We looked at the Jets 1-4 record entering this weeks game against the Vikings and believed that their backs were up against the wall as if they were down by three games to none in a best of seven game series. One game at a time and then follow the old cliché that they can get back in the race and possibly win the series. In the case of the Jets, win the division.
The Jets clearly rose to the occasion. Granted, the Vikings are not the best team in the NFL, but the team in all green played very well. Maybe the new look of the uniforms was a factor, but in reality, the Jets played a strong game. The offense, lead by Chad Pennington and Laveranues Coles broke out of their slump with key offensive plays. Santana Moss continued to be impressive, while Curtis and Wayne make their presence known. The defense lead by a rejuvenated line-backing core almost pitched a shutout, while forcing four turnovers, which helped keep the Vikings at bay throughout the afternoon. The one Viking score in the final period was not indicative of the overall defensive performance. Special teams were solid up the middle by not allowing anything to get by them, while John Halls' "pooch punt" off a fake field goal was as smooth as a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
The division race is heating up as the weather breaks and turns cold. This wonderful autumn afternoon helped the Jets move a little closer in what should develop into a tight race as the colder winter temperatures begin to approach. With Buffalo beating Miami and the Pats idle for the week, the Jets four losses are not so insurmountable as they appeared only a week ago. Next week's game against the Browns should be looked at as just a stepping stone in trying to get closer to making even this series, this division race, this season.
A Monday sure feels great after you win. We almost forgot the feeling; it's been so long. But this week at least, we can start to heal some of the wounds of the last 5 weeks. We have noted some reasons why all Jets fans should feel good about yesterday's win and the potential for the balance of the season.
1) Chad Pennington really had a good game. He and Laveranues seemed to work well together and each time he needed to find him for a big first down, he did. Coles did not drop a ball (as he has been doing of at least one per game).
2) The line did a decent job of pass blocking. There were 2 sacks but the second at the end of the half was not their fault because Pennington held the ball too long and could not find a receiver open.
3) Santana Moss played better than their Moss. You could finally start to see what Terry Bradway was thinking when they moved up on the 2001 draft for him. A real deep threat can really spread the defense, albeit a weak one.
4) The green pants certainly helped. Even our linebackers looked fast and sleeker and we tackled a whole lot better in them. We certainly will wear them Sunday against the ghastly orange pants of the Browns. Who is doing the fashion designing for the NFL? Delta Burke!!!
5) Steve finally came to a game. After missing the first 2 for various unacceptable excuses (the Jewish holidays and business trips), our favorite seatmate in our Section was able to attend.
We still have a long way to go! Even though the offense is clearly playing better with Chad at the helm (if you recall, we called for the change here in the this column FIRST in Week 3), as opposed to the aged Vinny, the run blocking is not up to NFL standards. We cannot convert on 3rd and short, we never blow anyone off the ball even when we bring Jumbo in to help and Curtis rarely ever has a hole to run into. We heard that Jonathan Goodwin was going to relieve J. P. Machado but we didn't see him on the field once.
Why didn't we throw to Anthony Becht once? He has been our most dependable offensive threat to date. Still we see lots of problems with Paul Hackett and his conservative play calling, but there is light at the end of this tunnel if the Jets can repeat this week against Cleveland.
The biggest concern has to be that the Vikings were 7 out of 11 on third down conversions. We never really put any pressure on Culpepper all day. Jason Ferguson made a stupid taunting penalty and did not push the center all day. Shaun Ellis is still invisible. This years' first round pick who cannot find a good steak on Long Island is reed thin. John Abraham on one leg is the only one capable of getting to the quarterback, but cannot do it with the constant double teams. Until we pressure quarterbacks, every Sunday will be a nightmare. We seem to have the talent, but they do NOT appear to be in condition. You've got to blame Herm for this.
As the World Series continues to fascinate us with it's exciting finishes, Home Run extravaganzas and a 20 year-old fastball relief pitcher, the Jets will be following a similar script by providing its fanatical and committed fans with more wins than losses down the stretch. In addition, look for a wide-open offense capable of scoring many points, with various options in the air and on the ground.
Chad may not be as young as the Angels reliever Mr. Rodriguez, but he has the tenacity and the determination to lead the way with a passion and excitement that this team needs right now. The defense may not pitch a shutout or even match Don Larson's perfect game, but they will work hard enough to keep gang-green in all of their remaining contests.
Once the fall classic is over, there will be no need to use baseball analogies and quotes, as the Jets should be flying a bit higher on their own and more directly toward a respectable season with the will and determination to enter the play-off round come January.
Next week against the Brownies will be the real test and it can't come soon enough. Have the Jets really improved and can they show us that some real optimism can be expected? Or are we really only ready for the Girl Scouts and Williamsport, PA?
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