New York Jets: Matt Mulligan
Antonio Cromartie said he knew certain plays because he recognized the pre-snap audibles.
"He ran his game and didn't try to change it," Cromartie said after the Jets' 27-13 win over the Rams Sunday. "Some of their checks, I knew what they were ... I recognized some of the verbiage they were doing."
The Jets were on their heels on the first possession, as the Rams marched 13 plays for 86 yards. Sam Bradford hit a wide-open Brandon Gibson for a 1-yard TD pass -- on fourth down -- confusing the Jets with their formation.
There was some irony. In six seasons as the Jets' offensive coordinator, Schottenheimer was often criticized for the offense's inability to score on its opening drive.
"I thought Schotty did a nice job of keeping us off balance that first drive," Rex Ryan said. "As the game went on, I thought defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and everyone did a great job of really playing fundamentals and the communication got much better, and we made some plays up front so I think that was huge.”
After the first drive, the Rams were held to 195 total yards -- but only 79 yards in the second and third quarters. Bradford was sacked only once, but he was pressured several times by the blitzing Jets.
Schottenheimer wasn't available after the game. He downplayed the game during the week, but it had to mean a lot to him after being forced out after last season. Several Jets said they exchanged pleasantries with Schottenheimer -- except for RB Joe McKnight, who said he didn't talk to him.
"I didn't even talk to him when he was here," McKnight said.
FLAG SAVES DAY: The Jets' no-longer-reliable special teams dodged a bullet at the end of the second quarter. Chris Givens returned a kickoff 98 yards for an apparent go-ahead score, but it was nullified by a holding penalty on Rodney McLeod. He apparently grabbed Chaz Schilens.
Naturally, Schilens said he was held.
"I was just looking, waiting for them to throw it," he said.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher disputed the call.
"I just saw the replay. It looked like his hands were inside," he said. "The player (Schilens) wouldn't have made the play. When the player throws his arms up in the air like that, sometimes it gets called. It didn't look to me like it was an egregious hold."
SLOW TOE: Ryan razzed LB Bart Scott for getting run down by former Jets TE Matt Mulligan on a 38-yard fumble return.
"I was shocked because Matthew Mulligan has never run that fast in his life," Ryan said. "It was great play by Mully and a good play by Bart to pick that ball up and was running with it. He will be quick to tell you that because of a toe injury he was walked down by Mulligan."
ODDS AND ENDS: DE Muhammad Wilkerson recorded the Jets' only sack, his second of the season ... S Eric Smith, who played in the nickel, made his first interception of the year ... Rookie WR Stephen Hill continued to struggle. He had another dropped pass and was held without a catch for the second straight game, the fourth game overall ... NT Kenrick Ellis (knee) and DB Aaron Berry (quadriceps) suffered injuries. No update was given ... RT Austin Howard and RB Bilal Powell allowed sacks ... Kyle Wilson replaced Jeremy Kerley as the punt returner. Kerley muffed a punt last week and was slowed by heel and hamstring injuries.
Position: Tight end
Projected starter: Dustin Keller.
Projected reserves: Jeff Cumberland, Josh Baker.
New faces: Hayden Smith.
Going, going, gone: Matthew Mulligan.
Player to watch: This is a big year for Keller on a couple of levels. Without a proven wide receiver opposite Santonio Holmes, he'll be the No. 2 option in the passing attack. It's also a contract year for Keller, who would like to sign a long-term extension but has received a cool response from the organization. The message is clear: Play out your final year and maybe we'll talk. Keller has steadily improved each year and he could be poised for big numbers. Holmes figures to draw the double coverage, which should create matchup advantages for Keller.
Potential strength: This is an athletic group, with Keller, Cumberland and Baker all capable of making plays in the passing game. Considering the lack of experience at receiver, new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano could lean on the tight ends early in the season to generate a chunk of the passing game, as all three tight ends are capable of lining up anywhere in the formation. You'll see Baker, an H-Back, in the backfield on occasion. A creative mind could do some nice things with this group.
Potential weakness: Blocking, blocking and blocking. It's hard to operate a smashmouth running attack when you don't have a true blocking tight end. Yeah, Mulligan was a penalty machine, but at least he had the ability to seal an edge. Keller has improved as an in-line blocker, but it's not his forte. Cumberland is a former wide receiver and Baker is only 244 pounds. Smith, the former rugby star, has the size and tenacity, but he's more raw than sushi. The Jets are on the look-out for a blocking tight end, an essential part on Sparano's system.
Wild card: Cumberland made the team out of camp last year and was poised to be a contributor, but he blew out his Achilles' tendon in Week 3. He looked fine in the recent minicamp, an encouraging sign. Cumberland bulked up to 260 pounds, which should help his blocking. He's an interesting player because the raw talent is there.
1. Blocking tight end. Honestly, did you ever think we'd be wondering how the Jets will replace Matthew Mulligan? Right now, they don't have a pure blocking tight end on the roster. The No. 2 is Jeff Cumberland, a former college wide receiver with limited blocking skills. Look for the Jets to add a veteran at some point. A silver lining: Contrary to popular belief, new OC Tony Sparano isn't married to two-tight end formations. The Dolphins used two-plus tight ends for only 267 plays last season, fewer than all but six teams, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
2. Backup center. Nick Mangold showed last season that he's not indestructible, so they can't take this for granted. In minicamp, LG Caleb Schlauderaff worked as the No. 2 center, but he has no game experience at the position. It would behoove the Jets to address this issue.
3. Veteran depth at wide receiver. Rex Ryan said last week he's comfortable with the current group; he also said they haven't reached out to Braylon Edwards. Clearly, the Jets want to give rookie Stephen Hill, slot man Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens every opportunity to be the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 receivers. They're putting a lot of faith in Schilens, an occasional starter in four injury-plagued seasons with the Raiders. It might not be a bad idea to bring in some insurance.
4. Punter. T.J. Conley was so-so last season, finishing 18th in net average. His competition is Travis Baltz, who has no regular-season experience. The top free-agent punters are Daniel Sepulveda, Brad Maynard and Mat McBriar. Conley will get the preseason, but the Jets will have an eye on the market.
5. Cornerback depth. With the growth of spread offenses, cornerback depth is vital. The nickelback probably will play about 50 percent of the snaps, making him a 12th starter, so to speak. The Jets' top three corners are as good as any team in the league, but there's a considerable drop-off. Right now, Ellis Lankster and Isaiah Trufant are the fourth and fifth corners, respectively. They could use another experienced hand. Did someone say Drew Coleman? He's available; the Jets should sign him back.
It would cost the Jets about $1.3 million to tender Mulligan, a move that would give them the right of first refusal, but they're not willing to pay that much for a No. 2 tight end. They could always re-sign him at a later date for a lower salary.
Mulligan started nine games last season and ended up playing roughly 40 percent of the offensive snaps, driving everyone crazy with his penchant for penalties. He was penalized nine times for 64 yards, the second-most on the team. Only RT Wayne Hunter was flagged more often than Mulligan. What made Mulligan's miscues so maddening is that six penalties were of the pre-snap variety. He was used primarily as a blocker, finishing with only five receptions.
Position: Tight ends
Overall grade: 8.5
Depth chart: Dustin Keller (12 starts/891 plays), Matthew Mulligan (9/473), Vladimir Ducasse (1/59), Jeff Cumberland (0/48), Josh Baker (0/38).
2011 headline: Keller Makes History.
Gold star: Keller.
Stat check: Keller (65 receptions) became the first tight end since Mickey Shuler in 1985 to lead the team in catches.
Analysis: Thanks to a strong finish, Keller set career highs in receptions and yards (815) and tied a career high in touchdowns (five). In fact, he finished sixth among tight ends in receiving yards. Each year, Keller gets better and better and that bodes well for him, considering he's heading into the final year of his contract.
He was the only pass catcher that had any sort of chemistry with Mark Sanchez. Keller (65 catches/116 targets) improved his hands (only three drops) and his YAC (4.9). Going forward, he needs to be more productive in division games (20 catches in six games). The AFC East, especially the Patriots, knows how to defend him. They get physical with him at the line of scrimmage, disrupting his ability to get open. If Keller can learn to counter that, he'll be a force.
Mulligan (5 catches/8 targets) wasn't asked to do much -- just block -- and he turned that into an adventure because of his penalties. He committed nine penalties for 64 yards, including six pre-snap penalties. That indicates a lack of focus. As a blocker, Mulligan was good, even dominant at times, but he offset those moments with his mental mistakes. Late in the season, Ducasse fell into Rob Turner's old role as an extra tight end, but he wasn't nearly as good as Turner. It's too bad Cumberland (2 catches/5 targets) blew out his Achilles' tendon in Week 3, because he was starting to make strides as a receiver. If he stayed healthy, Cumberland and Keller would've given the Jets their version of Gronkowski and Hernandez. Well, sort of.
2012 free agents: Mulligan (RFA).
On the bubble: N/A
Note: Play counts, which include penalties, provided by Pro Football Focus.
Player --- Rec. -- Target -- Drops -- Pct. -- YAC
Keller ...... 65 ...... 116 .......... 3 ......... 56.0 ...... 4.92
Holmes .... 51 ...... 102 .......... 2 ........ 50.0 ..... 3.78
Burress...... 45 ....... 97 .......... 3 ........ 46.4 ..... 3.58
Tomlinson .. 42 ...... 61 .......... 3 ........ 68.9 ..... 9.31
Greene ...... 30 ....... 41 .......... 2 ........ 73.2 ..... 6.93
Kerley ........ 29 ....... 46 .......... 1 ......... 63.0 .....3.69
McKnight ... 13 ...... 18 .......... 0 ........ 72.2 ....... 9.08
Mason ....... 13 ...... 21 ........... 1 ........ 61.9 ...... 3.15
Turner ........ 8 ....... 15 ........... 1 ........ 53.3 ...... 3.00
Mulligan ..... 5 ........ 8 ............ 0 ........ 62.5 ...... 8.20
Baker .......... 3 ........ 4 ........... 0 ........ 75.0 ...... 4.67
Cumberland . 2 ...... 5 ............1 ........ 40.0 ...... 8.00
Conner ....... 2 ........ 5 ........... 1 ........ 40.0 ...... 4.50
Powell ........ 1 ........ 1 ........... 0 ....... 100.0 ..... 2.00
Slauson ...... 1 ........ 1 ........... 0 ....... 100.0 ..... 5.00
Analysis: The completion percentages are low, especially for Holmes and Burress. Obviously, some of that goes on QB Mark Sanchez, but it also shows an inability to consistently separate from defenders ... There's an alarming lack of explosiveness among the wideouts. In 2010, Holmes made several big plays after the catch, but he averaged only 3.78 yards-after-catch, very low for a starting receiver ... Impressive YAC total for Keller; it ranked ninth among tight ends ... Also an impressive YAC total for Tomlinson; it ranked 13th among running backs. But, remember, he was only a part-time player ... For a rookie, Kerley was very reliable as a slot receiver ... ESPN Stats is conservative on "drops" -- it has to be fairly blatant for it to count as a drop. The Jets were one of the more surhanded teams in the league, ranking seventh in fewest drops ... Clearly, they needed to make LG Matt Slauson a bigger part of the passing attack. (Joking ... I think.)
Jets coach Rex Ryan called the team into a scrum at midfield of the indoor turf Thursday afternoon soon after the Jets finished stretching before practice. It wasn't part of the regular routine.
He told them the season was still in hand, that playoffs and even a Super Bowl were still possibilities. He tried to fan that flame of possibility in everyone's mind and let them know how rare it was to get a chance at the postseason.
"Today, I just wanted to remind them of the opportunity that's in front of us," Ryan said. "Obviously, it's a little different. For the last two years, we really haven't been in this position. We, obviously, were already in the playoffs last year. The year before, we knew if we won, we were in the playoffs. This is kind of a different scenario than we've had in the last two years. I just wanted to make sure that I just kind of expressed that, 'Hey, we still have a heck of an opportunity still in front of us,' and to basically practice accordingly.
"It was just something I wanted to share with them."
Ryan's emotional speech had an impact on the assembled players, and may have been a way of changing focus from things they can't control -- the three NFL games that have to break their way -- to the one they can control in Miami.
"He's an animal, I love him," tight end Matthew Mulligan said. "Best coach I ever played for. Absolutely. He has different ways of motivating."
Ryan reminded them that players like Archie Manning and Takeo Spikes had tremendous careers, but they never won a Super Bowl. It made center Nick Mangold think back to his rookie year, when the starting center at the time, Pete Kendall, took him under his wing.
"He had played for 10 years, or whatever," Mangold said. "When I first got here, when we had the opportunity to got to the playoffs my rookie year; he was saying he’d only been to the playoffs his rookie year and that was it. I've taken that to heart. Every opportunity you get you got to make the best of it."
A few players mentioned that they have to do the work this week or Ryan will inevitably get the blame, should the Jets fall short of the goals that Ryan isn't afraid to say out loud even now -- the playoffs, the Super Bowl.
"You've got to appreciate a guy who is going to put himself out there, and really show how he cares about this team, this organization, the guys in the locker room," Mangold said. "It's definitely appreciated."
Joe McKnight ... 48 snaps
John Conner ... 25
Bilal Powell ... 18
Shonn Greene ... 8
Dustin Keller ... 57
Matt Mulligan ... 28
Vladimir Ducasse ... 4
Josh Baker ... 1
Santonio Holmes ... 65
Plaxico Burress ... 64
Patrick Turner ... 32
Analysis: Because of existing injuries to LaDainian Tomlinson and Jeremy Kerley and an in-game injury to Greene, this is the wackiest playing-time breakdown of the season. McKnight, Powell and Turner recorded season-highs in playing time ... Holmes and Burress should get endurance awards for playing so many snaps in high altitude on a short week of rest.
SCHOTT IN THE DARK: This performance will be a stain on Brian Schottenheimer's record, which will be reviewed after the season. The Patriots, the lowest-ranked defense in the league, used a makeshift lineup and still had their way with the Jets.
Bill Belichick started two undrafted rookies, S Sterling Moore (who never played safety) and LB Jeff Tarpinian -- neither of whom had played A SINGLE DEFENSIVE SNAP before this game. Moore, a cornerback, appeared in his first game after being called up from the practice squad. In the second quarter, they lost CB Devin McCourty (shoulder) and replaced him with Antwaun Molden, a Texans castoff.
This would be like the Jets having to use S Tracy Wilson (practice squad), LB Nick Bellore and CB Ellis Lankster in prominent roles.
Incredibly, the Jets failed to exploit the patchwork unit. Schottenheimer should've used motions and shifts to create confusion for the untested players, but there was very little of that. The formations remained static. They should've used bunch formations, the way the Patriots did to the Jets' defense, but everything was pretty vanilla. This reminded me of the next-to-last game of the '08 season, when the Jets did nothing against a Seattle offensive line that played all backups -- the game that ultimately cost Eric Mangini his job.
NO PROTECTION: The Jets allowed five sacks. Yeah, that's bad, but it's how they happened that's alarming. Three sacks were four-man rushes and one was a three-man rush. It was nothing exotic, the Patriots just won their one-on-one matchups. QB Mark Sanchez showed no pocket presence whatsoever and contributed to at least two of three sacks.
A review of the sacks.
1. Andre Carter, minus-7: The Patriots rushed four, the Jets protected with six. The Jets were in shotgun, empty backfield. TE Matt Mulligan was assigned to Carter, a bad matchup, and he got beat on an outside rush. Instead of stepping up, Sanchez slid into Carter's path.
2. Carter, minus-8: The Patriots rushed five, the Jets protected with five. Sanchez failed to recognize the front and adjust, and Carter came free, unblocked. Once again, the Jets were in shotgun/empty.
3. Carter/Mark Anderson, minus-9: The Patriots showed a double-slot blitz, but rushed only four. Sanchez, in shotgun, seemed hesitant in his pre-snap read. The Patriots stunted, and LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson and RT Wayne Hunter each got beat.
4. Carter, minus-6. The Patriots rushed four, the Jets protected with five. Again, they were in shotgun. Carter beat Ferguson.
5. Carter, minus-8. This wasn't good -- a three-man rush vs. a five-man protection. Ferguson actually did a decent job on Carter, but Sanchez held the ball too long and scrambled into Carter. Bad pocket presence.
The Patriots played a coverage-based scheme and it neutralized the Jets. In fact, all of Carter's sacks came with six or fewer men in the box -- the most sacks by any player over the last two seasons with six or less in the box, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
SO MUCH FOR GROUND & POUND: The Jets' players and coaches talked all week about how they weren't going to deviate from their run-oriented approach just because the Patriots had the 32nd-ranked pass defense. Ah, but they threw us a curve ball.
The Jets came out throwing on their first possession, going to the air on five of seven plays. They did it on the second drive, too, employing a seldom-used personnel package -- 2 RBs, 0 TEs, 3 WRs. They had the Patriots off balance, but the Jets bailed out as soon as the second drive ended with a sack. After that, it was back to Ground & Pound.
NO-HUDDLE, NO ANSWERS: The Jets reacted to the Patriots' no-huddle as if they had never seen it before. It's a New England staple, and the Jets should've been prepared. They weren't, as Tom Brady went 5-for-5 for 65 yards and one TD in the no-huddle, according to ESPN Stats. The Patriots went no-huddle on 15 of their 67 plays, accounting for 105 total yards.
The Jets were paralyzed because they rely heavily on substitution and the ability to make pre-snap checks. They also confused the Jets with several bunch formations, a great way to counter a team that plays a lot of man-to-man coverage. No doubt, future opponents will go to school on that, hoping to create similar issues.
HOT BRADY: Brady put on a clinic in the second half, completing 14-for-17 for 135 yards, two TDs. He picked on everybody not named Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Smart cookie, Brady. Here's a breakdown of the second-half completions/burn victims:
S Eric Smith -- Four receptions for 46 yards
CB Kyle Wilson -- Four for 44, including a TD
DB Donald Strickland -- Two for 11, including a TD
Others -- Four for 33.
LESS BLITZING: In their previous two home wins over Brady, Ryan blitzed at least one DB a total of 42 times -- and the Jets won both games. This time, there were only 14 blitzes by DBs -- and Brady tore them apart. He completed 10 of 14 passes, averaging 9.2 per attempt, with one TD, per ESPN Stats.
NO TRAFFIC JAM: At 6-foot-6, TE Rob Gronkowski is a tough cover -- we get it -- but the Jets didn't do a good job of making it hard for him. On both his TDs, they gave him a free release, allowing him to get into his pass route with no difficulty. On the first TD, he beat Smith on a post route. On the second TD, Smith blitzed Brady from the blindside, and almost got there, but Brady made a great read, spotting Strickland on Gronk. No contest.
ON THE FLIP SIDE: The Patriots did a great job of jamming TE Dustin Keller. On Sanchez's second INT, returned for a TD by Rob Ninkovich, Keller was doubled at the line and knocked to the ground by LB Tracy White, another bottom-of-the-depth chart player. Sanchez, looking for Keller, turned his focus to LaDainian Tomlinson and ... well, you saw what happened.
A shift in offensive philosophy -- back to power football -- resulted in increased playing time for FB John Conner and backup TE Matt Mulligan. It also meant less playing time for the No. 3 receiver, Jeremy Kerley, who played about half the time as Derrick Mason (the previous No. 3 WR) did in the first quarter.
Here's our unofficial breakdown in terms of percentage of snaps played (allow small margin of error):
Player --- G's 1-4 --- G's 5-8 --- Total P.T.
RB Greene ........ 54% ... 51% ... 53%
RB Tomlinson .... 50% ... 39% ... 45%
FB Conner ........ 20% ... 40% ... 30%
RB McKnight ..... 4% ..... 10% ... 7%
TE Keller .......... 86% ... 75% ... 80%
TE Mulligan ...... 32% ... 53% ... 42%
TE Cumberland . 19% ... 0% .... 10%
TE Baker ............ 0% ..... 7% ..... 4%
WR Holmes ...... 87% ... 90% ..... 89%
WR Burress ..... 79% ... 75% ..... 77%
WR Mason ...... 61% .... 2% ...... 32%
WR Kerley ...... 7% ..... 31% ..... 19%
WR Turner ..... 10% ..... 7% ...... 8%
John Conner ... 42/68 snaps
Shonn Greene ... 32
LaDainian Tomlinson ... 25
Joe McKnight ... 15
Dustin Keller ... 41/68 snaps
Matt Mulligan ... 37
Josh Baker ... 17
Vladimir Ducasse ... 4
Santonio Holmes ... 60/68 snaps
Plaxico Burress ... 46
Jeremy Kerley ... 17
Patrick Turner ... 9
Analysis: The Jets used a lot of two-back sets, resulting in Conner's heaviest workload of the season ... Keller played 27 snaps in the second half after being dazed in the first half on his ill-fated leap ... This marked a career high for Baker, an undrafted free agent. Obviously, his numbers soared in garbage time ... They changed the offensive line on the final five snaps, with Caleb Schlauderaff going in at left guard, LG Matt Slauson replacing Nick Mangold at center and Ducasse replacing RG Brandon Moore.
• Rex Ryan. He did some of his best coaching of the season, getting the Jets through their bye week without allowing them to lose their physical and mental edge. Clearly, Ryan and his staff used the two weeks to their advantage, because they were ready for everything.
• WR Plaxico Burress. He made more headline with his three-TD game against the Chargers, but this was actually a better overall performance -- five catches for 79 yards. Not bad, considering he almost didn't play because of a stiff back.
• NT Sione Pouha. He played perhaps his best game of the season, leading an injury-depleted defensive line. He forced a fumble and led the team in tackles.
• TE Matthew Mulligan. His holding penalty wiped out Shonn Greene's longest run of the season, 41 yards. Mulligan received an earful from teammate Brandon Moore and O.C. Brian Schottenheimer, and he deserved it.
• TE Dustin Keller. What was he thinking? Someone needs to tell him he's not Superman; he can't leap over tall buildings in a single bound -- or even tall defensive backs.
• QB Mark Sanchez. He committed two turnovers -- a red-zone interception and a fumbled shotgun snap. To his credit, Sanchez rallied, but he can't make those big mistakes now that the stakes are getting higher. He also needs to work on his blocking technique.
"Brandon had a really good game yesterday. Schotty coached a realy good game, a lot of play-calls. So I think there's a lot of positive things, never any negative," the tight end said.
Mulligan was asked if he "took offense" to anything Moore or Schottenheimer said.
"A lot of guys had a good game, we all played well," he said. "There’s a few things we could work on this week, little things we could fix."
One thing on Mulligan's to-do list this week should be "avoid penalties."
The third-year veteran is tied with Wayne Hunter for the team lead with five flags. The caveat is Hunter probably plays 50%-60% more snaps than Mulligan.
On Sunday, Mulligan was called for a false start and a holding penalty, costing the Jets 15 yards.
But the holding penalty cost the team much more than that.
The flag nullified a 41-yard run by Shonn Greene. It was a senseless penalty, as Mulligan wasn't even near the play.
Mulligan replaced Dustin Keller in the second quarter after Keller left the game with a head injury. Keller returned to the field in the second half.
ENOUGH SCHOTTS?: A lot of folks were upset with O.C. Brian Schottenheimer because the Jets didn't throw more often against the league's worst pass defense. As Rex Ryan explained, they were intent on running the ball and used their "regular" personnel more than usual, cutting back on their three-receiver packages. But here's a stat that suggests they should've gone to more three-wide formations:
QB Mark Sanchez recorded his second-highest passer rating in 3+ WR formations, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Mind you, the Patriots' pass defense began the day as the worst in the league against 3+ WR packages (8.9 yards per pass attempt).
Sanchez's numbers with 3+ WR on the field:
Completion percentage -- 73.3
Yds/attempt -- 7.7
TD/INT -- 2-0
Passer rating -- 134.7
THIRD-DOWN BLAME: The Jets were awful on third down, failing on their first four tries and finishing 3-for-11. Was there a common thread? Not really.
There was a poor throw by Sanchez (to TE Dustin Keller), a drop by FB John Conner, a late blitz pick-up by RB LaDainian Tomlinson (that resulted in an incompletion) and poor pass protection by the O-line out of an empty set (sack).
And, yes, Schottenheimer deserves some blame, too. On a third-and-6, the Jets went "empty," sending five into pass routes. Problem was, all five ran short routes -- to the sticks or short of the sticks. It's like they anticipated a blitz, but the Patriots rushed only three. Sanchez completed a pass to WR Jeremy Kerley, but for only four yards.
The two third-down conversions were well-designed plays. On a third-and-2 from the Patriots' 16, the Jets ran a "bunch" formation and confused the Patriots, with WR Plaxico Burress getting open on a shallow cross. Actually, Kerley was wide open in the middle of the field and would've scored easily if Sanchez had spotted him. Turns out they scored anyway on Shonn Greene's three-yard run.
Later, Santonio Holmes' 21-yard TD grab came on a third-and-7. He ran a great route, shaking CB Kyle Arrington with a head fake on a corner route. It was great anticipation by Sanchez, who delivered the ball on the money.
SECOND-GUESSING THE GAME PLAN: Schottenheimer is taking a lot of heat for running too much against the Patriots' porous secondary. Frankly, I didn't have a problem with the run-pass ratio. Yeah, maybe they got a little stubborn in the second half, continuing to run on first down even though they weren't as successful as the first half. But, clearly, Ryan wanted to go Ground & Pound to shorten the game and limit Tom Brady's touches -- and it might have worked if the defense had delivered a late stop.
The problem I had with the game plan wasn't how often they threw the ball, but how they threw it. They attempted only two passes over 20 yards, Holmes' TD and the sideline incompletion to Burress (the catch that was overturned by replay). The Patriots were sitting on the short routes all day; the Jets should've tried to stretch the field. It's hard to believe they couldn't find a way to pick on former Jets S James Ihedigbo, never known for his pass coverage. He played the entire game because of an injury to the starter.
CHECK MATE: Ryan said it would be a chess match, and he was right -- except he and D.C. Mike Pettine made the wrong moves on the Patriots' final possession -- a 13-play, 69-yard drive that ended with a game-clinching FG.
Thinking Brady would throw, the Jets used seven DBs on the first four plays, and the Patriots ran for eight, three, 15 and six yards against the smaller personnel. That gave them the momentum. Finally, the Jets got their run stoppers in the game and they got the Patriots into a third-and-4 -- and got fooled again.
The Patriots went with four WRs and the Jets countered with 6 DBs. They were thinking pass, and the Patriots gashed them for 14 yards with a direct snap to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. That put the Patriots into FG range. Game over.
Throughout the game, the Jets were so concerned by Brady that they put six or fewer defenders in the box on 58 of 79 snaps, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Green-Ellis capitalized on the extra room, rushing for 99 yards and a touchdown in those situations.
SWINGS AND MISSES: The Jets missed an inordinate number of tackles -- eight, according to my count. Those missed accounted for 68 extra yards. DT Mike DeVito, one of the best run stoppers, missed tackles on back-to-back plays. S Jim Leonhard also missed two tackles.
ODDS AND ENDS: Here's the downside to LB Aaron Maybin. As soon as he came into the game, on a second-and-24, the Patriots ran an inside draw for eight yards, hitting the gap vacated by Maybin on his outside rush ... CB Kyle Wilson is a tenacious tackler. You won't find too many cornerbacks more physical than him. He's still lacking ball awareness, especially in all-out blitz situations ... Tomlinson made a great block on former Jets DE Shaun Ellis on the nine-yard TD pass to Kerley. It was a well-designed rollout by Sanchez; there should've been more of those ... Excellent block by LG Matt Slauson on Greene's 3-yard TD run ... CB Antonio Cromartie got caught napping on Deion Branch's 2-yard TD catch. If you're wondering why Brady had all day to throw, it's because the Jets rushed only three.
PREDICTABLE START: Whenever a wide receiver gets ignored in a game or complains about not getting the ball enough, the Jets always seem to make a concerted effort to throw to him on the first play of the next game. It happened in Oakland with Plaxico Burress, who made a reception on the first play after being held without a catch the previous week. It's like Brian Schottenheimer's way of pacifying his players.
So, on Sunday night, you knew they'd throw to Santonio Holmes on the first play. Remember, Holmes chirped last week about wanting the ball. Sure enough, Mark Sanchez looked for Holmes on the first play, a quick slant. Thing is, LB Jameel McClain read it, too. He cut off the passing lane by dropping into that zone, forcing Sanchez to pull it down and giving Ed Reed time to blind side Sanchez for his strip sack.
PROTECTION NEEDED: On the two strip sacks, by Reed and DT Haloti Ngata, the Jets didn't keep any RBs or TE's in for extra protection. They had five plays in pass routes, with all the pressure on the five linemen.
KILL SHOT: It flew under the radar, but Brodney Pool made an absolutely devastating block on Bernard Pollard on Joe McKnight's 107-yard kickoff return. If Pool blasted Pollard any harder, he would've sent him to the Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Have a feeling that'll show up on Rex Ryan's "Play Like a Jet" video this week.
NOT PLAYING LIKE A JET: One play that won't show up in the highlight reel will be OLB Jamaal Westerman on Ray Rice's 3-yard TD run. Westerman encountered FB Vonta Leach, the lead blocker, but instead of taking him on, he ducked a shoulder to avoid a head-on collision. It allowed Rice to cut to the inside toward the end zone.
LEAKY LINE: The press-box stats gave the Ravens 10 QB hits on Sanchez, but it may have been more. Looking at the tape, it's hard to assign blame on certain plays because there were unblocked rushers. This much was apparent: LG Matt Slauson surrendered at least two QB hits, C Colin Baxter allowed one and TE Matt Mulligan allowed one (Terrell Suggs on the Lardarius Webb interception).
Obviously, the Jets are concerned with their tight-end blocking. Veteran free agent Brandon Manumaleuna is scheduled for a tryout Tuesday, a source confirmed.
BRILLIANT DISGUISE: Kudos to defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who schemed up a great play to confuse Joe Flacco and force him into an interception (returned for a TD by LB David Harris). The Jets ran a zone blitz with three DBs rushing the passer -- S Eric Smith, CB Kyle Wilson and McKnight (his first play ever on defense). Harris, Calvin Pace and Marcus Dixon faked rushes and dropped into coverage. McKnight created pressure with a corner blitz and Flacco forced a horrible throw.
RUNNING WOES: In an attempt to run the ball and/or protect Sanchez, the Jets used a higher percentage of two-back sets than usual. But it didn't help in the running game. Here's a breakdown of how they ran in three different personnel packages:
2 RB/2 TE/1 WR -- Six rushes for eight yards.
2 RB/1 TE/2 WR -- Five rushes for 15 yards.
1 RB/2 TE/1 WR -- Four rushes for 12 yards.
In other words, on 15 of their 16 designed running plays, they had two RBs and/or two TEs in the game, making it somewhat predictable for the Ravens.
ODDS AND ENDS: Rough game for TE Dustin Keller, who had three drops ... FB John Conner made no effort to recover the loose ball on Ngata's strip sack. Maybe he thought it was a pass, not a fumble, but he should've pursued it anway ... Holmes didn't bother to chase Webb on his 73-yard interception return. Holmes, the intended receiver in the flat, just watched Webb tear down the sideline.