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After an entire season of sloppy, ulcer-inducing, down-to-the-wire drama, the Jets walked away with a decisive 37-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, improving to 8-5 and keeping their playoff hopes very much alive.
Conference losses from the Bengals, Titans and Raiders put the Jets into the final wild card spot in the current playoff picture. If the playoffs were to start today, the Jets would face the No.3 seeded New England Patriots. More on what that might mean at a later date.
For now, all that’s important to note is that they control their own destiny.
Many people’s first response to this victory is that the Chiefs aren’t very good (this being one of the reasons why they fired their head coach Monday). And while it is true, the Chiefs aren’t very good, let’s not completely discount what the Jets were able to do on Sunday. The Jets dominated all three phases of the game, and gave the league a glimpse of what they can expect from the Gang Green as the enter the final stretch of their playoff push.
Here are three things from this game that we can take with us heading into the final three games of the season:
Mark Sanchez had a solid game on Sunday, becoming the first Jet to complete two rushing and two passing touchdowns in the same game (Aaron Rodgers was the only other quarterback to accomplish the feat this season). Sanchez played with a confidence and poise that we have scarcely seen in 2011, and it could not have come at a better time.
Yet, people still found reasons to complain: Sanchez only attempted 21 passes, Sanchez only threw for under 200 yards, Sanchez didn’t throw it to Burress or Keller, Sanchez only threw short screens and check downs, wah, wah, wah.
Do not be deceived by the lack of deep throws. The Chiefs heavy pass rush dictated that the Jets would attack their opponent with ball distribution that resembled long hand-offs. Sanchez explained the plan in his post-game presser to the media and described the effort as “different looks that kind-of kept them off-balance.
It worked. The Jets scored a season high 37 points against a Chiefs defense that only allowed their previous two opponents (the Steelers and Bears) to score 16 total points combined.
While it remains to be seen if the successful play-calling (screen passes! two-tight-end sets!) was more the work of offensive consultant Tom Moore (who agreed to remain in New Jersey for the remainder of the regular season) or offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, it’s clear that the offense has the capability to do what many have thought they could do.
Moore, who worked with Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts before retiring from his duties as offensive coordinator, was originally brought on to help the Jets with their red zone efficiency. In just one shortened off-season, Moore has seen the Jets go from the 28th-ranked Red Zone offense to the league’s No.1-ranked Red Zone offense.
Should be noted Sanchez did attempt several long throws to Plaxico Burress, one of which earned a pass interference call, to keep the defense honest . You can expect the Burress connection to return to form going forward, when match-up dictates, but the low targets (four) were deliberate and not part of some massive conspiracy.
Another fun stat: For the first time ever, Mark boasted a total QBR (ESPN’s made-up Quarterback rating system) higher than AFC East Rival Tom Brady. (80.8 to 77.7). Stop the presses.
Shonn Greene had another fantastic performance on the ground, rushing for a total of 129 yards and 5.4 yards per carry. He found the most success running up the middle, rushing for an impressive 5.9 yards-per-carry on such runs. It was the second-most total rush yards from Greene for the season and it appears that Greene is getting hot at the right time.
The running game totaled 159 yards of offense between Greene, Tomlinson, Powell and Sanchez on 42 attempts, the highest of the season. When McKnight returns from his elbow injury, he can add another element to the attack.
The two main backs also lead the team in receiving yards, which, again, was part of the Jets game plan. Greene had not previously been integrated into the air attack like Tomlinson, and it was an encouraging step for the lead back going forward.
The Jets have had the most success offensively this season when rushing for 100 yards or more. With the establishment of the running game, the offensive can be balanced. In fact, the Jets had a near 50/50 split passing/rushing.
The Chiefs offense under Tyler Palko is nothing to write home about, but the defense still had a solid day at the office.
The Jets held Kansas City to four total yards and one first down in the first half while Palko had a 6.2 passer rating in that half.
This defense that has “struggled” to generate a pass rush combined for five sacks, the most for the unit since their win over the New England Patriots in last January’s Divisional Championship game.
Palko did somewhat recover in the second half and the defense did allow him to throw one touchdown pass to wide receiver Jerheme Urban late in the fourth quarter. The offense was still only able to complete two third downs and enter the red zone once.
Jim Leonhard had the Jets only interception of the day off a Palko pass to Steve Breaston in the second quarter. Unfortunately, Leonhard tore his patellar tendon on the play and will miss the remainder of the season.