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Forced Fumbles on Thursday Night’s Menu?

Posted by Randy Lange on November 21, 2012 – 1:35 pm

Updated, 4:01 p.m. ET

Thanksgiving is a time for turkey, but Thursday night the Jets and Patriots could give each other indigestoin by grilling up several New York strips.

Jets head coach Rex Ryan had Rob Ninkovich on his mind, if not on his tongue, earlier this week in discussing one of the many challenges the Jets will face against the Pats.

“Number 50, Ninkovich, if that’s how you pronounce his name, he’s a good player. I know him by number,” Ryan said. “He’s forced, I think, five, six fumbles this year, so they do a great job of attacking the football. I think they lead the league in forced fumbles. It’s something they’ve always done a great job of, so we have to make sure we’re protecting the ball at all costs.”

Rex’s research was right on. The Patriots lead the NFL with an impressive plus-20 turnover margin. They’ve done it in large part by leading the league unofficially with 19 forces and officially with 14 fumble recoveries. Ninkovich is tied for third individually with five forces and tied for first with three recoveries.

And Ninkovich has been a Jet-killer the past two seasons. He had the two interceptions of Mark Sanchez last year on Sunday night at MetLife Stadium, one returned for a TD, and his overtime strip sack of Sanchez provided the crushing coda to the Green & White’s 29-26 overtime loss at Gillette last month.

“Ninkovich is one of the best at it, it seems,” Sanchez said. “He’s really getting after the quarterback, he’s getting after the football, and that’s really their whole defense, that’s kind of their MO.”

He’s not alone. Two other linebackers, Brandon Spikes (4 FFs) and Jerod Mayo (3 FFs) are in the top 10, along with rookie DE Chandler Jones (3 FFs). That has the attention of Joe McKnight, who looked to be back at close to full speed from his ankle injury with several nice plays on kickoff returns and out of the backfield at St. Louis.

“From the mistakes I’ve made in the past,” he said with a small smile, “I just have to be more conscious of the ball. I’m always thinking about the ball before I even get the ball.”

He even shared his informal mental checklists with us. Before each kick return it’s something like:

1. Put my mouthpiece in.

2. High-and-tight the ball.

3. Two hands in traffic.

4. Make the kicker miss.

5. Score the touchdown.

Before he gets the ball from Sanchez on a run, he has a similar list:

1. Get the ball first.

2. Two hands in traffic.

3. Keep your feet when you run through the smoke.

4. Make the safeties miss.

5. Score the touchdown.

Needless to say, such emphasis for all the Jets’ skill players will be important tomorrow night. But they are not weaponless in this high-stakes game of strip poker, even if they were to lose a fumble. That’s because they’ve been stripping the ball away from QBs and RBs (and even kickoff returners, as New England’s Devin McCourty knows from five weeks ago) almost as well.

The Jets have 11 forced fumbles this season, tied for fourth in the NFL, and recovered 10, tied for third. And recently, they’ve been on even more of a roll. Their six FFs at Seattle and St. Louis are the most in the league the past two weeks and are the most in back-to-back games since they had seven forces on two occasions in the ’08 season.

The movers and shakers in this area have been DE Muhammad Wilkerson and S LaRon Landry. Wilkerson’s been involved in three separate fumble plays in those two games — two forces and the fumble-return TD vs. the Seahawks, and that’s the most in back-to-back games by a Jets player since Calvin Pace was involved in four fumble plays in consecutive games in ’08.

“I’ve been shouting it from the rooftops  since Mo first got here,” NT Sione Po said of Wilkerson’s recent emergence. “His IQ level is more of like a six-, seven- or eight-year player in terms of what he’s playing at, his production and what he does to help this team as a whole. It’s just phenomenal. I’m glad I’m playing on the same side of the ball he is.”

Landry, who has three forced fumbles this year, with two coming against the Rams, declined to give his secrets, other than his patented crunching hits, one of which forced rookie RB Daryl Richardson to cough up the ball Sunday and set up the Jets’ final TD under the Edward Jones Dome. But he provided some general guidelines.

“You’ve got to have a knack for that, man,” he said. “It’s a knack and an attitude. It takes some practice. Part of it is the point of attack, and you’ve got to be aware of what kind of offender you’re going up against, tight end, receiver, running back. And you’ve got to finish. You’ve got to have a knack for it.”

These longtime rivals have shown they’ve got the knack this year. Who’s better at the strip Thursday night may have a lot to say about who comes away with the victory drumstick.

Final Injury Report

The Jets held a short, closed practice at the Atlantic Health Training Center this morning.

Just before 4 p.m., both teams released their final injury reports of the week. The Jets’ injury list seems manageable with seven designated “questionable” for the game: CB Aaron Berry, NT Kenrick Ellis, WR-PR Jeremy Kerley, RB-KR Joe McKnight, NT Sione Po‘uha, LB Bart Scott and QB Tim Tebow. Tebow practiced full today with his sore ribs while the other six were limited.

The 11 probables: TE Jeff Cumberland, DT Mike DeVito, WRs Clyde Gates and Stephen Hill, S LaRon Landry, C Nick Mangold, guards Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson, LB Calvin Pace, RB Bilal Powell and QB Mark Sanchez.

The Patriots listed their three DNPs this week as out for the game: TE Rob Gronkowski (forearm/hip) as expected; DE Chandler Jones, tied for the team lead with six sacks; and G Logan Mankins.

Thirteen Pats are questionable: D-linemen Ron Brace and Trevor Scott, safeties Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory, O-linemen Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer and Nick McDonald, TE Aaron Hernandez, LBs Dont’a Hightower, Brandon Spikes and Tracy White, and WRs Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker. The three probables are WR Julian Edelman, DT Kyle Love and LB Jerod Mayo.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and one way or another we’ll all meet up at the game.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Randy Lange | 15 Comments »

15 Responses to “Forced Fumbles on Thursday Night’s Menu?”

  1. By IRA on Nov 21, 2012 | Reply

    #50 has taken over for Vrable. He is a real pain in the you know what. Jets have very little wiggle room for mistakes against the Pats. They need to play an A+ game across the board to win this game and i think they can if they all give their best effort in a game they must have.
    If only this offense was avg at best the Jets would be battling for a division title. I really hope we can run the ball and keep Brady off the field. Another key is after their WR’s catch a pass they must limit their YAC!
    Thats a big key. Keep the season alive and beat the Pats!
    GO JETS!!!!

  2. By By Jet Fan Since 1964 Frank on Nov 21, 2012 | Reply

    The biggest threats we will face on NE’s offense is Brady, Welker and Hernandez. I feel the JETS will stop the running game of NE, so if our team can keep Brady off his game, we have a shot at winning. If they play as well as they played against the RAMS we have a shot at winning and closing the gap 2 two games. “IF” one of the biggest words in the dictionary. REX, I hope you have a good defensive scheme tomorrow. LETS GO JETS….

  3. By ron alexander on Nov 21, 2012 | Reply

    IRA, If we play 4 D-linemen & they can pressure Brady it would allow the L.B’s & seconday to concentrate more on the Pats running game. if the Pats run wild we have no shot as that will allow Brady time to play-action us to death! This is the one last opportunity to make a a season out of what has to this point been another year of dissappointment. Its time to put up or shut up and go home!
    Happy thanksgiving Randy & to all that post here!

  4. By Charliejet on Nov 21, 2012 | Reply

    Hey IRA was that you on the phone to Boomer and Carton a few day ago about the Jets?

  5. By Bennett on Nov 21, 2012 | Reply

    Charliejet. Good point on Brady he does indeed do an excellant very instintive job of moving forward in the pocket wnen he needs to and is actually very predicable in this respect under presssure. Buys himself a little more time and with that quick read, fast release and deadly accuracy is what has made him in my opinion one of the greats of all time. I just plain like to watch him in action Jet fan or not

  6. By ELI RODRIGUEZ AKA (RUSS BALL 4GM) on Nov 22, 2012 | Reply


  7. By SCfromNY on Nov 22, 2012 | Reply

    Mistake free football has to be imperative as well as some emotion. Even more than that we need TDs not FGs even if it means taking a chance at not getting 3pts. You have to play all in to have any chance of beating the Pats. Either sit Tebow or let him take over if Sanchez is really bad. Stop using Tebow for a play here and there it is NOT working!

  8. By Tom Spicer on Nov 22, 2012 | Reply

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone I was reading my morning paper with my cup of Joe which is my regular routine. I noticed on page 68 of the Post they always have this section that says numbers to know & it shows key stats. They have 37 for the number of tackles by Wilkerson in the last 5 games (that is a average of over 7 tackles per game) for a 315 LB bruser that is alot. It also says he has 2 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 3 batted balls & a fumble recovery returned for a TD.

  9. By Tom Spicer on Nov 22, 2012 | Reply

    The keys for todays game we have to pressure Brady we can not let him sit back there all day he will pick us apart. We have to rush at least 4 guys on every play rushing 3 never works you dont get even close to him like that. No prevent D (the prevent D prevents you from winning). Last game our D was playing great & the last 2 drives 1 at the end of the 4th quarter & 1 in overtime we went to the prevent & Brady marched them down the field 2 times to win the game. On O we need either Hill or Schiliens to step up Belicheat will do everything he can to take away Keller & Kerley. Sanchez has to protect the ball he has to have 1 or NO turnovers for us to win 2 or more & we are done. Austin Howard needs to step up his blocking has been lacking.

  10. By Tom Spicer on Nov 22, 2012 | Reply

    Hill needs to catch the ball NO DROPS! Give more carries to Powell & McKnight we need that speed element in our running game. Cromartie has to blanket Lloyd, Landry has to contain Hernandez, we need to double Welker. Lastly Coples, Wilkerson, Pace, Harris, Scott, Thomas & Davis have to bring the heat if we dont sack at least 2 we wont win. With Gronkowski out there 1st or 2nd best pass catcher & Cahndler Jones out there best pass rusher. Plus having the Pats play on the road on a Thursday night everything is lined up for a Jet win. We just need to get it done. This is it the season is on the line 8 & 8 is not going to get you in & even if we win out with 5 losses in the AFC 9 & 7 might not get it done. WE HAVE TO WIN THIS GAME!

  11. By Chris on Nov 22, 2012 | Reply

    I think the Jets played one their best games at Gilette this year. Made a couple of crucial mistakes that cost them the game in OT. I think if the Jets play to their potential, with several skill players back, they can win this one. If we stay healthy, we could win out and, hopefully, get a spot in the post season.

  12. By carl on Nov 22, 2012 | Reply


  13. By Mike Jet Vet on Nov 22, 2012 | Reply

    I’ll Say it again for the 100th time , only constant on this team is Sanchez throwing red zone INT’s under 50% passer rating fumble and stumble the game away week in week out . and Rex sticking with him, At home on national TV This is what we put on the field, play millions a pond millions to these jokers, worse display of football I’ve ever seen.. is it any wonder we’re the laughing stock of the whole league, That’s the only title this team deserves. Woody you get what you pay for to bad all the Fans don’t

  14. By Charliejet on Nov 23, 2012 | Reply

    These blogs have been VERY VERY slow – I got a feeling, they are overwhelmed
    here with fan ANGER, FRUSTRATION, EMBARRASSMENT, and none of em’ can or will be posted…. hang your heads in shame Jets, hang your head in shame. Woody looked so detached, and Tannaenbust alone in his little both looked pathetic
    what’s Tannenbust gonna say to Franseca now “We are playing like a 4 and 7 team”. No more like 1-8 as Franseca put it. Sparano hasn’t got a clue….I’ll admit I was all for Schotty being removed (because of his play calling) but with sparano it is out of the frying pan into the fire. There is an old Greek saying…”be careful of what you want – you may just get it”

  15. By Jet Fan Since '64 and Post-Apocalyptic Tom ocalyspse Tom on Nov 23, 2012 | Reply

    Actually, Charliejet, considering the kind of sentiment that must be out there after a game, a season, and a regime like this, I’m surprised there’s very much at all that Randy can find fit to print…

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