FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano has received plenty of criticism for the Jets' struggles, but he deserves a pat on the back for his play calling in Sunday's 27-13 win over the Rams. In fact, he got a high-five from Rex Ryan after the Jets' second touchdown.
All three Jets touchdowns were well-designed, well-executed plays called at precisely the right time. Sparano fooled the Rams on all three.
Let's put it this way: Sparano had a much better day than his predecessor, Brian Schottenheimer. Let's review the three TDs:
1. Chaz Schilens, 25-yard pass from Mark Sanchez: This occurred in the second quarter, but it actually was set up on the second play of the game -- a bubble screen to Jeremy Kerley. Truth be told, they've thrown a lot of bubble screens in recent weeks to Kerley, and it looked like another one on second-and-7. Sanchez sold it with a quick pump fake to Kerley, who lined up next to Schilens. The Rams' DBs were in "off" coverage, but they came down hard, ready to play Kerley. Schilens ran for the flag, easily beating rookie nickel back Trumaine Johnson.
2. Bilal Powell, 5-yard run: Sanchez was in shotgun on third down from the Rams' 5 -- an obvious passing situation. The Rams were thinking pass, as they rushed only three and dropped eight into coverage. Ah, but the Jets caught them by surprise, running a draw to Powell. He received nice blocks from C Nick Mangold, LG Matt Slauson and TE Dustin Keller, plowing into the end zone to give the Jets a 20-7 lead.
3. Powell, 11-yard TD: It was another third down, except this time Sanchez wasn't in shotgun. He handed to Powell, the lone back, on a quick-hitting trap play. RG Brandon Moore delivered a crushing trap block, opening a hole. Mangold and LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson also made key blocks. Powell made the last few yards on his own, with a nice cutback to the left. He scored standing up.
MORE MISDIRECTION: Another big play was the 18-yard throwback screen to TE Konrad Reuland. The Jets lined up with three tight ends to the left and WR Stephen Hill split to the right. It was third-and-3. Hill ran a quick slant and was open for an easy first down. Sanchez looked at Hill and clutched twice before pulling it down and going to Reuland on the left side.
Considering Hill's bout with butter fingers, it's fair to wonder if Sanchez didn't trust Hill in that case. Ryan insisted that wasn't the case, that the play was a designed throwback screen. If that's true, Sanchez did a great sell job because it sure looked like he wanted to go to Hill.
TEBOW TURNING POINT: There probably isn't any rhyme or reason for this, but the Jets became more aggressive in the passing game after Tim Tebow's completion (for minus-1) on the unsuccessful fake punt in the second quarter. Get this:
In 12 dropbacks before the fake, Sanchez averaged 5.2 air yards/attempt and 3.5 yards/dropback, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In 12 dropbacks after the fake, he averaged 10.7 and 11.0, respectively.
PETTINE OUTSMARTS SCHOTTY: DC Mike Pettine won his chess match against Schottenheimer. The Jets' defense got off to a shaky start, but they owned the Rams. In fact, they held the Rams to 195 total yards and 3-for-13 on third down on their final 11 possessions.
For the last three quarters, it resembled the early training-camp practices from 2009 to 2011, when the defense routinely dominated Schottenheimer's offense. Pettine was inside Schottenheimer's head, coming up with an answer for his every move.
The Jets mixed pressure and coverage. On Muhammad Wilkerson's strip sack, they rushed six. On Eric Smith's interception, they rushed only four -- a terrible throw by Sam Bradford, who developed a serious case of happy feet after the Wilkerson sack. At times, the Jets sent nickel back Ellis Lankster on slot blitzes.
When Bradford had an open receiver, he missed him. He averaged 3.9 yards-per-attempt, the second-lowest of his career. Granted, he doesn't have a lot of weapons, but he has RB Steven Jackson. For some reason, Schottenheimer bailed on the running game after early success. Speaking of curious decisions, why did Jeff Fisher try a two-point conversion, down 27-13? Made no sense.