NFL Nation: Eric Smith
September, 12, 2011
By Rich Cimini | ESPN.com
Recap | Box score | Photos
WHAT IT MEANS: Rex Ryan wanted to win for New York, wanted it badly on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 -- and his team delivered a heart-pounding win over the Cowboys at MetLife Stadium. The game lived up to the incredible hype. The Jets made plenty of mistakes, but they showed the NFL a new dimension -- a pass-happy attack. They also showed plenty of heart, but we already knew that about them. They proved it over and over again last season.
RESILIENT JETS: The Jets overcame 10-0 and 17-7 deficits, receiving contributions from all three units. Darrelle Revis made the biggest defensive play, intercepting a horrible pass by Tony Romo with 49 seconds left. It set up a 50-yard field goal by Nick Folk, who beat his former team with 27 seconds left -- the sweetest of endings for the ex-Cowboy.
RYAN BOWL: The blitzing brothers, Rex and Rob, staged a clinic on how to pressure the quarterback. Both teams unleashed a variety of pressure packages, resulting in a total of eight sacks, including four by the Jets. Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware (two sacks) was an absolute terror, exploiting the newest member of the Jets’ offensive line, RT Wayne Hunter, who allowed one sack and several pressures. The patriarch of the Ryan family, legendary defensive coach Buddy Ryan, watched from a private box. He had to be proud.
AIR SANCHEZ: Well, Ryan said they’d throw the ball more than in the past, and he wasn't kidding. Percentage-wise, this was the most pass-heavy game of the Ryan era. Ground & Pound was just a rumor. Sanchez's training wheels are officially off.
Trying to exploit a Dallas secondary that played without starting CB Terence Newman, and later lost starter Mike Jenkins for about a quarter and also No. 3 CB Orlando Scandrick, Sanchez came out throwing and ended up completing 26-of-44 for 335 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He threw scoring passes to Dustin Keller (4 yards) and Plaxico Burress (26 yards).
KILLER MISTAKES: For the most part, Sanchez played well, but he made one bad decision and one blunder -- and it cost seven points. Looking for Keller over the middle on the final play of the third quarter, Sanchez didn't see LB Sean Lee in a zone and was intercepted at the Jets' 38. Lee returned it to the Jets' 1, setting up a TD run by Felix Jones that gave Dallas a 24-10 lead.
Later, with a chance to rally the Jets to a game-tying score in the fourth quarter, Sanchez was sacked from behind by S Danny McCray and lost a fumble. Sanchez was careless with the ball, holding it in his right hand -- a bad habit that has plagued him throughout his career.
BLOCK PARTY: Needing a clutch play in the fourth quarter, the Jets' special teams came up huge, with Joe McKnight -- once a resident of the Ryan dog house -- blocked a punt. It was recovered by Isaiah Trufant, who returned it 18 yards for a game-tying touchdown with 5:00 to play. Trufant who? He was signed only Saturday off the Jets' practice squad, specifically for his ability to contribute on special teams -- a masterstroke by the Jets' decision makers. For the enigmatic McKnight, it was the biggest play of his brief career.
PLAX IS BACK: Burress, playing in his first NFL game in nearly three years, made a splashy return. A non-factor for nearly three quarters, showing no ability to separate, Burress came up big in the fourth quarter, scoring on a back-shoulder fade. It won't go down as a red-zone touchdown because it came from the 26, but it showed the type of impact he can have around the goal line.
The question is, what took so long to get Burress and Derrick Mason (three catches for 19 yards) involved in the offense? The Cowboys played without their top three corners for much of the second half.
WHERE'S NNAMDI? After being spurned by free-agent jewel Nnamdi Asomugha, the Jets settled for their own free-agent cornerback, Antonio Cromartie, whom they re-signed to a four-year, $32 million contract. Cromartie is a good player, but he had a rough night. He allowed two touchdown passes, a 3-yarder to Dez Bryant and a 36-yarder to Miles Austin. Both came in man-to-man, jump-ball situations in the end zone. In fact, Cromartie appeared to have the interception on the latter play, but Austin ripped it out of his hands.
Cromartie started out on Bryant, but after Bryant scored on the Cowboys' first drive, the Jets switched it up and put Darrelle Revis on Bryant.
WEAK SPOTS: Give Cowboys coach Jason Garrett credit; he did a fantastic job of attacking the Jets' weaknesses on defenses. He called plays that isolated the Jets' linebackers in space; their linebackers aren't adept in pass coverage. The Cowboys also picked on S Eric Smith, who got burned on a 64-yard completion to TE Jason Witten.