- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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Pacman Jones is full of it: Bengals cornerback Adam Jones accused WR David Nelson of dirty play, saying he used cut blocks after plays were over. Jones said there were "three real cheap shots after the play." He believes Nelson should be fined for those three plays.
Jones is stretching the truth.
I studied every play on the coaches' tape, which shows all 22 players, and the game unfolded exactly the way Nelson said it did: He used one cut-block on Jones (no penalty). There was also the unnecessary-roughness penalty on Nelson, which I thought was a borderline call. If anything, Jones sparked the tension by head slapping Nelson on a running play late in the second quarter. No one has made mention of that. As Nelson walked to the huddle after blocking downfield, he received a slap from behind by Jones. There was no penalty. Based on what was visible on tape, this was the first sign of trouble.
Midway through the third quarter, Nelson cut Jones away from the ball on a third-and-1 run by Bilal Powell. There was no flag, but Jones clearly didn't like it. Powell was tackled on the right hashmark. Nelson took down Jones about eight yards away, just inside the painted number on the left side. Powell already was down, but Nelson didn't see that because his back was to the play. I could see why Jones was angry, but Nelson was merely carrying out his assignment.
Nelson was flagged on the final play of the third quarter, a four-yard run by Powell. Nelson and Jones were running shoulder to shoulder toward the play, and Nelson lowered his left shoulder into Jones, who went flying -- a bit of a sell job, in my opinion. Jones got the call, though, and immediately started jawing with the Jets' sideline. That's probably when he told Nelson he was going to find out where he lives and come for him, typical in-game trash talk that was blown out of proportion.
Bottom line: Nelson isn't the cheap-shot artist that Jones made him out to be. In 36 career games, Nelson has been penalized only three times. Previously, he was flagged for an illegal shift and pass interference, both in 2011 with the Buffalo Bills.
Combo platter: Rex Ryan said the defensive game plan revolved around using four-man rushes, allowing them to drop seven into coverage against the Bengals' many receiving options. Obviously, the result was disastrous, but after breaking down the tape, it looks like Ryan called more pressure schemes than he let on. Unofficially, the Jets sent more than four rushers on 11 of 28 dropbacks by Andy Dalton (not counting three quick screens), a percentage not far off their usual amount.
Ryan was right about one thing: Nothing worked. They got beat every which way, whether it was a three-man rush or a six-man rush. Consider the grisly numbers by Dalton:
Three-man rushes: 2-for-2, 23 yards, two TDs.
Four-man rushes: 9-for-14, 184 yards, one TD, one interception, one sack.
Five-man rushes: 3-for-4, 63 yards, one TD.
Six-man rushes: 3-for-7, 46 yards, one TD.
Basically, it was a Murphy's Law kind of day.
Mo and Cro: DE Muhammad Wilkerson, commenting on the lack of a pass rush (one cheap sack), suggested the cornerbacks needed to do a better job of holding up receivers at the line of scrimmage. He's right, but there's more to the story. Dalton took several deep shots downfield, meaning there were legitimate opportunities for the pass rush to get home. On the two longest pass plays, a pair of 53-yarders to A.J. Green, it was a combination of both.
CB Antonio Cromartie, continuing his disappointing season, gave a 10-yard cushion at the line of scrimmage. Green was into the secondary in no time, and a four-man rush failed to pressure Dalton. On the other 53-yarder, the Jets rushed four (including S Dawan Landry), dropping seven into zone coverage. Once again, Cromartie gave a huge cushion. Green blew past him and CB Kyle Wilson to make the catch on an underthrown ball. Dalton needed only 3.0 seconds to unload the pass, and he was hit by Wilkerson on the release, so it's hard to blame the pass rush there.
This is hard to quantify, but it certainly seems like Ryan, known for his aggressive, man-to-man coverage schemes, is playing more zone (or more "off" man) than usual. Maybe he's taking a conservative approach because he doesn't trust his corners in press man.
Can't keep up with the Jones: The Dalton-Marvin Jones tandem was scalding hot. Dalton was 8-for-8 when he targeted Jones, resulting in four touchdowns and 15.3 yards per attempt, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Dalton was only 11-for-22, with one TD and a 9.2 average when targeting other receivers. Maybe the Jets should've doubled Jones.
Geno and pick-sixes: QB Geno Smith took the blame for his two interceptions, but I'm not sure the first one was his fault. Jeremy Kerley was listed as the intended receiver, but there appeared to be a miscommunication. Kerley and Nelson ran out routes in the same area, Nelson slightly deeper. Smith's throw looked to be headed for Nelson, who was open, but CB Chris Crocker -- covering Kerley -- stuck out his left arm and plucked the ball out of the air for a terrific interception. I'm not sure if it had an affect on Smith, but LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson got knocked on his rear end by DE Michael Johnson.
The second pick-six was Smith's fault. He looked for TE Zach Sudfeld on a skinny post, but he wasn't open against the Bengals' Cover-2 look. Smith went to Nelson in the left flat, but Jones read it beautifully and took it to the house. Cardinal rule of quarterbacking: Never throw late to the outside.
Ge-NO!: This was an unusual game for Smith in that he averaged only 4.9 air yards per attempt, his lowest of the season, per ESPN Stats & Info. He joined Matt Schaub, Chad Henne, Christian Ponder, Brandon Weeden and Eli Manning (twice) as the only quarterbacks to throw multiple interceptions on throws of five yards or less in a game. Those quarterbacks were 0-7 in those games.