Now that was more like it for the man they call J-Co.
“Jerricho Cotchery had a huge game for us,” Rex Ryan declared moments after the Jets’ 28-21 triumph over the Patriots was official, and so he did. Cotchery was targeted seven times in the game by Mark Sanchez, caught five balls and gained 96 yards with them. All figures were team highs and the 96 yards led all receivers.
“I’m just trying to take advantage of my opportunities,” Cotchery said Monday at his locker. “The best thing about bringing all those guys in is it’s fun being around them. And with those guys making plays, when your chance comes, you want to make the play as well.”
“All those guys” are Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes, and as wonderful as both of them can be and were in scoring brilliantly off of Sanchez passes in Foxboro, Mass., on Sunday, there is a natural tendency to want to get the ball to them as much as possible.
But for Cotchery for most of the season, that meant un-J-Co-like numbers.
After four seasons of at least 57 receptions and 821 yards, this regular season he had 41 for 433. His unofficial career yards-after-catch average was 4.6; this year it was 2.7. After catching 64 percent of every ball thrown to him — a high percentage for any NFL wideout — from 2004-09, this year it was 48 percent. His sure hands dropped only 10 passes (again unofficially) through last season, then had seven drops this season.
Yet there should never be a doubt that Cotchery is a go-to guy when a tough third-down catch or sideline toetapper is needed. And he showed it again against the Patriots, one of his favorite opponents, especially on that 58-yarder on the first play of the fourth quarter that set up Holmes’ TD grab.
“It was a great call,” Cotchery said. “Before the play, [Jerod] Mayo and [Brandon] Spikes were talking about it. I couldn’t hear them but Mayo was pointing to the ground, as if they knew what was coming. But Spikes got ‘unlocked,’ we call it, because we had a running back on the flat route. Mark and I were on the same page with it. He just hit me in stride and I tried to make a play off of that.”
Mr. Understatement did more than try. Cotchery took the ball in the open, motored down the sideline, made one Patriot miss, hurdled safety James Sanders at the 25 after Dustin Keller knocked him down, and didn’t stop until he was pushed out of bounds at the NE-13.
Fifty-eight yards in all, 50 after the catch. That equaled the second-longest YAC play of J-Co’s career. It was the second-longest by the Jets this season behind Edwards’ 67-yard TD, 56 of it YAC, at Miami in Week 3.
It was classic J-Co.
And Cotchery classically summed up the net effect of that play.
“After that, when we get closer to the end zone, the Patriots usually try to find a couple of guys to double down there,” he said. “They tried to double three guys — myself, Dustin and Braylon — and left Santonio singled. He made them pay for it. That’s a prime example of what happens when everyone is rolling.”
He could probably get a little more production if he yakked about his lack of passes, but that’s not Cotchery’s style — although he said he enjoys listening to the yakkity-yak around him on this team, and at the same time gave a hint of why he and the rest of these Jets remain so dangerous to do what they’ve said all season they plan to do.
“I’ve gotten used to it, There’s a lot of guys who love the game of football and we love one another in this room. Bart Scott last night was hilarious,” Cotchery said of the Madbacker’s ESPN postgame interview with Sal Paolantonio. “We have passionate guys, emotional guys in this locker room. When someone tells you you can’t do it and you have that much passion about the game, you just want to go out and get it done.”
One final note on Cotchery: The reception was the third-longest of Cotchery’s seven-year Jets career. All three have come against the Patriots.
The Day in Florham Park
It’s been an interesting day here at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center so far. Snow, sleet and freezing rain have been falling all around North Jersey since the early morning hours. It was a hike getting to the base of operations, and around 8:30 a.m. the facility and some of the surrounding areas in Florham Park were hit with a power outage.
The outage lasted an hour but power has since been restored and didn’t interrupt the Jets’ preparations for Pittsburgh. In any event, it’s a players’ day off and Rex Ryan won’t be speaking again until Wednesday.
The best news I can give you on the activities here is that outside my second-floor perch I can see that once again Blake Hoerr and his grounds team are expertly scraping the FieldTurf field clean of the crusty precip that has already fallen. Pittsburgh is expected to be very cold and perhaps snowy when the Jets and Steelers kick it off Sunday at 6:30 p.m., so the turf field here will give the Jets a few days to acclimate to the possible conditions.
Meanwhile, we’ll have a few more stories today from Eric Allen and Nick Gallo to accompany this long-winded blog, which continues below with a few more notes I’ve worked on from the win over the Pats.
Protecting the Sanchize
Sanchez and his personal protectors are on another sackless roll. In the last five games (including the Buffalo game, when Sanchez played one series and didn’t drop back), the Jets have yielded three sacks.
Sanchez was equally well-protected last season from Game 15 through the AFC title game at Indianapolis. But the last time before ’09 that the Jets allowed three sacks in a five-game in-season span was the end of 2001, when Vinny Testaverde was sheltered for the entire second half of the season on into the ’01 wild-card game at Oakland.
Another sackless game at Pittsburgh — a tall order, we know, yet on Dec. 19 Sanchez was sacked just once for zero yards by the Stillers — and the Jets will have yielded two sacks in their next five-game span, which would be only the eighth time that would have happened in franchise history.
Long Drive to Nowhere
Here’s one that’s a stretch but stay with me on it. The Jets held Tom Brady and the Patriots scoreless on that massive 7-minute, 45-second drive, an absolutely pivotal stop for the defense. Only twice before in the past 25 seasons have the Jets kept an opponent out of the end zone on longer fourth-quarter drives in victories.
Most recently, that happened in the 2004 AFC Wild Card Game at San Diego, when the Jets held Drew Brees and the Chargers to then-rookie Nate Kaeding’s 40-yard missed field goal following a 7:58 drive in overtime en route to their 20-17 OT win and an AFC Divisional Round date, coincidentally, at Pittsburgh.
The only other such opponent-frustrating success was a 7:47 drive by Kelly Holcomb and the Browns at Cleveland earlier in 2004 that ran into the fourth quarter and ended on Phil Dawson’s missed 34-yarder, an instrumental stonewall in that 10-7 victory.
We’ve just gotten word that there will be, as many suspected there would be, a Jets AFC Championship Rally in Times Square in New York City on Thursday, Jan. 20, beginning at 5:30 p.m. The rally, being presented by Hess, JetBlue and Pepsi Max, will give Jets fans in midtown an opportunity to show their support before the Jets take off for Pittsburgh on Saturday. We’ll have more details for you on the rally as we get them.
Jets in the SNY Net
SNY has beefed up its Jets coverage this week and details the fresh programming in this article on its Website. Check out the story to find out when Damien Woody, Mike Pettine, Tony Richardson, Brandon Moore, Mike Tannenbaum and Sione Pouha, among others, will be making appearances.
Tags: Blake Hoerr, Braylon Edwards, Dustin Keller, Jerricho Cotchery, Mark Sanchez, New England Patriots, PIttsburgh Steelers, Santonio Holmes, Tom Brady
Posted in Randy Lange | 77 Comments »