NFL Wire News

Shhhh: Jets play Pats for first place


The Sports Xchange

By Jerry Beach, The Sports Xchange

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — For the first time in three seasons, first place in the AFC East will be on the line when the New York Jets take on the New England Patriots this Sunday in Foxborough.

But those expecting the Jets coach to stoke the fires and the hype machine by tweaking Bill Belichick and the Patriots, well, obviously have not met Todd Bowles.

“I think we’re getting better,” Bowles said Sunday afternoon, when the Jets came back from a halftime deficit to rout the Washington Redskins, 34-20, and improve to 4-1. “We have a chance to be a decent team. We’ll enjoy today and correct the mistakes tomorrow morning.

“We have game six against New England, and we’ll play game six.”

Such vanilla quotes might cause Belichick to forget that he is loathed and loved beating the Jets since his unforgettable departure following his one day as the head coach of the Jets in January of 2000.

Unlike Rex Ryan, Bowles certainly won’t provide any more motivational fodder for a coach and a franchise that has no trouble finding enemies, real or imagined. Even Belichick — whose latest revenge tour continued Sunday night, when the Patriots improved to 5-0 with a 34-27 win over the Indianapolis Colts — might respect the lack of noise emanating from New Jersey this week.

“I think once you have your culture set – and we’re still working on that – the team just goes as you go and we learn how to take care of ourselves,” Bowles said Monday. “It’s never about the opposition. It’s always about ourselves first. So as long as we worry about ourselves first, we’ll worry about the other team on Sunday.”


–PASSING OFFENSE: B. It wasn’t a perfect effort for QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (19-of-26, 253 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) & Co., but they turned a potentially crushing loss into an easy victory over an 11-minute span during the third and fourth quarters. The Jets trailed 13-10 at the half, but Fitzpatrick scrambled 18 yards for the go-ahead touchdown and threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to WR Brandon Marshall (seven catches for 111 yards) in the third quarter before connecting with WR Eric Decker (four catches for 59 yards) on a two-yard score 42 seconds into the fourth quarter. Of course, the Jets were down after two quarters largely because their three turnovers – an interception by Fitzpatrick and one fumble apiece by Marshall and Decker – led to all 13 Redskins points. But the game didn’t spiral out of control, like it likely would have under Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith the last five seasons. RB Chris Ivory also proved to be surprisingly valuable out of the backfield with three catches for 50 yards as well as a blitz pickup that sprung Fitzpatrick free on his touchdown run.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: A-minus. Marshall was right: Ivory is one of the best backs in the game. Ivory (20 carries for 146 yards and one touchdown) rushed for 100 yards for the second straight game for the first time. He racked up 107 of those yards on his four longest carries, but that’ll work from a guy whose battering style wears teams down and leaves them vulnerable to big gainers. RB Bilal Powell “gained” negative-two yards on four carries before suffering an ankle injury. RB Zac Stacy (13 carries for 46 yards) did a fine job running out the clock in the fourth quarter.

–PASS DEFENSE: A. The Jets fared as well as expected against popgun-armed Redskins QB Kirk Cousins and a Redskins offense once again missing No. 1 WR DeSean Jackson. Cousins averaged 4.6 yards per attempt and the lone touchdown drive he directed began at the Jets’ 37-yard line following Decker’s fumble. Second-half interceptions by CB Darrelle Revis (on Cousins’ first pass) and safety Marcus Gilchrist led to touchdowns as the Jets turned a close game into a laugher. Suffice to say the Jets will face a far tougher test this Sunday against the New England Patriots and QB Tom Brady.

–RUSH DEFENSE: A. As expected, the Redskins didn’t even try to generate a running game against the Jets’ stout front. Washington finished with 34 yards on 17 carries. In the second half, the Redskins had six yards on six carries and were turned back twice inside the 5-yard line during a fourth-quarter goal-line stand.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: C. Once again: Poor Nick Folk and Ryan Quigley. For the third time this season, the special teams marred an otherwise impressive win. Folk missed a 49-yard field goal while Quigley had a punt blocked and recovered for a touchdown by the Redskins late in the fourth quarter. The Jets had just 10 men on the field for the fateful punt. On the bright side, six of Folk’s seven kickoffs sailed into the end zone and Quigley’s other punt traveled 49 yards. WR Jeremy Kerley had three punt returns for 34 yards while TE Kellen Davis recovered the onside kick that ended any hopes the Redskins had of a comeback.

–COACHING: B-plus. The Jets looked ready to suffer one of their patented post-bye/trap-game losses, but whatever head coach Todd Bowles said at halftime worked. It’s difficult to recall a Rex Ryan-coached team ever turning things around as quickly in the middle of a game. Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey stayed patient with Ivory and the running game despite plenty of short gainers and defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers had a field day with the overmatched Redskins.

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