Report Card: Grade-A performance
It was a record opener for the Jets, who set a franchise mark for most points scored in Week 1 -- a 48-28 rout of the Bills. The grades:
Shonn Greene, a notoriously slow starter, came out trucking. He rushed a career-high 27 times for 94 yards, including a touchdown. It was typical Greene -- not too pretty, but he ran aggressively, attacking defenders with his hard-nosed style. On the downside, he fumbled twice. Both were recovered, but Greene, who's had fumbling issues in the past, can't fall into that trap. The Jets finished with 118 rushing yards (only 11 from Tim Tebow) -- hardly vintage Ground & Pound.
Tony Sparano wishes he could take this performance and bottle it. This was a rather dramatic turnaround, considering the abysmal preseason. QB Mark Sanchez, overcoming a dumb, flip-pass interception, displayed outstanding command of Sparano's offense. He made decisive reads and, more often than not, delivered the ball on point. He distributed the ball to seven different receivers. Afforded great protection, Sanchez completed four passes of at least 21 yards. Stephen Hill (two TDs) came up big in his NFL debut. RT Austin Howard deserves a shout-out. He schooled star DE Mario Williams, holding him to one tackle and no sacks. Afterward, Williams whined like a $100 million baby, complaining about the officiating.
The defense was pretty good on 22 of 24 designed rushes, but it broke down in a major way on the other two. C.J. Spiller, replacing the injured Fred Jackson, broke free for 49 and 56 yards, the latter a touchdown. Spiller ran for a career-high 169 yards. There were some tackling issues in the second half, as S LaRon Landry and LB Bart Scott had key misses. Maybe it was fatigue, maybe it disinterest when the score got out of hand. Otherwise, Landry (team-high seven tackles) was a force in his Jets debut. He brings the wood, but he also got flagged for late hit.
The Jets own Ryan Fitzpatrick, don't they? They intercepted him three times -- Darrelle Revis, Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie, who scored on his return, got the INTs. Revis and Wilson made terrific plays on the ball, Cromartie benefited from a gift-wrapped pass -- a misread by Fitzpatrick. Revis shut down WR Stevie Johnson, holding him to three catches for 29 yards before leaving late in the game with a possible concussion. The Jets didn't sack Fitzpatrick, but they pressured him and disrupted his timing.
It's a winning day when your special teams can put a touchdown on the board. Jeremy Kerley scored on a 68-yard punt return, the Jets' first punt-return touchdown since Santana Moss in 2002. It was one of the biggest plays in the game, giving the Jets a 21-0 lead. Robert Malone shined in his Jets debut, averaging 51.5 yards on two punts and putting one inside the 20. Tebow didn't make a tackle on punt coverage, but he made an important contribution, fielding an onside kick late in the game.
Rex Ryan did only one thing wrong: He failed to get out of the way fast enough on a sideline collision with TE Scott Chandler. Otherwise, Ryan was on his game. It was a reach to use the circus comparison as motivation, but, hey, whatever works. The Jets were mentally and physically prepared; the Bills were a mess. You can say this about Ryan: His teams are usually ready for opening day, evidenced by his 3-1 record. Sparano did a terrific job with his pass-protection scheme, neutralizing Williams. Except for the two runs by Spiller, the defense owned the Bills, a credit to Mike Pettine, who has a great feel for stopping the Bills' spread attack.