Report Card: Good enough
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The sorry Jets didn't lose to the sorry Cardinals, 7-6. Now for the grades ...
The Jets cranked out 177 yards against a pretty good defense, their second-best rushing day of the season. The news here is that Bilal Powell, not Shonn Greene, got the start. Powell got the first four carries of the game. In fact, Greene didn't get his number called until 3:44 left in the first quarter. Maybe that sparked something, because Greene (104 yards) responded with the eighth 100-yard game of his career. The offensive line did a fantastic job, opening huge holes. Tony Sparano sprinkled in a couple of misdirection runs that worked. The only negative was Khalil Bell, who, in his first action, lost a fumble.
It was so bad that Rex Ryan, a staunch Mark Sanchez supporter, benched him in the third quarter after three interceptions and 10 possessions that produced zero points. Actually, it should've been four interceptions. Sanchez was careless with the football, failed to recognize blitzes and demonstrated poor body language. Greg McElroy, in his NFL debut, provided an immediate spark, leading the game-winning TD drive. The best thing he did was not mess up. Hello, quarterback controversy.
This was simply a dominating performance by the Jets, who held the Cards to 81 yards -- but 40 came on Rashad Johnson's run on a fake punt. On plays from scrimmage, the Jets limited them to 41 yards on 20 carries. They got a lot of production out of the linebackers, especially Bryan Thomas ( two tackles for loss), Bart Scott (one) and David Harris (six tackles, 0.5 sack). The Jets were aggressive, crashing the line of scrimmage with blitzes and eight-man fronts.
Talk about domination. The Cards were 0-for-15 on third down, a remarkable figure. QB Ryan Lindley (10-for-31, 72 yards) was overwhelmed, often missing receivers by several yards. The Jets sacked him only twice, but they got decent pressure with a variety of blitzes. S LaRon Landry made a great read on an interception and CB Antonio Cromartie did a nice job on WR Larry Fitzgerald, who had only one catch on seven targets. It's amazing they had just one interception in the game.
The nightmare continues. The Jets could've lost the game because of a lapse by their punt-return team, which fell for a fake punt that resulted in a 40-yard run by Johnson. It set up a field goal for the Cards, giving them a 3-0 halftime lead. The Cards made a great read, capitalizing on an overloaded front. The hiccups also hit the FG unit, as Nick Folk doinked two attempts off the uprights from 46 and 52 yards. Nice game for P Robert Malone.
Rex Ryan's decision to bench Sanchez probably won the game. He wanted a spark -- any kind of spark -- and he got it from McElroy. Now the real decision comes: Does he stick with McElroy or go back to Sanchez? It's the biggest decision of Ryan's coaching career. Clearly, the defense still is playing hard for Ryan. The defense nearly pitched a perfect game. The offense managed one good drive, but there were the usual number of glitches.