Emotions fluctuated through highs and lows for the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals as their high-scoring contest extended over the entire four quarters of play. With widely differing skill sets, it was difficult to assess any clear-cut advantages on either side of the ball.
The first quarter provided multiple errors that could’ve shifted the momentum in either team’s direction. Unfortunately for Arizona, their mistakes allowed for a second quarter explosion by the Jets. A performance from which they would never recover.
On the surface, a final score of 56-35 has the appearance of an exciting offensive game. However, when one looks beyond the final numbers and statistics, the reality presents itself as a dominant performance by the New York Jets.
When the game was still up for grabs
The first quarter started without any offensive thrills. The Jets looked to be in for a long day when their first drive ended with a three-and-out. When the defense took the field, the Cardinals looked ready to begin their aerial assault as they marched up the field into Jets’ territory.
Then Kurt Warner’s day became a bad one.
Shaun Ellis’ forced a Warner fumble that moved the Cardinals back to the Jets’ 32-yard line, creating a third-and-goal. The play immediately after resulted in another fumble, this time by Anquan Boldin, forced by rookie Dwight Lowery, and recovered by the re-acquired Hank Poteat.
Then the see-saw began as Brett Favre made threw an interception across the field on what he assumed would have been a dead play. Expecting to see a flag for offsides, Favre took a chance that could have placed the game into Arizona’s hands early.
But the miscues weren’t over. After a tough defensive performance, and a flag for intentional grounding, big Kris Jenkins powered through the field goal unit to block a Neil Rackers’ kick from 37-yards away.
And then Brett Favre showed up
When Favre chose to return to football, many fans wondered what reasons the 38-year-old quarterback could possibly have. Loving the game simply wasn’t a strong enough excuse. After a first quarter interception, fans that thought he made a mistake returning to the game groaned the loudest.
But he responded to everyone that believed he had nothing else to accomplish with a six touchdown performance, breaking his career-high.
For a man that everyone says has nothing left to prove, Favre turned Sunday afternoon into a game of pitch and catch with his new receivers. His second quarter explosion led the New York Jets to a franchise record for most points scored in a quarter of play.
Favre also led wide receiver Laveranues Coles to a great personal day. In his career, Coles has never recorded a three-touchdown game. With Favre at the helm, he achieved that milestone in under 15 minutes.
Everything that can go wrong
Kurt Warner finished his day with one of those games that every player wishes was a bad dream. His inability to secure the football resulted in turnovers for points. Warner’s first interception on a jumped route by Darrelle Revis truly set the tone for his Sunday afternoon woes.
Despite finishing with nearly 500 yards through the air, Warner was never close to truly developing a rhythm. The yardage he gained is what the Jets’ allowed. Not once did he truly look prepared to take the game away from New York.
However, it may be a little unfair to put Arizona’s loss all on Warner’s shoulders. In an article previewing the match-up, Tom Highway wrote of Ken Whisenhunt’s stubborn persistence in using the run to set up the pass.
The Jets defense allowed nothing for the Cardinals’ rush attack. If the run-first approach continues in Arizona, Whisenhunt is going to find himself alone on an island. The Cardinals are clearly not a power-run team, and the Jets’ run-stuffing defensive performance should have forced him to accept it sooner.
In an attempt to salvage some pride in the final seconds, the Cardinals may have lost Anquan Boldin.
A vicious helmet-to-helmet collision from safety Eric Smith in the end zone with less than thirty seconds left in the game resulted in the Pro Bowl receiver being carried off the field.
At press time, NFL.com reports that Boldin has “movement in all extremities.”
Hopefully he sees a full recovery, and will be back on the field at the same level he’s always played.
Too little, too late
If one were to only read the final score of this game, they would assume that Arizona’s offensive performance pushed New York to the brink. Unfortunately, that assessment would be far from reality.
Arizona’s points came in the second-half against a Jets’ team playing the conservative, Prevent defense. The philosophy of that scheme is to allow the short passes, and prevent any deep shots down-field. Arizona took advantage of the Jets’ soft approach, and put 21 third-quarter points on the scoreboard.
A successful onside kick, and an offense that appeared to have finally hit a rhythm was frightening for a moment. However, the Jets’ offense was certain to respond to all of Arizona’s points with more touchdowns of their own.
The aforementioned injury to Boldin may be a hot topic in NFL circles throughout the season, as it’s exactly the kind of injury all teams hope to avoid when a game is out of reach.
Fans may respect persistence, and the competitive nature of professional athletes should never be stifled—but when unnecessary risks are taken that result in injuries to key players for a franchise, the punishment is not worth the reward.
The end of under-achieving in New York?
The Jets’ performance was the exact kind of game fans anticipated before the season began.
The first three weeks of the season were strenuous on fans that hoped for immediate results from their new-look Jets.
A team still working on chemistry walked out of Miami with a narrow victory over the Dolphins. However, the team looked to have taken a step back in a home loss to a Tom Brady-less New England Patriots. And a miserable Monday night loss to the San Diego Chargers saw a Jets’ team looking much like Sunday’s Arizona Cardinals.
But with the team forcing mistakes, capitalizing on them, and moving the ball at will on offense, fans have to wonder if this game signals the true beginning of the Brett Favre Era in New York.
The Jets have a bye week to savor the taste of an impressive victory, and to continue building on that rhythm that seems to have finally smoothed out.
When the Jets’ return, they will be facing a win-less Cincinnati Bengals team. With the Bengals facing the Dallas Cowboys next week, the chances that the Jets will be facing an 0-5 team desperately seeking their first win are very high.
With two weeks to prepare, the Jets should feel well-rested and sharp on Oct. 12th. That game will also mark the return of Jesse Chatman, fresh off a four-game suspension, whose power-running style is needed inside the five.