Thanks to their 19-16 victory against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday the New York Jets stay in the thick of the playoff race.
By Paul Newbold
The New York Jets went on the road this week to take on the Dallas Cowboys. The Jets don’t control their own destiny in the NFL playoff picture, so this game was a must win for the team, as they attempt to win out and make the the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
The Cowboys entered the game with a 4-9 record, most of which was spent without Tony Romo under center. The Jets faced off against an embattled Matt Cassel at quarterback and an offense that has struggled to put up points all season.
Many fans saw this as a “statement game.” It was a game many fans hoped that they would dominate and send a message to the rest of the league that the Jets were serious contenders.
Unfortunately, for fans, the Jets showed up flat and unimpressive. Ryan Fitzpatrick was harassed by the Cowboy’s pass rush all night and the Jet offensive line failed to get the run game going once again. The Jets managed only 19 points and were forced to win the game late in the fourth quarter with a field goal by Randy Bullock.
The Jets’ defensive front played adequately, but were far from impressive. They held the Cowboys to just 16 points in the game, but allowed Darren McFadden to put up 100 yards in rush yardage. Both McFadden and Lucky Whitehead were allowed to burst free for 33 yard runs, which is untypical of a defensive front that prides itself in stopping the run. This wasn’t the same front that allowed just 12 yards rushing against the Giants, that’s for sure. They did manage to sack Dallas quarterbacks twice, but overall it was an unimpressive outing for the highly touted unit.
The Jet secondary came to play on Saturday night. Calvin Pryor, Darrelle Revis, Marcus Williams, and Marcus Gilchrist all had an interception against a struggling Cowboy quarterback situation. Matt Cassel started but quickly exited after completing only three passes for 37 yards and surrendering an interception. His replacement, Kellen Moore went 18 for 25 for 158 yards, but was victimized for three interceptions. Darrelle Revis was beaten on a Moore touchdown pass to Dez Bryant, but otherwise the Jet secondary was solid, only giving up a 173 yards in the air on the night.
The Jets special teams were once again questionable against Dallas. Antonio Cromartie returned kickoffs for the Jets, providing 61 yards, a long of 24 yards and a 20.3 yard average. In contrast, the Cowboy’s Lucky Whitehead had 5 opportunities that went for 131 yards, a long of 31 and 26.2 yard average. This has been a weakness for the Jets all season, and it’s a battle they need to somehow win, if and when they get into the play offs. Making matters worse, Jet kicker Randy Bullock missed a point after attempt and a field goal before redeeming himself by hitting the game winner. He wasn’t alone however, as Ryan Quigley hit a complete shank that traveled less then 30 yards, setting the Cowboys up on the Jet 43 yard line. Special teams become even more crucial in the playoffs, and performances like this will send you home a loser in most cases. Jets special teams coach Bobby April will need to get things fixed fast.
It wasn’t all ugly for the Jets on Saturday. While things will need to get much better on both sides of the ball, if the Jets want to win out, there were some things good things to be taken from their efforts against the Cowboys.
Quincy Enunwa is developing into a true force on this offense. The second year Jet missed his rookie season due to injury, but has showed continual development as this year has gone on. Enunwa is playing a hybrid tight end role for Chan Gailey, and his 6’2″/225 pound frame lends itself perfectly. Saturday night he only caught 4 passes for 49 yards, but they were clutch catches that kept Jet drives alive. For the year, Enunwa has 19 catches for 241 yards in ten games, but his contributions to this offense doesn’t end there by any means. Enunwa’s biggest contribution, and likely where he has shown the most development is in his blocking skills. He contributes in both the run game and pass protection, and has done it increasingly well in recent weeks. Good News for the Jets.
Marcus Williams proved once again that he has a nose for the football in the Jet secondary. Williams picked off Kellen Moore for his sixth interception of the year. The 5’11″/196 pound Williams, is quickly developing into a true force in this highly touted secondary. Jet fans who have been wondering why they haven’t seen former first round pick Dee Milliner this year, need to look no further then Williams. Williams has struggled with some injuries this year, causing him to miss 5 games, which only makes his six picks that much more impressive. A nice surprise for the Jets and he could prove invaluable down the stretch.
Leonard Williams continues to impress anyone that remotely watches him play the game. Williams has a huge ceiling and the Jets are only seeing the tip of the iceberg from this young man. Against Dallas he occupied would be blockers and closed running lanes as he has all season. On the night he posted 4 tackles, 3 solo tackles, 2 quarterback hits, and shared a sack with Sheldon Richardson. Williams stands 6’5″ and tips the scale at 302 pounds, but if it is possible, he seems to play even bigger then that. As the year has gone on, his development has been noticed by opposing Offensive Coordinators, and the youngster has seen his share of double teams recently. Williams came as advertised when the Jets chose him in the first round of this year’s draft, and that his to be great news for any Jet fan out there.
Kenbrell Thompkins may have made a case for the Jets to keep him on the roster in 2016. The 6’1″/195 pound receiver, formerly of the New England Patriots, had only appeared in 5 games all season and has had very little impact for the Jets this season. That is, until Saturday night with the game on the line. Late in the fourth quarter, Thompkins beat the Cowboy secondary on an apparent mix up in coverage, and turned it into a 43 yard reception. It was a brilliant call by offensive coordinator Chan Gailey and the Cowboy secondary cooperated with much of the attention being focused on Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall.
Bilal Powell is back in a big way. Powell has been hampered throughout the season with injury, and a high ankle sprain forced him to miss time as well. The 5’10″/205 pound Powell has showed his skills in recent weeks, and Saturday night was no exception. While putting up 25 yards on 6 carries, he impressed many with his burst of speed up the middle on his twelve yard touch down run. Chan Gailey has used Powell as his pass receiver out of the back field and Powell has responded with a sure set of hands and some key catches that have allowed the offense to extend drives. Powell filled that role nicely against the Cowboys, posting seven catches on seven targets, 54 yards, and a nice 19 yard grab across the middle. Powell’s return to health is good news for the Jets offense and Chan Gailey knows exactly how to use his versatility. Powell finished the night with 79 yards of very valuable offense.
The Jets pulled out a late victory for the second time in three weeks. They came back in the fourth quarter against the Giants, forcing overtime, and ultimately winning on a field goal two weeks ago, and now they have done it again against the Cowboys. These two games have two common threads. In both games the Jets came together at the end of the game, executed, and played with determination. As a Jet fan, you have to love that! On the other hand both come back victories came against lesser opponents that should never have been allowed to hang around as long as they did. As a fan, the inconsistencies the Jets display at times has to be concerning with the play offs looming.
Next up, the New England Patriots will invade Met Life Stadium. The Jets need to win out if they want to earn their way into the playoffs, and the Patriots offer up their biggest obstacle to gaining their first playoff birth in years. The playoffs aren’t a guarantee for the Jets, even with the Jets winning out, they will need help. Despite that fact, every fan in New York will tell you they want to see them win the revenge match up with the rival Patriots at home.
This team has the talent to succeed on both sides of the ball. They have played inconsistently at times through the course of this season, but now its clutch time. If they want to compete into the post season, they must define themselves in these final two contests. Like every other playoff contending team, their grit will be tested in the final two contests of the year and they will need to respond. Whether they can do it or not,, is still up for debate. As fans we’ll just have to wait and see.