Thinking about angles
Case study: Evaluating Jets-Patriots game coverage
Newark Star-Ledger: http://www.nj.com/jets/index.ssf/2011/01/jets_receivers_make_the_big-ti.html
Last Word Goes to Jets
By Greg Bishop (New York Times)
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Jets sprinted through the tunnel at Gillette Stadium, arms extended, as if flying. They shouted. They screamed. They yapped the way they yapped throughout the past week, the way they yapped throughout this season, the way they plan to yap all the way to the Super Bowl next month.
The Jets do not love to talk so much as they live for it, live by it. All week, they trafficked in hyperbole and lobbed insults at New England, as if convincing themselves they stood a chance. But by Sunday night, after the Jets followed bark with bite, it seemed they knew what everyone else missed.
In a game few expected them to win, in the same stadium where the Patriots humiliated them by 42 points last month, the Jets bullied New England, battered Tom Brady and advanced to the A.F.C. championship game with a 28-21 triumph.
“Same old Jets,” Coach Rex Ryan said afterward, mocking the nickname that dogged the franchise until his arrival. “Going to the A.F.C. championship two years in a row.”
With a second-year coach in Ryan and a second-year quarterback in Mark Sanchez, the Jets advanced to their second straight conference title game. They travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers next Sunday, on the same field where they narrowly beat the Steelers last month.
Ryan had called the New England game the second-most important in Jets history, after their first — and only — championship, in Super Bowl III. Should the Jets win at Pittsburgh, they will return to that game for the first time since the 1968 season. Afterward, the Jets turned up the volume in their locker room, if that is possible, toward maximum. Linebacker Bart Scott held court for 10, 20, 30 minutes, surrounded by reporters. After the scrum concluded, he sat at his locker, still smarting, perhaps more angry than before the game.
Asked if he ever felt this emotional after a win, Scott, a nine-year veteran, said no. Asked why, he kept coming back to Ryan, to the fat jokes, to the tabloid headlines, to the news conference where receiver Wes Welker mocked Ryan’s wife and personal life.
Scott told Newsday on Friday that Welker’s days in a uniform were “numbered.” He did not back down Sunday. Instead, he unleashed another rant, with more than a few choice words mixed in.
“Nobody gave us a chance,” he said. “No chance. You act like we’re 6-10. You act like Rex is a buffoon. No one says anything about other coaches’ weight. You don’t hear people talk about Andy Reid like that. I wanted this game for Rex. I wanted it so you can give him respect. Shut up. Just shut up. Rex is a great coach, and he would have been if we won today or not.”
As the fourth quarter started, the Jets led, 14-11. They stood 15 minutes from the A.F.C. title game, 15 minutes from ending the season of their bitter rival, 15 minutes from silencing the packed Gillette Stadium for good.
Momentum, conventional wisdom and common sense pointed toward the Patriots. They had the league’s best quarterback (Brady), best coach (Bill Belichick) and, according to many pundits, best team. Brady had just led them down the field for a touchdown and 2-point conversion.
Yet it was Sanchez who took over the fourth quarter, who found receiver Jerricho Cotchery for 58 yards, who lobbed a perfect 7-yard fade that receiver Santonio Holmes caught in the corner of the end zone. Holmes landed his right knee inbounds, then his left foot, as an official’s arms extended toward the sky.
The Jets led, improbably, 21-11. All their bluster, threats and name-calling had been backed up.
It started with Sanchez, if not a weak link entering this game, then certainly a reason for concern. Early on, he sailed passes over receivers’ heads or past their outstretched hands. But he settled down and settled in, completing 16 of 25 passes for 194 yards and 3 touchdowns.
“Since the playoffs started, Mark has just exploded,” fullback Tony Richardson said. “The big stage doesn’t affect him. He was nothing short of amazing today.”
The same went for the Jets’ defense. Brady entered this rubber match — the Jets won the teams’ meeting in Week 2 — with 36 touchdown passes and only 4 interceptions, but linebacker David Harris ended Brady’s record streak of passes without an interception, and the Jets sacked him five times. Shaun Ellis, the longest-tenured Jet, recorded two of those sacks and spent much of the day in the Patriots’ backfield. He had the kind of game, his teammate Trevor Pryce said, “a player has once.”
“Not once a season,” Pryce said. “Once.”
The Jets followed a blueprint similar to the one they employed last week against Peyton Manning and Indianapolis, with new wrinkles for the Patriots. They mixed coverages, shifting often right before or right after the snap. Brady looked like a bobblehead at times, his head on a swivel, with nobody open.
“We expected that,” linebacker Calvin Pace said. “That’s exactly how we drew it up. It felt good to shut 70,000 people up — all the people who flipped us off on our way in, who booed us at our hotel, who called us undisciplined, all talk.”
On Saturday night, Ryan ceded the team speech to Dennis Byrd, the former Jets defensive lineman who broke his neck in 1992, who walked again after being paralyzed, who stood in front of the Jets and told them he would give anything, all of his possessions, to play one more game. Receiver Braylon Edwards went straight to Twitter to describe his inspiration.
Apparently, that carried over. Edwards’s 37-yard catch set up Sanchez’s first touchdown toss. Edwards scored his own touchdown in the second quarter, carrying two defenders into the end zone to give the Jets a 14-3 halftime lead.
When Shonn Greene scored the Jets’ final touchdown, with less than two minutes to play, he placed the ball on the ground and pretended to sleep on it. Good night, he was saying in typical, boastful Jets fashion. Minutes later, LaDainian Tomlinson walked through the tunnel, tears welling in his eyes.
Soon after, Robert K. Kraft, the Patriots’ owner, entered the Jets’ locker room. He found Woody Johnson, his Jets counterpart, who had received a game ball in a fiery speech from Ryan. Kraft hugged Johnson, wished him luck. It was, at that moment, perhaps only for this season, as if a baton had been passed.
On Sunday, the A.F.C. East belonged to the Jets. All anyone had to do was ask them.
Jets punch out Patriots, 28-21, advance to AFC title game
Monday, January 16, 2011
BY J.P. Pelzman
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Mark Sanchez was talking about the Jets’ mind-set when he quickly realized he wasn’t exactly speaking for everybody on his team.
After the Jets’ 28-21 upset victory Sunday over New England in the AFC divisional playoffs, Sanchez said, “We treated [the Patriots] with respect all week,” and then quickly added to some laughter from reporters, “At least I did with my comments.”
No, most of the loquacious Jets weren’t exactly respectful of New England in the week preceding the game at Gillette Stadium. They showed the Patriots even less respect during the game, confusing Tom Brady with their myriad defensive looks and pushing back the Patriots’ front seven to the tune of 4.1 yards per carry and zero sacks on Sanchez. Meanwhile, the defense dropped Brady five times, the most in a playoff game in Jets’ history, with two of those sacks by lineman Shaun Ellis, the longest-tenured Jet on the current roster.
“It’s a tremendous feeling,” Ellis said. “A lot of people didn’t give us a chance considering what happened last time. We knew that we didn’t play our best the last time so we just wanted to come out and play Jets’ football.”
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie made headlines during the week by calling the Patriots’ quarterback an expletive, but unlike past times, Brady wasn’t able to use that extra motivation to his advantage.
“My feelings [toward Brady] haven’t changed,” Cromartie said, “but that’s behind me, and I’m getting ready for Pittsburgh.”
As are the rest of the Jets (13-5), who advanced to the AFC title game at Pittsburgh (13-4) on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. The Jets are making their second straight appearance in the AFC final. They lost at Indianapolis last year.
The Jets looked like a totally different team from the one that was humiliated in this stadium last month, losing 45-3.
“We knew we didn’t execute as a team” in that game, linebacker Bart Scott said. “You guys [in the media] all talk about how great their defense [was] playing. Last time I checked, they were 25th in the league and we were third. … You perceived that they are playing so well and we are playing so bad. I guess the cream rises to the top.”
New York Jets Mark Sanchez gives the game ball and a hug to his mother after defeating the New England Patriots 28-21 at Gillette Stadium Sunday.
“We knew that we had what it takes to beat this team,” defensive tackle Mike DeVito said. “We love it when you [the media] put us as the underdog and say we have no chance. We thrive on that. We proved that [Sunday]. We beat a great team in their own place.”
The Jets went ahead to stay, 7-3, in the second quarter on the first of Sanchez’s three touchdown passes, to running back LaDainian Tomlinson. That was quite a contrast to the Monday night game here last month, when the Jets never led.
“I’m really at a loss for words,” said Tomlinson, who made the playoffs five times as a San Diego Charger but has yet to reach the Super Bowl. “We’re a confident group. We always feel like we have the better team. We just have to go out and prove it.”
And once New England tried an ill-advised second-quarter fake punt that led to the Jets’ second touchdown, the Patriots never again had the ball with a chance to take the lead. Oddly enough, the Patriots had the ball almost 10 minutes more than the Jets, but were unable to do much with that advantage, as Brady looked like a mere mortal.
“I do respect their coach and their quarterback and all their players,” Sanchez said. “I just felt like this week coming in, I needed to be smart and take what they gave me, not get caught up in ‘Oh, you can’t win here,’ and use that as fuel.”
Shonn Greene’s 16-yard touchdown run with 1:41 left gave the Jets a 28-14 lead, and he incurred a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the play for crawling into a fetal position in the end zone, pretending to be asleep.
But really, it was the Patriots who appeared to be sleeping for much of the day, and credit the Jets for that.
SIDEBAR Jets receivers make the big-time plays in team’s 28-21 win over Patriots
By Conor Orr/The Star-Ledger
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — As he sat, straddling the orange pylon and flexing his biceps, there was no doubt in Santonio Holmes’ mind.
Seconds earlier, he’d hauled in a pass dropped just over his right shoulder as he reached the corner of the end zone. His knee, then both feet, dropped neatly inside the chalk as Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington tumbled over Holmes.
It felt just like the one he’d made to win Super Bowl XLIII for the Steelers, and he thought about advice he’d received around that time. By now, he didn’t need to wait for the official’s signal.
“Hines Ward always told me ‘never miss an opportunity when you get to the end zone’,” Holmes said. “When you get the chance to make a touchdown, never blow it. Always use everything you’ve got works right, all your mechanics are intact.”
On a night when the game plan called for short, concise passes, it seemed all the receivers in Mark Sanchez’s arsenal followed the same advice. Holmes, along with Jerricho Cotchery and Braylon Edwards, roped in a total of 168 yards and two touchdowns.
When the Jets needed a crucial yard, Holmes was there to run a rigid slant and secure a first down. When Sanchez watched the play develop, his progressions revealing nothing, Cotchery would appear with open space. When the team looked to Edwards to squeeze out extra yards, he dragged two defenders into the end zone.
None missed their opportunities.
“Those guys take a lot of pressure off the quarterback and they were great,” Sanchez said. “They read everything really well, made big-time catches for us, crucial catches at the right moments, and their second effort, their diving catches — they can make a quarterback look great and so I owe a lot to them.”
It started with less than a minute to play in the first half. With the Jets clinging to a slender four-point lead, Sanchez looked over to Edwards and connected on a short pass. Using his body as a shield, Edwards rolled off his defender and chugged into the end zone for the score.
One quarter later, after the Patriots trimmed the lead to three, Cotchery took over. On second-and-6 from the Jets’ 29-yard line he nabbed a post route over the middle then began losing one defender after another.
Fifty-eight yards later, he had the Jets set up on the Patriots 13-yard line to put some crucial separation between themselves and the Patriots. And three plays later, there was Holmes, straddling the pylon.
Said Holmes: “We did what we were supposed to do today.”
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