Sunday, December 22, 2013
Rapid Reaction: New York Jets
By Rich Cimini
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the New York Jets' 24-13 win over the Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium:
What it means: The Jets (7-8) still have a chance to finish .500, which would be a nice accomplishment for a team predicted to be a laughingstock. They got off to a slow start against the Browns (4-11), committing sloppy mistakes, but they developed nice balance on offense. The Jets finished 6-2 at home. Hey, it's something. The Browns dropped their sixth in a row.
Stock watch: This might have been Rex Ryan's final home game. After three straight seasons out of the playoffs, Ryan could be fired at the end of the season. He referenced his uncertain status Saturday night in a team meeting, according to a Fox Sports report. He probably did it for motivational purposes. If owner Woody Johnson and GM John Idzik are leaning toward making a change, the decision could get tougher with a strong finish.
Geno delivers -- finally: Quarterback Geno Smith (20-for-36, 214 yards) played his best game since Week 5, throwing two touchdowns to David Nelson, running for one and -- get this -- managing to avoid a turnover for only the third time. For a change, Smith validated the praise his coaches have lavished upon him, providing a glimmer of hope for the future. Recognizing single coverage, he called an audible on his 6-yard scoring pass to Nelson, a heady play by the rookie. Smith was money on third down and did a nice job of finding his checkdown options. He got a boost from Chris Ivory, who rushed for 109 yards.
Better late than never: Rookie cornerback Dee Milliner played his best game, by far, recording his first interception and holding the dangerous Josh Gordon to six catches for 97 yards on 16 targets. It helped that Gordon dropped three passes, including two in the end zone. But give Milliner credit. The first-round pick showed closing speed and made plays on the ball, continuing to show improvement in the latter stage of the season. Interestingly, Milliner -- not Antonio Cromartie -- was assigned to Gordon on every play. That never would've happened if Cromartie were playing well.
Pine time for Reed: It's not often that a future Hall of Famer is benched, but that's what happened to safety Ed Reed, who was replaced in the base defense by Antonio Allen. Reed, who played 84 percent of the defensive snaps in his first five games, was limited to the sub package on passing downs. (He did make an interception near the end of the game.) This is how he should've been used from the outset, not as an every-down player. Ryan is a Reed apologist, but give him credit for making this move, albeit too late.
What's ahead: The Jets close the season in the spoiler role, facing the Miami Dolphins on the road.