Jets Get Grounded and Pounded
Is it possible that Rex Ryan could have looked at the Jets' 48-28 victory over the Buffalo Bills last week and not understood why the Jets won? It certainly seems that way after watching their season-deflating 27-10 loss to the Steelers Sunday afternoon.
Against Buffalo, New York mixed up their offense, but only after having established that Sanchez could throw on any down. Like a fighter getting hit by punches thrown at different angles, the Bills never knew where the next shot was coming from.
But that's not the way the Jets looked against the Steelers. On their first possession, Sanchez took them 90 yards, 80 of them through the air, completing four of five passes. Then, for some reason known only to Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, they went to the Neanderthal ground-and-pound offense, which we were so happy they didn't use against Buffalo.
If you missed the game, it went something like this: Shonn Greene on 1st down for 2 yards, Bilal Powell into the line for 3 yards on 2nd down, then Sanchez under pressure throwing incomplete on 3rd. That was pretty much it.
The Jets were all over the place on defense, blitzing, faking blitzes, trying to mix up coverages and disguise the fact that their best player, Darrelle Revis, wasn't in the lineup. Overall, they did a pretty good job. The front line completely shut off the Steelers' running game, holding them to a ridiculous 66 yards on 28 carries. But slowly Ben Roethlisberger began to read what the Jets were doing, and from a 7-3 deficit at the end of the 1st quarter Pittsburgh moved to 13-10 at the half , 20-10 at the end of the 3rd, and finally, the 17-point final margin.
The Jets blitzed and blitzed and got burned only once, in the 3rd quarter when Antonio Cromartie mistimed a jump on a pass to wideout Mike Wallace, resulting in a 37-yard TD.
But the defense was out there alone yesterday, trying to take up the slack for the offense. There's no way the Jets can win a game like that, particularly when everyone doesn't do his job. Safety LaRon Landry committed two 15-yard penalties, which gave Pittsburgh critical first downs. He also managed to miss Roethlisberger on a safety blitz; and on the next play Roethlisberger threw a 37-yard pass to Mike Wallace in the end zone. (In a moment of inexplicable brain lapse after the Buffalo game last week, Ryan compared Landry to Detroit Lions Hall of Famer Dick "Night Train" Lane.)
What else went wrong? Well, Santonio Holmes, who scored the only TD on the first drive, dropped two passes, just like during the preseason. And rookie Stephen Hill, who was so sensational against the Bills, looked completely intimidated by the Steelers' secondary and was completely shut down -- no catches.
In fact, and if I had to make one point as to why the Jets lost this game, it would be this: After Holmes scored on the opening drive, the Jets wide receivers didn't catch another pass for the rest of the game.
And so the Jets have taken not one step forward and one step back but one step forward and several steps back to where they were about the middle of last season.
As Ryan and his staff review the game films of this debacle, is it possible they won't understand why they lost? Is it possible that next week they are going back to this ground-and-pound thing against the Miami Dolphins? Yes, it's very possible. All too possible.