Report card: Post this on the fridge
ST. LOUIS -- It took more than a month, but the Jets finally came home with an impressive report card.
The final numbers don't jump off the page (124 yards), but the Jets ran 41 times and ran it well enough to control the game. The money runs came out of their nickel offense, with third-down RB Bilal Powell scoring on runs of five and 11 yards -- in third-down passing situations. The offensive line did a nice job, exploiting the Rams' aggressive front four with trap blocking on apparent passing downs. They tried a few misdirection runs, and even got WR Clyde Gates involved with an end-around.
Mark Sanchez managed the game nicely, made good run checks at the line, hit the big throws when necessary and, most importantly, didn't commit a turnover for only the third time this season. He completed 15 of 20 passes -- and two of those incompletions came on drops, by Stephen Hill and Joe McKnight. Gates and Chaz Schilens got most of the snaps at receiver, with Schilens enjoying his best day as a Jet. The pass protection tightened up after some early hiccups.
The Jets never really stopped the Rams, who averaged 5.7 yards per carry. If the game had remained close, the Rams would've kept running it -- and that might have been a big problem for the Jets. Steven Jackson ran for 81 yards on only 13 carries, a 6.2 average. S LaRon Landry was a presence, recording a team-high eight tackles and forcing two fumbles. S Yeremiah Bell had a strong game with two tackles behind the line.
Was Sam Bradford that bad or were the Jets that good? Probably a combination. Bradford (23-for-44, 170 yards) got off to a good start, but he folded as soon as he started feeling pressure from the Jets' pass rush. He wasn't the same after Muhammad Wilkerson's strip sack, which set up the go-ahead touchdown. Bradford was lost without a healthy WR Danny Amendola, who injured his foot in the second quarter and was a non-factor. S Eric Smith made a nice interception.
Look at the bright side: No turnovers this week. But there were still too many mistakes. The Jets tried a fake punt, with Tim Tebow flipping a shovel pass to Lex Hilliard, and that was stuffed for a loss. It didn't surprise anyone and it was poorly executed. The other blunder was a blocked field goal. How does a 26-yard field goal get blocked? Fortunately for the Jets, PK Nick Folk drilled two 51-yarders, providing sparks in the first half.
Rex Ryan scored big points for crisis management. Amid a week of controversy, his team was ready to play. Rams coach Jeff Fisher praised Ryan for preparing the Jets under "difficult circumstances." After a shaky start, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine adjusted nicely, allowing them to shut down the Rams over the final three quarters. Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano rotated personnel more than usual, especially in the backfield. That kept the Rams off balance. His play calling was conservative, especially in the red zone, but conservative was the way to go, considering Sanchez's recent struggles.