These are the times that try fans’ souls. I’m talking of course about the days between a tough opening night loss and the prep time for a tough foe ahead. It looks bleak. It feels crummy.
That’s what I loathe and love about the game of football. The waiting is the hardest part (thanks, Tom). While the team’s outside world reacts with anger and indecision, the players and coaches tighten their pads, double their chinstraps and get ready to get after it one more week.
And one thing I’ve learned over the more years than I can count (really, I’m getting old) about this game is that things turn around quickly. What looks bleak and weak after one game can become sleek and chic in the weeks ahead.
The Jets started 0-3 in 1981, finished 10-5-1 and made the playoffs. They lost the ’82 opener at home to Miami, 45-28, and proceeded to the AFC Championship Game. They opened ’85 with a 31-0 loss to the Raiders in La-La land and again fashioned a playoff season. From 0-2 in ’98 they went to 12-4 and were ahead of the Broncos with 23½ minutes to play for a ticket to Super Bowl XXXIII. They fell to Peyton and the Colts, 45-24, at home in their ’01 opener and made the playoffs. Let’s not even bring up the 1-4 start in ’02.
It might be said that the Jets seem to like to start in a small hole, or let’s count up how many Super Bowls in the above seasons that the Green & White reached. And a 10-9 loss to fall to 0-1 is not the preferred way to make it to this year’s dance.
But these are the cards the Jets have been dealt, it is what it is (thanks, LC), and any other phrase you’d want to come up with. In Rex we trust as the team gears up in an hour or so for today’s practice, the first of the week before the Patriots come calling at New Meadowlands Stadium on Sunday.
To get us through the day, here are a few lingering thoughts on the game past and the games ahead.
Somewhat lost in the Kris Jenkins injury and later developments was Sione Pouha’s milestone contribution to the Jets’ early success against the Ravens. His first fumble recovery on the strip sack of Joe Flacco set up the Jets’ first points in their new stadium, then his second on the Willis McGahee fumble turned the Birds away on the brink of entering the red zone.
Thus Pouha became the first Jet to recover two opponent fumbles in the same game (never mind the same quarter) since Bobby Houston in 1995 and the first Jets D-lineman to do the same since Bill Pickel in ’93. “Big Bo” was happy to hear about the distinctions.
“You have to hustle to the ball, man,” he told me. “My first one, I had a double-cut — the guard cut me and the center came out on top. So all I know is keep fighting, keep fighting. The guys got there and did what they did, got the ball out, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time.
“The second one was more of a pursuit play. I think I tried to get a double slip and all I know is just run to the ball. The ball’s a magnet for the Jets defense. Everyone’s magnetized toward the ball — get there as quick and as fast as you can. You never know what’s going to happen. Know what I mean?”
We sure do, and that applies equally to the pain of Big Jenks’ second catastrophic injury to his left knee in 11 months. Pouha captured the defense’s mentality when talking about the loss of No. 77 again.
“He was disappointed that he wasn’t out there with us,” Pouha said of talking with his “brother” several times that night. “I was just giving him assurance, letting him know I was there. After he went out, it was just all men up. That was the rotation. It was pretty much just dig in your gut, give it all you’ve got.”
That’s what it is again for the D-line, and Bo and Mike DeVito are in the forefront once again.
Green Day Again?
It has been reported today that to help the troops, the Jets have reached out to and have signed seventh-year free agent Howard Green, who pitched in on the DL rotation before and Jenkins’ injury last year and began this season with the Redskins. We can’t confirm the signing yet, but we’d say there’s a good chance No. 95 could be at practice in a short while.
Top Ten Still
Rankings are a dime a dozen but rankings over time attest to a certain excellence. Despite the back end issues Monday, the Jets D yielded 282 yards to the Ravens and that pegs them 10th overall in the NFL’s yardage rankings this week. And that means for the 82nd time in the past 83 regular-season weeks, the Rex Ryan/Mike Pettine defense is a top-10 D. And the run defense is tied for third with the defense of a former Jets head coach, Pete Carroll’s Seahawks.
The passing offense, on the other hand, netted 60 yards, which is 32nd and last in the NFL. The last time the Jets’ passing game was ranked last was after the opening week in 1996, when they were 30th in a 30-team league.
Antonio Cromartie’s first game as a Jet had its ups but also a few downs. The pick and 66-yard return against Flacco? Up. The four penalties for 43 yards. Down.
Cromartie became the first Jet since tackle Jason Fabini to have four penalties marked off against him in a game. Fabini’s flag day came 10 years and 10 days before Cromartie’s night, when J-Fab was hit with four penalties for 35 yards in the ’00 opener at Green Bay. His infractions taht game: illegal use of hands, false start and two trips.
Three times in the last decade a Jet was flagged three times in a game: Santana Moss in 2002 at New England, Fabini in ’03 vs. Miami (all three penalties coming against current Jets LB Jason Taylor), and Darrelle Revis in January’s playoff game at Cincinnati.
One other thought for “Cro”: most such large penalty games, at least in recent Jets history, have come early in the year, and then decent seasons unfurl for those individuals. Cromartie’s a fine corner and games with much less yellow for him are ahead.
Sack Is Changed
Update, 2 p.m.: This afternoon Elias Sports Bureau issued a change in the scoring of the crushing sack of Joe Flacco 2:33 into the game. Even though Shaun Ellis and Bryan Thomas converged almost together for a Raven sandwich, Ellis got there a split second sooner to punch the ball loose from Flacco’s grasp. The play originally was scored a half-sack for each Jet but the revised ruling is a full sack for Ellis.
That is significant for “Big Katt” watchers, since Ellis now has 69.0 career sacks. It puts him nine sacks away from overtaking Ring of Honor D-lineman Joe Klecko for second place on the Jets’ all-time sack list. Klecko is at 77.5 and leader Mark Gastineau is at 107.5.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Bryan Thomas, Howard Green, Jason Fabini, Kris Jenkins, Shaun Ellis, Sione Pouha
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