There’s supposed to be no such thing as an easy game in the NFL. An opponent’s record is meaningless, all statistics are wiped down to a clean slate, and the game has the potential to go in any direction possible.
When the New York Jets took the field on Sunday, they played the entire game as if they never feared the winless team, led by their inexperienced backup quarterback. Against a better football team, it may have been a recipe for disaster. But against Cincinnati, the Jets’ casual approach was more than enough.
“There’s no such thing as an ugly win. A win’s a win,” Brett Favre kindly reminded the media during his post-game conference.
Truer words have never been spoken. The New York Jets are 3-2, and seem very comfortable with their ability to impose their will when necessary.
Never even close
On a day where Brett Favre accounted for three turnovers, one would assume that the turnout of the game would have been drastically different.
An early Favre fumble, recovered for a touchdown by Cincinnati safety Chinedum Ndukwe looked to set the wheels in motion for a devastating upset. Trailing by seven points after less than three minutes of play wasn’t the way the Jets were supposed to begin their return from the bye week.
Refusing to be rattled by the quick score, Favre brought the offense back out on the field and executed at will.
The Jets responded to the turnover with a long-drive, capped off nicely courtesy of a Thomas Jones touchdown. Jones needed to have a big day against Cincinnati as he had been stuck on one rushing touchdown since Week One.
And when the smoke cleared, he was the man that found the end zone for all three of the Jets’ touchdowns.
More important than the points, however, was the defense’s ability to completely shut down any attempts at a successful drive. Outside of a late second-quarter series, the Bengals offense was stifled by the Jets’ pass-rush and dominant run defense.
Bengals’ running backs Chris Perry and Cedric Benson combined for 20 yards on 15 carries. And backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick provided the only sparks on the ground as he was forced to scramble to evade heavy pressure.
So, how big is the playbook anyway?
The Jets showed the Bengals’ defense no respect whatsoever as they called the same plays on multiple occasions. Quick screen-passes to the wide receivers and runs straight up the gut would be called two or three times in the same drive.
New York challenged them to stop what was working, and Cincinnati couldn’t respond. As boring as it may have been to watch, it was an intelligent strategy by the Jets. Why allow future opponents an opportunity to have film on some of the better plays?
However, it was aggravating for fans that wanted to see New York pad their lead even more. Despite a 12-point victory, the final score was a lot closer than the game should have been.
Favre relied heavily on his pump-fake to lure the defense away from draw plays and reverses. It was effective for gaining yardage, but became predictable as the game progressed. But it was evident that the team didn’t feel threatened by the Bengals on either side of the ball.
It seems as if the coaches didn’t care that an offensive drive would stall. There was so much confidence in the defense’s ability to tame the Bengals that everyone felt safe playing the game as if it were a practice session.
The special-teams we know and love
The smudge Kevin O’Dea placed on the special-teams has been completely wiped away by Mike Westhoff’s unit. The field position the Jets received for the entire game was immaculate. It’s probably why fans are so aggravated with only 26 points.
Leon Washington sliced through the Bengals’ punt-coverage, slipped through tight wedges on kick returns, and gave his offense the shortest playing field he possibly could.
More importantly, the Jets allowed next to nothing on kick returns. Wallace Wright would zip down the field to stop returns before they hit the 20-yard line. And Reggie Hodges was phenomenal in his first action, punting balls the Bengals couldn’t return and pinning them inside their own five.
The Jets’ commitment to establishing the run was on display. Thomas Jones played like he was dedicated to helping the team move the chains, forcing time off the clock and placing the game even further out of the Bengals’ reach.
Favre will always be Favre—taking what a defense gives him, and forcing what they don’t. But his efficiency and growing rapport with Coles and Cotchery is only making the Jets an even tougher team. Calling audibles and making adjustments on the fly were missing from the Jets’ offense during the first quarter of the season.
Defensively, the Jets are not the team to run against, nor is it safe for a quarterback to take his time. They force off-balanced throws, and disrupt the timing for quarterbacks and their receivers.
However, it would be nice to see some more turnovers. The Jets’ secondary is very young, but with the front-seven applying so much pressure, it would be wonderful to see more interceptions capitalizing on crucial quarterback errors.
With an away game to Oakland coming up next, the Jets are in another situation where they won’t feel too threatened by a struggling club. Brett Favre and his receivers could have a big day against their secondary, but the defense will need to try and contain an Oakland offense with so many weapons.