Report card: Straight A's ... no joke

October, 15, 2012
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Handing out some good grades (for a change) after the Jets' 35-9 rout of the Colts:



It doesn't get much better than this. The Jets cranked out 252 yards, the fifth-highest total of the Rex Ryan era. Without a doubt, this was Shonn Greene's best game as a Jet. He was explosive, eluded tackles, read blocks, found cutback lanes and, in his signature moment, he escaped a tackle with a spin move, taking it in for one of his three TDs. He finished with a career-high 161 yards on 32 carries. Joe McKnight made the team's longest run in three years, 61 yards. The Jets pounded the defensively challenged Colts with a variety of personnel groupings, using multiple TEs and two-back sets. It was a vintage performance by the embattled offensive line, especially C Nick Mangold, who played on a bad wheel.



Hey, Rex, does this mean Mark Sanchez is the starter next week, too? An 82-yard passing day usually doesn't equate to a winning performance, but Sanchez didn't have to throw often, not with the running game in high gear. He attempted only 18 passes (shades of his rookie year), throwing two pinpoint TDs -- a pair of 5-yard throws to Stephen Hill and Jason Hill. He snapped his streak of four straight games with below a 50-percent completion rate. Here's the big stat: No turnovers. Repeat, no turnovers. He spread the ball to six different receivers. He was on target, too, as the Colts got their hands on only two passes. Rookie WR Stephen Hill came back strong after missing two games.



The Colts didn't have their leading rusher, Donald Brown, so that made things a lot easier for the Jets. They held the Colts to 41 yards, no run longer than five yards. That's pretty much a perfect game. Imagine if they had a nose tackle. The Jets played without Sione Po'uha and Kenrick Ellis, but they mixed and matched personnel and fronts, controlling the line of scrimmage. This was a long-awaited performance by the defensive line, as Muhammad Wilkerson and rookie Quinton Coples played their best games. Safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell also were solid in run support.



The Jets finally resembled the defense everyone thought they'd be. The big-play element was back, as they recorded four sacks and four takeaways. Capitalizing on a suspect offensive line, the Jets put constant heat on rookie Andrew Luck, who made a couple of bad decisions and missed some open receivers, including TE Coby Fleener in the end zone. The Jets had some trouble with the no-huddle. Otherwise, they dominated. CB Antonio Cromartie made an interception and did a nice job on WR Reggie Wayne, but he had three penalties.



Can't you just picture Mike Westhoff in his laboratory ... er, office, cooking up different ways to use Tim Tebow? This week, it was a pass out of punt formation, and it was the biggest play of the game. Tebow, in his role as the personal protection, took a direct snap and threw a jump-pass to a wide-open Nick Bellore, who chugged 23 yards for a momentum-swinging play. It was the third successful fake of the season. How the Colts fell for it is a head scratcher. Didn't they watch the film of the Jets-Texans game?



Some people will say, "Oh, it was only the Colts." True, the Colts are a young, rebuilding team, a made-to-order opponent for the struggling Jets, but this wasn't an ugly, just-get-by win for Ryan & Co. It was dominant, the ideal confidence boost for the upcoming game in New England. This was an "attitude" game plan by the coaches. They identified the Colts' weakness -- run defense -- and kept pounding away. They showed a new wrinkle, using two TEs in the backfield. Coordinator Tony Sparano helped Sanchez by calling safe, high-percentage passes, ideal tonic for a QB struggling with his accuracy. Defensively, they did a wonderful job of compensating for the injured linemen. They put Coples in space, giving him a chance to rush from the outside. Good call. They also confused Luck with different pressure schemes, disrupting his rhythm.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter



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