Well I think we can all see now that the Jets are not the team to beat in the AFC. Not only was the Jets major weakness exposed in the sloppy loss to the Denver Broncos, their major strength was also knocked down a few pegs as well. The weather in the Meadowlands was bad as was the showing of the Jets defense yesterday. The Broncos, who are an average team in a horrible division, came into the Jets house and basically had their way with them.
I have to start with the defense today. The other day I said that the Jets need to tighten up their passing defense in a major way because that has been their achilles heal this season. So what happens? Jay Cutler picks them apart for 357 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The two men I said the Jets needed to watch out for, Brandon Stokley and Tony Scheffler, each had big games for the Broncos on Sunday. Stokley has always been a threat going back to his days on the Colts. He was able to grab two balls for 44 yards and a touchdown. He is a good slot receiver and needs to be watched at all times when on the field. Scheffler grabbed 7 catches for 90 yards, a very nice day for the Broncos tight end. The Jets showed how much they miss LB David Harris in the middle of the field, after missing his 5th straight game with a groin injury. In total, Denver had four receivers with over 55 yards. If the Jets plan to make any noise in the playoffs, then this problem needs to be fixed. Otherwise, it will be one and done for the Jets in January.
The one Jets strength, the run defense, had by far its worst game of the season. They were ranked 3rd in the NFL against the run coming into Sunday, but rookie full back turned running back Peyton Hills was able to chalk up 129 yards on 22 carries and added a touchdown as well. Hillis is the first back this season to gain 100 yards against the Jets defensive line. The Broncos game plan kept the Jets off balance all afternoon, never allowing them to get into any sort of comfort zone. As a result, the Jets were not able to get to Cutler at all, totaling zero sacks on the day. The defensive line, which has been one of the best all season in the NFL, was due for a bad week. I believe they got it out of their system and will be solid over the last four weeks heading into the playoffs.
Brett Favre had an up and down game of his own yesterday. He threw for 247 yards but also ended up with zero touchdowns on the day. Denver never allowed Favre to get into any type of groove. They did a very good job of taking Laveranues Coles out of the game plan for the Jets, limiting him to just two catches for two yards. They were also able to hold down Jerricho Cotchery who had only four catches for 40 yards. Cotchery ended up being involved in a very bizarre play in the first half. Brad Smith lined up under center and took the snap and tried to hand off to Cotchery and he fumbled the ball. Jerricho then jumped on the ball and somehow the ball squirted loose after he was touched and the officials called it a fumble. The ball was picked up by Denver and returned for a touchdown. They deemed it not reviewable by the Jets after Mangini threw the challenge flag, a very strange play to say the least.
There were two bright spots for the Jets however. One was their running game. Thomas Jones was able to gain 138 yards rushing on the afternoon on just 16 carries. He also added two touchdowns to up his total on the season to a career high 11. One touchdown came on the longest run of his career which was 59 yards and the other was a 29 yard run. Jones was also to eclipse the 1000 yard mark for the fourth consecutive season. He now has 1088 yards for the Jets this year. The other bright spot for the Jets was the continued emergence of rookie tight end Dustin Keller. He was able to haul in 7 more receptions for 77 yards. He has become Favre's favorite target over the last 4 games. He is really looking to have a very bright future in this league and should be a fixture for the Jets for years to come.
Hopefully this was just a bump in the road for the Jets. They were going to lose another game this season, and hopefully this will be the last loss for a while. The game was not a total loss though. With the Patriots losing to the Steelers on Sunday, the Jets maintain their one game lead in the division for at least another week. They now head out to the west coast for the 3rd time this season to face the 49ers. San Francisco is coming off a win in Buffalo and will be a tough task for Gang Green. They will not be laying down for anyone so the Jets have their work cut out for them next week.