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Sunday, October 31, 2010
When in doubt, punt ... don't run

By Rich Cimini

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Here's the most troubling part of Steve Weatherford's ill-fated decision on the fake punt that backfired Sunday on the New York Jets: He didn't know exactly how many yards he needed for a first down.

For the record, it was fourth-and-18 from the Jets' 20 in the first quarter. Weatherford, the punter, knew it was third-and-9 before the previous play. He also knew that Mark Sanchez was sacked on third down, but he didn't know it was fourth-and-18.

"I didn't see how many yards we lost on the sack," Weatherford said. "Once I get out of the pocket, I feel like if it's 12 (or) 15 yards, I think I can make it."

But he didn't. He came up a half-yard short. The Green Bay Packers took over at the Jets' 37, and turned that break into a field goal, milking that 3-0 lead into the fourth quarter of their 9-0 victory.

This was a mind-boggling breakdown on many levels. Weatherford said he has the freedom to make a unilateral decision in a situation like that. How is that possible?

Special teams coach Mike Westhoff wasn't permitted to comment after the game. He walked into the locker room and was ready to speak when a reporter approached, but a PR official interceded, saying Westhoff wouldn't be available until his usual day -- Thursday.

"He took off on his own," Westhoff said before the interview was ended before it really began.

Earlier, Rex Ryan tried to explain Weatherford's latitude.

"He does it on his own," Ryan said. "(The Packers) were caving that side down. This was something Steve did on his own. I don't think he realized we'd just been sacked. We told him before that it needed to be a manageable situation, not fourth-and-20 or whatever it was."

Shouldn't they have reminded him before he stepped on the field?

"It's a situation where I don't have the green light, but if I do do it, (Westhoff) isn't going to be mad if I get it," Weatherford said.

That quote makes as much sense as this one: "It would've been a good decision had it been fourth-and-9, but that's my fault."

You think?