By the by, it’s time again to talk about the bye.
No, not the Jets’ bye week, which comes the week after Sunday’s game against Miami at MetLife Stadium. Maybe the banged-up Jets could use a vacation, even some good fraction of a week, but as Herm Edwards said back in 2004: “You don’t have to worry the week before about what happens in the bye week. It’s like going to school at the end of the year. School ends Friday, Wednesday you’re worried about what you’re going to do Friday, then you screw the test up Thursday and you gotta go to summer school.”
A potential danger for the Jets, though, is that the Dolphins are coming off their bye. Does that fact in itself suggest that the ‘Fins are more dangerous than usual to the Jets’ psyche and their desire to sweep their friends from the South?
The current data suggests the bye week does help teams, although not a lot. From 2002 through this past week’s games, teams coming off their byes (not counting when two teams coming off byes meet each other) have done fairly well at 162-128, a .559 winning percentage. That’s pretty much what homefield advantage used to be in the NFL.
So for the sake of argument, teams playing the week after their bye, regardless of where they play, see their chances improve to the chances of winning a home game.
That wouldn’t be good for the Jets.
On the other hand, if this year’s new, improved homefield rising tide — home teams are 64-40 this season, a brisk .615 winning clip — lifts all boats, then the Jets could be buoyed by their home crowd and the Dolphins’ bye-week edge could be neutralized.
How about teams playing games before their bye weeks? Does that help any?
Don’t laugh. I asked Edwards about that about a decade ago and he agreed that teams heading into byes — as long as they weren’t worrying about summer vacation — could get a boost. Something about being energized by wanting to go into the bye and come out of it with some momentum for a big second-half push.
Do the numbers support this theory? Yes and no.
If you go by the 2010 and ’11 seasons, games before byes were a good thing. Teams produced a 31-19 record in those games, a .620 winning percentage.
But this advantage seems to come and go every few years (or doesn’t really exist). In 2006, NFL teams in before-bye games were 12-20, in ’09 they were 12-18, and so far this year they’re a paltry 4-12. The bottom line: From 2002 through Week 7, before-bye teams were 148-148. That’s a coin flip.
How about the Jets and Dolphins alone? The Dolphins are 4-6 since ’02 in post-bye games. This includes last year’s 24-6 Monday night loss to the Jets. The Jets are 4-6 in pre-bye games since ’02, but have won three of their last four — thumping Arizona in ’08, squeezing by the then-Tebowing Broncos in Denver in ’10 and rerouting Philip Rivers and San Diego last season.
In fact, the Chargers came to MetLife off their bye last year, which anecdotally suggests that maybe pre-bye teams have an edge over post-bye teams. Eh, not so much. Since ’09, pre-byes and post-byes have met 16 times. The record: 8-8.
I honestly wanted to bring you some telling trend on bye-week team performances in advance of the Jets-Dolphins, but apparently I feel strongly both ways.
But Chad Pennington left no doubt about his feelings when asked before the Jets’ pre-bye game at Cleveland back in ’06.
“We know it’s important to win every game,” Pennington said. “in this league you can’t say, ‘Well, we can drop a game here and we can let off in this area,’ because you never know what game is going to be a deciding factor on whether or not you’re able to make it into the playoffs. So every game is important for us.”
Interestingly, Pennington’s Jets lost that road game at Cleveland, 20-13, to settle at 4-4 at the bye, then won six of their last eight to finish 10-6 and reach the playoffs.
Here’s a strange note about Nick Folk. Whenever his NFL team gives up an early kickoff-return touchdown, he kicks a late long-range field goal.
In 2007, Terrence McGee had a kickoff return for Buffalo, but Folk nailed a 53-yard FG with no time on the clock at Ralph Wilson Stadium to complete the Cowboys’ memorable 25-24 Monday night comeback win over the Bills. The next year J.J. Arrington took one to the house for Arizona, but Folk’s 52-yarder, again at 0:00, sent that game to overtime, where the Cardinals won, 30-24.
Then on Sunday, Devin McCourty cut loose for his 104-yard first-quarter return. Folk responded with one of his best games as a Jet, going 4-for-4 with makes from 54, 43 and 43 yards. The final 43 gave the Jets their short-lived 26-23 lead with 1:37 to play.
That may be strange coincidence, but this about Folk is money in the bank: He has moved to second-best among all NFL kickers (since 1991, including playoffs, at least six tries) in fourth-quarter FG percentage. Folk is 41-for-43 (95.3%) in fourth-quarter kicks. First is Denver’s Matt Prater (28-for-29, 96.6%). Third is New England’s Stephen Gostkowski (48-for-51, 94.1%), who kicked the game-tying FG as time ran out in regulation and the gamewinner in OT.
Tags: bye week, Chad Pennington, Herm Edwards, Miami Dolphins, Nick Folk, Stephen Gostkowski
Posted in Randy Lange | 59 Comments »
The Jets cover Ellis Hobbs’ second-half KO return expertly, with Wallace Wright, the subject of Eric Allen’s Special Teams Saturday feature, and Cody Spencer dropping Hobbs at the Pats 21.
Then Bryan Thomas — with his third sack of the season, surpassing last year’s 2.5 total — and David Barrett on a nickel blitz drop QB Matt Cassel twice and the Jets look to be sitting pretty.
But Brett Favre, despite converting an improbable third-and-22 with a 28-yard completion to Chansi Stuckey — equaling the Jets’ longest third-down conversion since 1990 — can’t dig the offense out of a hole, then threw his first interception in Green & White, with S Brandon Meriweather returning to the Jets 31.
Cassel looks flustered again on his first play, a 5-yard sack by NT Kris Jenkins, but rebounds with a third-and-9 flip that Kevin Faulk takes for 22 yards to first-and-goal at the 8. In short order, Sammy Morris goes high over his left guard to score the game’s first TD and the Jets are down, 13-3, with 6:24 left in the third quarter.
With Stephen Gostkowski adding his third FG with 17 seconds left in the frame for a 16-3 lead, the return of Fireman Ed to the stands after a year’s injury absence and a different look for the Flight Crew in their new Marc Ecko-designed uniforms doesn’t matter — the crowd is in search of some big plays to become reenergized.
The energy returns on the Jets’ drive that starts at their 20 — after another Gostkowski touchback —goes for the first five minutes of the final frame, and ends successfully when Chansi Stuckey shakes free of S Rodney Harrison, who trips on a teammate, and catches Favre’s 2-yard feather pass for the Jets’ first TD of the game. It’s 16-10 with 10:18 on the clock.
Highlights on that drive: Favre going 6-for-6 for 51 yards and rookie TE Dustin Keller making his first official reception a big gainer of 19 yards on third-and-6.
But the defense needs a stop and is having trouble as the Patriots move toward the red zone. They can’t stop Matt Cassel’s pass to Sammy Morris for 4 yards on third-and-2, and Calvin Pace’s rush ends up with helmet-to-helmet contact on Cassel and a 15-yard roughing call.
Pace deflects a third-down pass headed for TE David Thomas in the end zone, so Gostkowski comes on for his fourth FG from 27 yards. It’s 19-10 Pats, and while the Jets still have a chance, it’s not much. They have two timeouts left, the Patriots have none, and they need 10 points in the final 5:18.
The Jets have no answer this day. Favre suffers a 20-yard sack, with Leon Washington unable to slow Adalius Thomas’ path to a grasp on Favre’s shoulder pads. Ben Graham’s best punt in a 27-yard-net day still is returned into plus territory by Kevin Faulk, and the Pats burn the game’s last 3:45 for the 19-10 win, their eighth straight in the Meadowlands over the Jets.
Tags: Brett Favre, Calvin Pace, Ellis Hobbs, Matt Cassel, Stephen Gostkowski
Posted in Randy Lange | 80 Comments »
For those who thought the Patriots would be in for a 2008 fall post-Tom Brady, they were frustrated by the events of the first 1½ quarters of today’s Jets home opener at the Meadowlands.
Matt Cassel looks calm, cool and collected — dare we say Bradyesque — in leading the visitors from Massachusetts to two time-consuming field goal drives and a 6-0 lead. Cassel, making his first start as we all know since high school, completes seven of his first eight passes, four to Wes Welker for 57 yards.
The Jets defense, which seems to be covering more than pressuring early on, stiffens in the red zone both times, so Stephen Gostkowski, who brought his big leg to North Jersey, booms 21- and 37-yard field goals at the end of drives that lasted 5:57 and 3:38.
The Green & White offense has some moments early on but still shoots itself in the foot, first on Jay Feely’s 31-yard FG try, his first as a Jet, that he pushes wide right toward the west end zone goal posts on the game’s first drive, then on Laveranues Coles’ third-down drop of a Favre out pass on their second series.
But Coles atones big-time on third-and-9 by snaring a Favre roll-left-and-throw-right against Patriots CB Deltha O’Neal and, behind TE Chris Baker’s trailblazing in front of him, rolling 54 yards to the Pats 25.
From there Chansi Stuckey plucks a 6-yarder off the turf on third-and-5, then Leon Washington darts this way and that for 11 yards and a first-and-goal at the 3.
And from there, the Jets are unsuccessful at punching the ball in, as three Thomas Jones runs netted 0 yards as Rodney Harrison and Richard Seymour rose up to make stops. This time Feely drives one down the middle of the east end zone from 21 yards out to cut the Pats’ lead to 6-3.
The Jets again aren’t perfect, but they are taking their toll. Patriots featured RB Laurence Maroney, who has 17 yards on his first seven carries, leaves with a sore shoulder. And after a shanked Ben Graham punt, the Jets finally do send some heat in the form of a five-man rush with Bryan Thomas off the Jets’ right edge. No one blocks BT, who rocks Cassel as he throws, and Cassel comes up limping.
Favre gets one of those two-minute drives that head coach Eric Mangini is so fond of ending his practices with. The Jets are at their 25 with 1:06 on the clock and no timeouts left. The first play is a 9-yard Seymour sack of Favre. Even though Washington gets loose on second down for 17 yards to the 33, the Jets will left the clock run out and take a 6-3 deficit into the locker room.
Dare I say with the Patriots receiving the second-half kickoff, the last time that happened here at the Meadowlands, Ellis Hobbs and his return team executed an NFL-record 108-yard runback that signaled the Pats’ pullaway in last year’s Jets home opener. The Green & White need to be on their guard to prevent a potentially game-changing play from hitting them at the start of this year’s second half in less than a half-hour.
Here are the eight longest completions of the Mangini era of Jets football, from 2006 to present:
|2006-PO1||Jerricho Cotchery||Chad Pennington||at NE||77t|
|2006- 2||Jerricho Cotchery||Chad Pennington||vs. NE||71t|
|2006-15||Leon Washington||Chad Pennington||at MIA||64|
|2006- 6||Laveranues Coles||Chad Pennington||vs. MIA||58|
|2007- 7||Laveranues Coles||Chad Pennington||at CIN||57t|
|2007-10||Laveranues Coles||Kellen Clemens||vs. PIT||56|
|2008- 1||Jerricho Cotchery||Brett Favre||at MIA||56t|
|2008- 2||Laveranues Coles||Brett Favre||vs. NE||54|
Tags: Brett Favre, Jay Feely, Laveranues Coles, Matt Cassel, Stephen Gostkowski, Wes Welker
Posted in Randy Lange | 15 Comments »
The Pats come to the line to go for it, call a timeout, then do go for it. And Tom Brady, out of the shotgun, once again converts a fourth-and-short vs. the Jets.
Then from first-and-10 at the Jets 17, good Jets pressure forces a Brady incompletion, Laurence Maroney gets 4 yards up the gut, then Brady hits Moss for 5 with Darrelle Revis preventing the first down. But it’s fourth-and-short again.
And the Pats burn a second timeout trying to figure out what they want to do.
The good news: The Jets have held as Stephen Gostkowski comes on to conclude a drive of 16 offensive plays with a 26-yard field goal. The bad news: It’s now a 10-point game and the Jets will be trying to move into the wind.
Patriots 10, Jets 0
Chad Pennington, who came in for one play on the previous series, remains at QB with Kellen Clemens still being examined for a sore rib. Out of the shotgun and an empty backfield, Chad makes it 3-for-3 with short pops to Justin McCareins and Chris Baker.
But with Pennington’s helmet communications apparently out, he and the offense stall at their 45 and Ben Graham has to punt. It’s a low kick, 3.0-second hang, but Kevin Faulk calls for a fair catch at the Pats 21.
And the defense tries again to force Brady & Co. into a short possession.
They do, only one first down, and then the Jets get their own break. Chris Hanson, the ninth-year punter who had never had a punt blocked, has the snap bounce off his facemask and his hands. By the time he tries to angle the kick away from the pressure, it’s too late.
David Bowens and Abram Elam are on Hanson. Bowens snuffs the kick, picks it up and runs 26 yards for the touchdown.
Patriots 10, Jets 7
Some great facts involved with this sudden play. It’s the Jets’ first blocked punt since Jason Glenn at Buffalo in the 2002 opener. It’s the first blocked punt returned for a TD since J.Glenn did it in the 2001 regular-season finale at Oakland, with Chris Hayes supplying the block. And it’s the first time a Jet returned his own blocked punt for a TD since Chris Burkett blocked Miami’s Reggie Roby and took the rejection 11 yards to the house in 1991. Wow.
The Jets force another Hanson punt, this one handled flawlessly but punted too far for the home team for a touchback. Pennington, still behind center, is sacked on first down by Junior Seau as LG Will Montgomery blocks left and C Nick Mangold blocks right, allowing Seau to motor up the Mass Pike for the takedown.
Then another turnabout. Ben Graham has a punt blocked when Kelley Washington blows around Abram Elam for the snuff. And the Pats are in business at the Jets 3 with 1:46 to go. It’s the second punt Graham has had blocked in two seasons, following Gerald Sensabaugh’s block at Jacksonville last season.
Maroney’ is met by David Harris on his first carry to inside the 1. But he gets over on the second carry and the hosts are back in control with 1:05 left in the first half.
Patriots 17, Jets 7
Pennington’s protection isn’t any better than Clemens’ was as he gets sacked for a 13-yard loss by Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green. But the play isn’t costly as the Jets run out the clock.
The offense didn’t do enough (18 plays, two first downs, 81 yards), the defense got in some punches (only TD allowed on a 3-yard drive), the special teams gave and got. In any event, it will be tough overcoming 10 points in the final 30 minutes at the Big Snowball, a k a Gillette Stadium.
Tags: Darrelle Revis, Stephen Gostkowski, Tom Brady
Posted in Randy Lange | 3 Comments »
Tom Brady told CBS before the game, "Physically, I’ve never felt better." And he showed it with a pair of third-down-conversion completions to move the Pats back toward the red zone at the top of the quarter.
The first came when he unloaded just before Dewayne Robertson hit him up the middle, hitting Randy Moss on the right sideline for a tiptoe catch in front of David Barrett. The second came on third-and-1, when Brady has been so deadly over the years against the Jets. Instead he dropped into the shotgun, the blitz again was picked up and he hit TE Benjamin Watson in front of Kerry Rhodes. First-and-10 at the Green & White 25.
But the Jets defense stiffens — Rhodes swats away a pass from Tom Brady pass to Kyle Brady, a Jets first-rounder a decade ago, then Eric Barton crashes through to help hem in Laurence Maroney for no gain, then T.Brady has lots of time vs. a three-man nickel rush but no receivers open and throws it away.
Then comes Drew Coleman with a special teams play. No, it wasn’t a block as we talked about in Saturday’s Radar, but it was just as good. The field goal snap hit holder Matt Cassel in the hands, Stephen Gostkowski never got to kick it, and Coleman wrapped up Cassel to give the Jets the ball.
And then the offense awakens. Chad Pennington hits Jerricho Cotchery on a step-up dart over the middle for 10, then Laveranues Coles downfield off play action for 17, then Coles for 10 more. A first-down jailbreak sack doesn’t hurt when Pennington flips to Leon Washington for a dancing 16-yard gain, then a rush up to the line and no Patriots timeouts causes encroachment and first-and-10 at the Pats’ 11.
On third down, the Jets break through with some alignment trickery. Pennington hits Coles, who goes into the pattern from the halfback spot, beating LB Rosevelt Colvin in coverage at the end to catch Pennington’s rainbow for the 7-yard TD. On the drive, Chad is 6-for-6 for 68 yards. Nugent’s PAT and with 4:15 to go in the first half it’s …
Jets 7, Patriots 7
But New England comes right back into Jets territory, the big play a 33-yarder to Randy Moss after he beats Justin Miller’s jam attempt at the line, taking it to the Jets 28 at the two-minute warning.
Then after the stoppage, it’s Brady to Moss again, beating an all-out blitz by hitting Moss over Barrett, 6 inches smaller, for 22 to the 6. This game isn’t supposed to be this easy for someone who missed most of the preseason, but so far Moss is what the Patriots wanted when they made the predraft trade with the Raiders.
Then the Patriots strike when TE Benjamin Watson misses jams by guys who don’t do a lot of jamming, Bryan Thomas and Jonathan Vilma, then gets to the back of the end zone for Brady’s pinpoint pass past Vilma and the TD call. The game’s replay crew calls for a review, but ref Jeff Triplette announces the ruling stands and it’s …
Patriots 14, Jets 7
… setting up one of those "situations" that head coach Eric Mangini loves to set up at the end of practices, a two-minute drill, actually after Leon Washington, back for the kickoff in place of Justin Miller, takes it to the 1:02 with one timeout left.
Except that D’Brickashaw Ferguson gets nailed for penalties on back-to-back plays, a hold and a false start. So Washington gets two draw plays and the Patriots, with no timeouts, can’t stop the clock.
If you’re a football fan, an exciting first half. If you’re a Jets fan, a troubling one with the line struggling in giving up three sacks of Pennington and the defense yielding 224 yards and 5-for-7 on third down conversions.
Tags: Chad Pennington, Dewayne Robertson, Drew Coleman, Laveranues Coles, Stephen Gostkowski, Tom Brady
Posted in Randy Lange | 5 Comments »
For all the fans who know a wedge doesn’t always come with blue cheese dressing, what a good hang time for a kickoff is, and that there’s a difference between a dropkick and a drop punt, this day’s for you.
Special Teams Saturday.
We hear it all the time from the NFL’s coaches and players — "Special teams is one-third of the game" — but the mainstream media rarely pays attention, unless it’s to a placekicker on a hot streak or a cold streak or a returner who can’t be stopped or can’t stop with the muffs. At newyorkjets.com, we’re going to cover the Jets’ more closely with one story a week (if not more) devoted to the art(s) of coach Mike Westhoff’s specialists.
Already up on the site today, for instance, Eric Allen introduces the concept that the Jets are winners no matter who takes the opening coin toss, now that Pro Bowl kickoff returner Justin Miller is back at practice and Mike Nugent has beefed up his kickoffs.
And while my Saturday Radar entry won’t always be devoted to special teams, I didn’t want to reject a great little topic heading into Sunday’s season opener against the Patriots: the Jets’ kick-blocking potential. That’s something that Bill Belichick has noticed.
"They do a good job in every phase of the game," the Patriots head coach said when asked about the Jets’ special teams. "Their field goal rush is one of the best in the league. They got up on that last year and that was a big play in the [first] game."
Belichick has been known to praise every phase of an opponent’s attack during his Wednesday conference calls, but he has good reason for making this observation as he referred to Bryan Thomas busting through the right side of the Patriots’ line to block a late Stephen Gostkowski field goal try in Game 2 in the Meadowlands. The short field goal would have iced the Pats’ win. Instead, the Jets retained hope of tying the game with a last-minute touchdown.
"To go in there and block a kick — it’s always exciting," Thomas said this week. "Mike will tell us each week what in particular we have to do as far as whether we can be effective on field goal block. Field goals, extra points, they all matter in a game."
But the Jets’ rush as one of the best in the league? Bear in mind that Thomas’ block was the only blocked kick of any kind by the Green & White in the past four regular seasons. Here’s a chart showing the Jets vs. the NFL in that department from 2003-06:
|Avg. per Team||1.7||2.6||0.8||5.0|
And the Jets didn’t get any blocks in their four preseason games this year.
But they came close. In fact, the field goal block team put great pressure on the normally smooth operations of the David Akers-led Philadelphia FG team back on Aug. 31. Akers’ first try never got off, and on the second try it appeared he pushed his kick wide right because of heavy pressure from his left.
"Yeah, we were trying to get after him," said Drew Coleman, the second-year man who’s been flying off the edge this preseason. "We’re trying to get a lot of pressure and have other special teams coaches have to prepare for us, not think that their next kick is a freebie."
Coleman came to the Jets last year from TCU, where, besides playing corner, he came up with some kick rejections.
"I think I had two in college — and I ran past two more. I had too big of a jump on those," he said. "Blocking kicks is something I’ve always enjoyed doing, so I take it seriously."
Coincidentally, Coleman still wears uniform number 30. And back in the day when sportswriters used to use typewriters to type up their stories on copy paper, we would put the number 30, probably from XXX, at the bottom of those stories to signify to their editors "That’s it. I’m done. End of story."
I’m looking forward this season to seeing Drew, BT and company telling a few opposing kickers and punters, "That’s it. You’re done. End of story." And now I’m putting a 30 on this edition of Special Teams Saturday.
Tags: Bryan Thomas, Drew Coleman, Stephen Gostkowski
Posted in Randy Lange | 7 Comments »