The New York Jets dodged a horseshoe-shaped bullet this past weekend, beating Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, despite poor play calls on both sides of the ball, and poor play by quarterback Mark Sanchez.
It’s already quite clear that they’ll not be quite so lucky on Sunday against the New England Patriots.
Sanchez flailed against the mediocre Colts’ passing defense, displaying his poor judgement and throwing touch at almost every turn. Most of his misses were nowhere near their target, some sailing well over the outstretched hands of his receivers. Yet with the game on the line, a one-point lead in hand, and a third-and-five situation in which the Jets needed to eat up the clock and keep the ball away from a brewing Manning and his offense, the Jets chose to unleash Sanchez, who thew a bomb of a pass that sailed well beyond the reach of the streaking Braylon Edwards on the right sideline.
Sanchez closed out his dismal playoff performance with 189 passing yards, no TDs, an interception, an average of 6.1 yards per passing attempt, and a grueling 62.4 passer rating.
Sanchez and the coaching staff were bailed out by a superb defensive effort and offensive running attack, which amassed 169 rushing yards against the Colts’ acclaimed run defense, and was lead by LaDanian Tomlinson’s 82 yards and 2 TDs. Also critical were Shonn Greene, who dealt the Colts the brunt of the damage with his punishing run attack, and the omni-talented Brad Smith, who ran the “wildcat” offense a few times, ran back kicks, and covered on special teams, superbly as usual.
The Jets’ cornerbacks, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, were the true heroes, providing consistent and brilliant coverage of deep threats Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon throughout the game, which is not a simple task for most secondaries. In fact, Wayne was held to a single completion for a mere yard, and Garcon’s only long reception was actually a short completion that was also Manning’s lone TD pass: a quick slant route on which Cromartie did not provide primary coverage. Garcon quickly separated himself from Brodney Pool at the line and escaped for a 57-yard score.
I’m no professional NFL analyst, but it eludes me why Manning did not exploit this coverage more frequently, as it was his only successful option throughout the game: both wide-outs were covered brilliantly, and the quick slant to a tight end or alternate, inside wide-out was an available option on almost every passing play. This happens to be a play at which the Patriots’ offense excels, and it is sure to be a frequent connection made this Sunday by Tom Brady and his superior receiving corp.
Sanchez’s last performance against the Patriots was abysmal; in summary, Sanchez posted a 27.9 passer rating against Brady’s four touchdowns and 148.9 passer rating.
Sanchez’s main asset is his throwing arm strength, which truly rivals that of his brief predecessor, Brett Favre. Unfortunately, Sanchez does not possess Farve’s experience, and even Favre’s limited throwing accuracy exceeds that of Sanchez. Neither possess the passing accuracy nor the field acumen of Favre’s predecessor, Chad Pennington, who was able to transform poor-to-average teams into true playoff contenders. It would have been exciting to see how the Jets would have fared with a healthy Pennington at the helm of the offense, behind the prolific offensive line that now protects Sanchez.