said as soon as the ball was intercepted, he instantly began thinking about forcing the fumble. In his mind, the Jets had to get the ball back, no matter the cost.
“That’s the first thing I always think about when there’s a turnover,” Marshall said, “To try to run into a defender and get the ball back.
“I wouldn’t say that’s the play that turned the game around. You never know. That’s why you have to give it your all on every single play."
After Marshall’s forced fumble, the Jets outscored the Browns 31-3.
Chris Ivory Ready to Break out
Throughout the first two years of his Jets career, running back Chris Ivory has split carries in the backfield. In fact, in his first two years with the team, he has yet to rush more than 200 times.
That’s about to change.
In the first game of the season, Ivory rushed 20 times for 91 yards and a pair of scores. New York went to him over and over again on first and second down before bringing Bilal Powell in on passing situations.
Ivory was effective and solid and showed exactly why the Jets coaches and Ivory’s teammates have had nothing but glowing remarks for the fifth-year pro.
“Chris? He’s a monster,” Marshall said. “It starts with the offensive line and Chris Ivory. He’s the tone-setter.”
Speaking after the game, Ivory, while saying he enjoys others spelling him, seemed excited about the opportunity to be the featured back for the first time in his career.
“I’m just confident,” Ivory said. “If you’re not confident in yourself, who else will be? You have to be. That’s the only way I think you prosper and progress in this game.”
Calvin Pryor on Goal-Line Forced Fumble
It’s not often that a team can tally 90 yards in 17 plays and come up empty-handed. Pryor is the reason the Cleveland Browns did.
Facing a 3rd-and-goal from the 13-yard line, quarterback Josh McCown took off for the goal line. When he reached the 1-yard line, McCown jumped in the air to try to get across. Seeing this, Pryor lowered his shoulder and sent McCown spinning, forcing a fumble in the process.
Speaking after the game, Pryor spoke about what was going through his mind when he went after McCown: "I’m just trying to hit anything I see out there."
Brandon Marshall on Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick
“Everything. We could spend 10 minutes talking about that,” Brandon Marshall said after the game about his quarterback.
Since Geno Smith had his jaw fractured by IK Enemkpali and Ryan Fitzpatrick in turn took over as the starting quarterback, much has been made about everything Fitzpatrick can’t do.
The veteran signal-caller’s arm strength and inability to make all the throws certainly top the list. But after the Jets victory, one that saw Fitzpatrick complete 15 of 24 passes and throw for 179 yards with a pair of touchdowns and one interception, his No. 1 receiver talked about what Fitzpatrick does well.
His answer? Well. It’s a long list.
Ryan Fitzpatrick on His Harshest Critic
"My eight-year-old son has become a little more vocal about his opinion of some of my plays," Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "We’ll see (if he’s happy) after this (game.) He’ll probably judge my performance and we’ll see what he says. Hopefully, he’s happy."
A fun, light moment occurred in the Jets locker room after the game. Toward the end of Fitzpatrick’s meeting with the media, the quarterback was asked about some of the criticisms thrown his way.
Fitzpatrick was honest, saying he really doesn’t care about what anyone thinks outside of the Jets locker room.
Well, all but one person, that is.
The quarterback said he’s received an increased amount of criticism from his eight-year-old son, who has taken it upon himself to give his dad pointers on how to perform.
Connor Hughes is the New York Jets beat writer for the Journal Inquirer and Scout.com. All quotes and advanced statistics used are gathered firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Connor can be reached on Twitter (@Connor_J_Hughes) or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).