AFC East: Jets-Bengals 010910
Ochocinco sat down with the NFL Network after Pro Bowl practice Wednesday. On the panel were host Rich Eisen and analysts Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin.
Revis' name was broached almost immediately.
"We have a guy that's had one great season, and we want to label him a shutdown corner," Ochocino said.
Sanders interrupted, "He is that, Chad."
"Child, please," Ochocinco replied. "When you came into the game, you did it over a period of time. He's got to put in years."
Ochocinco's contention was that the phrase "shutdown corner" can't be earned in one season. He had support from Irvin, but was antagonized by Sanders throughout the interview.
"He had a good game," Ochocinco said.
"Two of them," Sanders added with a smile.
"Child, please, on that first game," said Ochocinco, who was pulled at halftime along with the Bengals other top players.
"He's good, but the people around him also make him good. Nobody talks about that front line, putting pressure on the quarterback with in two seconds where that ball's got to come out of there.
Eisen asked Ochocinco for his thoughts about the one-on-one interview Sanders did with Revis before the Jets played the San Diego Chargers in the playoffs. In a name-association drill, Revis called Randy Moss and Terrell Owens slouches.
Ochocinco looked astonished.
"Is he for real?" Ochocinco said.
The Bengals were tied with the New York Jets and driving in the second quarter of the Jan. 9 wild-card playoff game in Paul Brown Stadium. Nine plays into their series, the Bengals had advanced to the Jets' 41-yard line. It was third-and-6. Carson Palmer took the shotgun snap and got foolish.
Chad Ochocinco, split right and with the NFL's best cover cornerback playing him heads up, released to get outside and flew. Not even a single move, much less a double move.
Palmer took three steps and fired a back-shoulder throw to Ochocinco that never arrived. Revis, defending the inside, rotated his entire body counterclockwise and snatched the underthrown ball. He spun once more to gather his feet and dashed 20 yards.
Four plays later, the Jets scored a touchdown and took a lead they never surrendered. Revis' play was pivotal -- literally and figuratively.
"When you have a choice, you're going to avoid him like the plague," ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said. "I was shocked Carson Palmer took that shot. I'm shocked they'd even go there. That's usually a route you use to take advantage of a corner that doesn't belong because you know he can't make the play."
If offenses should know anything about playing the Jets, it's that Revis almost certainly will make the play.
More dominant pass coverage is almost unfathomable. Revis has become the NFL's preeminent lockdown cornerback, drawing comparisons to Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson and propelling the Jets' defense to the top of the charts.
Revis finished the regular season with six interceptions and a league-leading 37 passes defensed. He will be a major concern for the San Diego Chargers' prolific aerial attack Sunday in Qualcomm Stadium.
"I don't like the term 'shutdown corner' because I think that's hard to find, and it gets thrown around pretty loosely," Chargers head coach Norv Turner said, "but I think I might use that term with Revis. He's awfully impressive on tape. He just goes after it, and he plays every play like this game is meant to be played, and he is very impressive."
As unlikely as that would have seemed when the playoff seeds were settled, the potential skyrocketed when the Jets and Baltimore Ravens notched road upsets in the first round.
Ryan, who spent a decade with the Ravens defense before joining the Jets, discussed the possibility Sunday on a conference call with Jets reporters.
"I think both of us would sign up for that right now," Ryan said. "It would be a great accomplishment for both teams to get to the championship game. I wouldn't feel so bad if we sent them home packing, that's for sure, but I respect that group so much."
Both teams would need to win on the road again this weekend. The Jets visit the San Diego Chargers in Qualcomm Stadium, and the Ravens play the Indianapolis Colts in Lucas Oil Stadium.
A Ravens-Jets AFC championship is the only way another game will be played in Giants Stadium before they tear it down.
"Certainly if that would be the case, it would be great," Ryan said. "When somebody asked me for what scenario I would like to see the most, it would be us hosting the Ravens for a lot of reasons.
"Not saying the Ravens are going to be less of an opponent because that's ridiculous, but just because I have a lot of personal friends on that staff and on that team. I'm excited for their players and really for that organization."
Ryan believes his old players are hankering for that matchup, too.
"There's no question," Ryan said. "They know what's happening. They can look at it statistically. They can look at it any way they want. We played each other in the preseason. [Ravens coach John Harbaugh] and I talked then about it: 'Hey, let's meet in the playoffs.' We both thought that would be a heck of an idea.
"I'd love to see that happen, but we've both got a lot of work to do before that's a possibility."
A look at a player who could be a difference-maker this weekend.
Compared to his rookie season with the New York Jets, tight end Dustin Keller's numbers were worse across the board this year.
Fewer receptions, fewer yards, fewer touchdowns, more turnovers.
Then came Saturday's playoff game and -- whammo! -- Keller reminded everyone why the Jets used a late first-round draft choice on him. They thought Keller could become a weapon, a pass-catching mismatch to open up the offense.
Keller caught three passes for 99 yards and a touchdown in the first-round postseason victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. He also made the critical block to clear a path for Shonn Greene's 39-yard touchdown run.
Now that's an X-factor: a player capable of materializing almost out of nowhere and providing substantial contributions to victory.
"Here's a guy where everybody realizes what his strengths are: speed and the ability to catch the football," Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "He's a matchup problem for defenses."
Keller erupted a couple of times during the season. On opening day, he had four receptions for 94 yards to help the Jets beat the Houston Texans. In Week 8 against the Miami Dolphins, he had eight catches for 76 yards and a touchdown.
"He is a dangerous player," Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. "If you want to cover him with one guy, then surely we can exploit that. We have a lot of confidence in him. He’s a very dangerous type of athlete."
So there's no sense in asking him about head-coaching vacancies. Schottenheimer, one the NFL's hottest assistants, couldn't discuss them if he wanted to.
After Saturday's 24-14 playoff victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Paul Brown Stadium, Jets head coach Rex Ryan bemoaned what he claimed is the near-certain loss of Schottenheimer after this season.
"I realize we're probably only going to have him for as long as we're in this tournament," Ryan said, "but we're enjoying it right now."
Schottenheimer might not be interested in leaving the Jets
On Sunday, he reiterated his comments from last week that he's content with the Jets. He said he's fascinated by their future with rookies such as Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene and young Pro Bowl linemen Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson.
"I'd love to be a head coach, but I say that with an asterisk," Schottenheimer said. "That's my dream, but I want to be a head coach when the time is right, when the situation is right. I don't want to just take a job to take a job.
"For the first time in three years, I'm really, really happy. I'm happy working for Rex. I love the area. I love the Jets fans. I love what we've done. I love the guys on our roster."
That didn't sound like an ode to Jets head coach Eric Mangini.
Neither does this:
"In the past couple years, I've been looking [for head-coaching jobs] and hoping it works out," Schottenheimer said. "This year is totally different. I'm in a really happy spot in my life.
"I hope it happens at some point down the line, but I won't be disappointed if I'm here the next five or six years."
Schottenheimer's father, Marty, has been a rumored candidate for the Bills' opening because of a close friendship with new general manager Buddy Nix. Some fans fancy the idea of both Schottenheimers coming to Buffalo.
"I think his days on the sidelines are over," Brian Schottenheimer said.
I asked Brian Schottenheimer if both Schottenheimers have discussed a situation where the father would serve under the son.
"We joke about it more than anything," Brian Schottenheimer said. "I always say I want to pay him back for all the long hours I worked under him.
"He's really happy being retired. He's enjoying being a fan, and he's there for counsel with me and is always good at giving me feedback.
"Besides, I probably couldn't afford him."
It was in the second half of the team's Week 16 road game against the Indianapolis Colts. Schottenheimer was trying to navigate his rookie quarterback to a desperately needed victory and keep the Jets' playoff hopes beating.
Mark Sanchez was playing decently. Schottenheimer pounded the run, but Sanchez managed to complete nine straight passes and 10 of 11 from the first quarter into the third. Then Sanchez misfired on four consecutive throws. He skulked off the field for a punt.
"He came over to the sideline and said something to me he's never said to me before," Schottenheimer told me Sunday. "He said 'Hey, how about giving me something easy so I can get a completion and get back on a streak?'
"And I thought, 'Wow.' I just stopped. It kind of floored me. I was, like, 'Absolutely!'"
Sanchez, by Jove, had gotten it. Schottenheimer interpreted the quick exchange as an indicator Sanchez finally had absorbed the team concept and no longer was hell bent on trying to win the game on every play.
"I've seen a transformation," Schottenheimer said.
Sanchez has been a different quarterback the past few weeks. The Jets seemingly were doomed less than a month ago because of his reckless play, but he gathered himself. The Jets won their last two regular-season games to slip into the playoffs.
On Saturday, they eliminated the Cincinnati Bengals 24-14. Sanchez completed 12 of 15 attempts for 182 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. The Jets will play the San Diego Chargers on Sunday in Qualcomm Stadium.
"The light did kind of come on," said Schottenheimer, whose play calling has been virtuosic. "That takes all of us awhile to realize I'm a part of the process and not the only thing involved."
How do you get through to a hotshot rookie who experienced greatness at USC, won his first three NFL games and was asked to send his cleats to the Pro Football Hall of Fame while still only 22 years old?
"A lot of things came fast and easy to the guy," Schottenheimer said. "He had to get knocked down a little bit."
Many observers didn't give them a shot to get past the Cincinnati Bengals in Paul Brown Stadium. The Jets won 24-14 and will meet the San Diego Chargers next Sunday in Qualcomm Stadium.
Ryan on Sunday explained why he distributed a long-term playoff agenda rather than taking it game by game.
"I just wanted to paint a picture for them," Ryan said. "Sometimes when you get in the playoffs, I think you think it's 'Wow, we're in the playoffs,' but is it really reality to think you can win the Super Bowl? When you lay it out in front of them, I think they can visualize it and realize that 'Hey, man, if we take care of business, play the way we know we're capable, we can get this done.'
"I truly believe in this football team. I believe in our players. I believe in our coaches. I believe in this organization. To me, I just wanted to make sure that they were aware of what's in front of us. I wanted to lay that schedule out to let them know that, 'Hey, we've been preparing for this. Whether they realize this or not, we've been preparing all season to get to where we are right now, and let's take advantage of it.' "
What a turn of events in the AFC East. The New York Jets barely slip into the playoffs yet advance to the second round with an impressive victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. The New England Patriots cruise to the division title and get bounced in the first round by a team they beat in Week 4.
For one game at least, the New York Jets defied that line of thinking.
Rookie running back Shonn Greene erupted for 135 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's 24-14 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Paul Brown Stadium. The NFL's third-leading rusher, Thomas Jones, had 34 yards and a touchdown.
That run game helped rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez tremendously.
ESPN Stats & Information extracted the Jets' play-action portfolio from Saturday and found some remarkable numbers.
Sanchez completed five of his six play-action passes for 107 yards and a touchdown. Sure, tight end Dustin Keller sprinted for most of those yards on his 45-yard touchdown, but what helped clear Keller's path was Cincinnati's aggression in trying to stop what they thought would be a run.
Sanchez had an 83.3 completion percentage and a 158.3 passer rating with play-action.
In the regular season, he completed 51.7 percent of his play-action passes with three touchdowns and seven interceptions and a 59.1 passer rating.
The critics weren't clueless. No, there were plenty of clues about Mark Sanchez scattered throughout the New York Jets' season.
What we saw was the truth: a reckless rookie who didn't comprehend the NFL yet, who was costing his team games and, almost inevitably, the playoffs.
Then how in the world did we get here?
Sanchez is headed to the second round of the playoffs after a 24-14 AFC wild-card victory Saturday over the Cincinnati Bengals in frigid Paul Brown Stadium. Sanchez became the fourth rookie quarterback to win his postseason debut. He was nearly flawless.
"I think he's tired of hearing that he's the weak link of our football team instead of being a part of our success," Jets coach Rex Ryan said.
Sanchez, with a superbly conducted game plan from offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, threw only three incomplete passes. One of them should have been a 41-yard touchdown strike -- except Braylon Edwards dropped it cleanly in the end zone. Sanchez otherwise looked like Chad Pennington, matriculating the Jets downfield by letting the players around him do most of the work.
Sanchez completed a dozen passes for 182 yards and one touchdown with zero interceptions.
Delusional Jets fans might scoff at all the criticism heaped on Sanchez -- from this writer, too -- and claim we missed all the signs of a maturing stud.
Fact is, not even the Jets glimpsed this Sanchez until recently. Behind the scenes, a new player was materializing. We're to believe we finally saw it on display in arctic Cincinnati.
"I see him getting better and better each day on the practice field," Ryan said. "His command of the offense is much better.
"He was all over me on the sideline for calling a timeout. I said 'Settle down, kid. We wanted to call a timeout there.' But he was 'Well, I know the coverage!' Hey, that's great. I was about to say 'It's about time.' "
Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold said they began to notice a difference in Sanchez three weeks ago. What fortuitous timing. The Jets had to win their final two regular-season games to loft a playoff prayer.
"I just feel like the last three weeks have been smarter," Sanchez said. "I've played with the utmost care for the football. I don't want us to get beat. I've seen what helps us win, and that's our running game and our defense and throwing the ball when we have to. But I also know what gets us beat, and that's turnovers. That's been the story for our season."
Four times this year, Sanchez threw three or more interceptions. Believe it or not, the Jets went 0-4 in those games.
But sometimes a switch gets turned inside a young player's head. Perhaps that kind of revelation occurred for Sanchez after months of the Jets badgering him to protect the ball and himself. The Jets had to color-code his wristband to help him understand. His progression went from honors courses to Romper Room.
And now it seems like he's finally gotten it. The Jets have won six of their past seven games.
"I've been spending some time with him, talking to him constantly every day," Jets fullback Tony Richardson said. "When you have the No. 1 rushing team, No. 1 overall defense, those situations don't come along very often. I think he understands that.
"I told him before the game, 'You don't have to have some outer-body experience today. Just go out and play the game, the same game you've been playing since you were a kid.'"
Schottenheimer's oversight has been crucial to Sanchez's sudden maturity.
Schottenheimer devised a Sanchez-friendly game plan that minimizes the risks and emphasizes pitch-and-catch plays that would impress Wes Welker. Most of Sanchez's yards were courtesy of long runs by tight end Dustin Keller after the catch.
Keller had three receptions. One was a bootleg pass he turned into a 45-yard touchdown. Another was a rollout dump pass Keller turned into a critical 43-yard gain in the fourth quarter.
"That's really a long handoff, and I get credit for those yards," Sanchez said, looking a tad guilty. "That's like stealing yards."
The Jets' run game was typically unrelenting. Rookie running back Shonn Greene went for 135 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown sprint in the second quarter.
Schottenheimer, mixing in the run and pass despite the potential liability of a Southern California kid making his playoff debut in sub-freezing temperatures, squeezed 317 of the Jets' 353 yards out of a trio with a combined four NFL seasons.
Sanchez is relying on his support staff. He's not single-handedly losing games.
The rookie has showed some growth -- finally.
Ryan noted he's starting to see Sanchez carry himself with the same charisma the club was drawn to when it traded up to draft him fifth overall.
"He was on fire," Ryan said of Saturday's performance. "There was no doubt about it. The thing I was most impressed with was just that confidence that he had.
"He wanted this game in the worst way. He felt confident. He felt comfortable. Like I say, one of these days he's going to be the biggest thing we got on this football team, the best thing we got. Maybe that day's coming sooner rather than later."
We learned after the Jets defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 24-14 the condition was an irregular heartbeat detected moments before the game.
Place-kicker Jay Feely handled the duties.
"I was on the field when I heard it, that Jay was going to have to punt," head coach Rex Ryan said. "About gave me [an irregular heartbeat] also. It's not a funny thing, but it kind of is. We're hoping he's OK, maybe just a little anxiety."
Feely had never punted in an NFL game. He punted once for Michigan in the Rose Bowl and thought he might have punted for one game in high school.
"When we were in the locker room after pregame warm-ups," Feely said, "they came and told me. My first thought was 'Oh, crap.' You go out and try to do your best. That was definitely the most nervous I've been in the NFL before that first punt."
He averaged 31.4 yards on seven punts, but he placed three inside the Bengals' 20-yard line. He sent two of them out of bounds at the 6 and 12. Another was fair caught at the 11.
"I think I'm bad enough that I'm a good pooch punter," Feely said. "There were no directional punts. We tried a little bit, but I just wanted to catch it and get it off."
Said Ryan: "Jay Feely I thought was tremendous. I had no idea he could punt like that."
USC coach Pete Carroll criticized Sanchez for his decision to enter the draft after his junior season. The news Carroll was leaving USC for the Seattle Seahawks gave Sanchez the perfect opportunity to respond moments after winning his playoff debut 24-14 over the Cincinnati Bengals.
"I just wanted everybody to know I completely disagree with his decision," Sanchez said, unable to stifle laughter. "Statistics show that it's not a good choice."
Here's what Carroll said one year ago about Sanchez's decision to enter the draft:
"The facts are so strong against this decision. After analyzing all the information, the truth is there, he should have stayed for another year. He lost out on a chance to fully prepare himself. The facts are there's a 62 percent failure rate for underclassmen quarterbacks."
Statistics certainly didn't look like a failure Saturday. He finished with only three incomplete passes -- one of them a dropped touchdown by Braylon Edwards -- and a 139.4 passer rating.
"I talk to Coach a bunch," Sanchez said of Carroll, the former Jets and New England Patriots coach. "I told him I was going to hammer him about it. I wish him the best, whatever happens, whether he stays in school or not."
Cincinnati Bengals fans tried to justify away what happened in the season finale as the result of circumstances. The Bengals didn't need to win that game. The Bengals rested their players. The Bengals didn't want to show any of their cards heading into the playoffs.
Now they can show their cards to their caddies and their cruise captains because the Jets sent them on vacation for the next few months.
The Jets might've gotten lucky by slipping into the playoffs with a lot of outside help, but they showed they belonged by eliminating the AFC North champs 24-14 in Paul Brown Stadium.
Six days after the Jets shredded the Bengals at the Meadowlands, they did it again in Cincinnati.
The Jets outplayed them at almost every position. Behind an offensive line that boasts three Pro Bowlers, a trio of players with a combined four seasons of NFL experience led the way.
Rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez was impressive. He threw only three incomplete passes on 15 attempts for 182 yards and one touchdown.
Rookie running back Shonn Greene ran 21 times for 135 yards and a touchdown.
On each of those scores, second-year tight end Dustin Keller played a significant role. He caught Sanchez's bootleg toss and rumbled 45 yards into the end zone with a few Bengals on his back. He made the pivotal block to spring Greene on his 39-yard run.
Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer was the lesser USC quarterback. He was 18-36 for 146 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Factor in the sacks, and the Bengals finished with 111 net passing yards.
But Chad Ochocinco did catch a pass. Two, actually, for 28 yards. I'm sure Darrelle Revis will get over it.
The Bengals have committed a pair of giveaways in Jets territory, have lost players to injury, failed to overturn two challenges (forfeiting their rights for the rest of the game) and have committed four penalties for 35 yards.
And the Jets get the ball to start the second half.
If not for a pair of long returns that gave the Bengals glorious field position in the first quarter, the Jets would be in total control.
Mark Sanchez is out-quarterbacking Carson Palmer. Sanchez has completed 7 of 10 passes for 94 yards, the biggest chunk coming on a 45-yard bootleg pass to tight end Dustin Keller for a touchdown.
Keller sprung the first touchdown, too. He made the critical block that opened up the lane for Shonn Greene's 39-yard touchdown sprint up the sideline.
Palmer has struggled, and his job will get even tougher while playing from behind and with a pair of injured receivers. Palmer is 8-14 for 48 yards and one touchdown with one interception.
Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis has the interception and has shut out Chad Ochocinco for the second time in six days.
Laveranues Coles leads the Bengals with four catches for 33 yards and a touchdown but suffered a thumb injury in the second quarter. Third receiver Andre Caldwell's left ankle got rolled up right before halftime. He is expected to return, but he was limping badly.
On their first two possessions, the Bengals didn't take a snap on their own end of the field and took a 7-0 lead.
Bernard Scott took the opening kickoff 56 yards to the Jets' 36-yard line. Old friend Laveranues Coles fumbled to prevent the Bengals from capitalizing, but they eventually forced a Jets punt and returned it 23 yards to the Jets' 45-yard line.
Seven plays later, Carson Palmer found Coles for an 11-yard touchdown.
Field position could be a struggle for the Jets. Punter Steve Weatherford is out with an illness. Placekicker Jay Feely is handling the duties.
But Feely just lofted a 37-yarder that was fielded at the Bengals' 11-yard line.