Report card: Good effort, but ...
This is getting ridiculous. The team that wants to run a Ground & Pound offense was held under 100 rushing yards for the fourth straight game. They tried to integrate Tim Tebow into the running game -- he ran five times out of the read-option package -- but it did little to change the final results. Tebow had the longest run of the day, 13 yards. Clearly, Shonn Greene (eight carries for 26 yards) is losing his grip on the position. They took a committee approach, with Bilal Powell and even Joe McKnight getting turns. No matter.
Mark Sanchez dropped back 34 times, and bad things happened on five of those -- three sacks and two interceptions, both on deflections. That's not winning football. He worked with a patchwork receiving corps, and the lack of cohesion was glaring at times. New WR Jason Hill dropped a deep pass (from Tebow) and Cumberland should've come down with Sanchez's last throw of the night, but it went off his hands and was intercepted. Sanchez also missed a long-ball opportunity to Antonio Cromartie, throwing too far to the outside. There were some bright spots (Jeremy Kerley continues to make big plays), but the overall passing offense was subpar.
This was bad news/good news. The bad: It was awful in the first half (112 yards), and it looked like the Jets were going to get run out of the stadium for the second straight week. They were gashed by the Texans' clever running scheme. The Jets struggled with zone "stretch" plays, misdirection and an end-around. The good: The Jets made some nice adjustments, holding Houston to 57 yards in the second half. They used more eight-man fronts, including a few "46 Bear" looks. Overall, it was better than last week, but there's still plenty of work to be done.
The Jets got hit a few times with play-action passes, including TE Daniel Owens' 34-yard touchdown, but the overall coverage was solid. Antonio Cromartie played a terrific game, intercepting a pass and holding WR Andre Johnson to one catch for 15 yards. Clearly, Cromartie has raised his game now that Darrelle Revis is out for the year. CB Kyle Wilson did a nice job on WR Kevin Walter. Not bad, considering there wasn't much of a pass rush. They held QB Matt Schaub to 209 yards on 50-percent passing -- good enough to win.
Joe McKnight made the biggest play of the game, injecting life into the Jets with a 100-yard kickoff return in the third quarter. It was well-executed return, with Nick Bellore delivering a key block. The Jets also were successful on a fake punt, with Tebow taking the direct snap and running for a first down. The on-side kick almost worked; Chaz Schilens came oh-so-close to coming down with the ball.
The Jets were the inferior team, yet they had the ball and a chance to win with three minutes to play. Be honest, how many people expected that? Rex Ryan was aggressive throughout the game, coaching like an underdog that had nothing to lose. The on-side kick was debatable, because he already had the momentum after McKnight's rousing touchdown. Another criticism: The defense was ill-prepared, struggling at the outset with the Texans' misdirection runs and passes. The coaches made adjustments and got it solved in the second half. Offensively, they wasted two timeouts in the second half because of substitution confusion. That's inexcusable. No doubt, the team played hard for Ryan -- an improvement over last week. They made too many mistakes to beat a good team like the Texans, but at least the coaching staff had a clue.