So I’ve slept on it, and here’s what I come away with from yesterday’s games:
Colts 30, Jets 17
- The Jets ground game was MIA. Yes, they ran the ball alright in the first half, but not nearly well enough to allow any serious play-action in the second. I figured that the only way the Jets were going to win this game was by pounding the ball up the middle with Thomas Jones, off-tackle with Shonn Greene, and with fun end-around and reverse plays out of the Wildcat with Brad Smith. Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene gained a total of 39 yards on the ground in the second half. Foolishly, I figured that the Jets would “dance with the girl that brung ya.” Silly me.**
- I mentioned last week that Sanchez, when he’s comfortable in the pocket, throws some pretty passes to Jerricho Cotchery, and boy, did he. Also, that deep TD pass to Braylon Edwards, play-fake and all, was gorgeous. I was glad to see Sanchez play well, because I think that he’s finally bought into Brian Schottenheimer’s scheme (even if, in this game, the gameplan was surreally pass-heavy).
- It seriously looked like the Jets and Colts decided to switch defenses at halftime. The Colts adjusted so well in the second half – stopping the run, disrupting receivers’ routes, flustering Sanchez, I was impressed. The Jets, meanwhile, forgot how to tackle altogether. They became noticeably squishier at the line, as Joseph Addai started gobbling up yardage in 16 and 17 yard chunks and Manning coolly sat back and delivered strikes to Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie (Dallas Clark, who?).
- Darrelle Revis did his job, for the most part. The rest of the Jets secondary (notably #21 Dwight Lowery, #27 Donald Strickland, and #30 Drew Coleman) will have nightmares about this game, for weeks. Poor attempts at tackling, poor coverage. The Colts doubled the average number of yards the Jets gave up through the air during the regular season. And, unlike the Chargers, the Colts turned those yards into points.
- I ran into a Jets fan on my way home last night, and while he was understandably bummed about the game, he knew that he had many more reasons to smile. Before the season, Brett Favre had left that team high and dry at the QB position, with Chad Pennington traded away to Miami and Favre himself briefly riding back into the sunset. Mark Sanchez, as I said last week, is unlikely to be the next Peyton Manning. What he might be is the next Joe Flacco – a strong-armed QB who complements a strong running game. With Greene, and Smith (not to mention Leon Washington), the Jets have some young talent in the backfield that should form a strong offensive nucleus for several years.
** I am reminded that Shonn Greene left the game early due to injury. I see how that waters down my argument, but I think the point stands, considering how the playcalling shifted away from the run in the second half.
Saints 31, Vikings 28
- I admit that I giggled like a madwoman when Favre threw his second pick. As someone noted on Twitter, it didn’t matter what else happened in the game – Favre threw a vintage roll-right-throw-cross-your-body unnecessary INT that has given Packer fans more heartache in the last decade than anything else. It took him longer than I expected to have that kind of game (the kind where you see him trying to make something happen instead of letting things develop or living to fight another day), but in the end, it fit. His team wiped the floor with New Orleans in all categories except 2: turnovers and points.
- The Saints defense was relentless about forcing fumbles. Maybe they figured that Peterson wasn’t the only fumble-prone player on the team, or maybe they just had the gameplan of “hit Favre and force fumbles.” Either way, it was impressive to see, on just about every single play, a defensive player punching for the ball. Those efforts sometimes led to missed tackles, but more often than not, the Saints were able to force the ball out. Now…falling on it…is another matter entirely.
- The Saints will have to play a great deal better to beat the Colts. Reggie Bush ended the day with 8 yards on the ground. That ain’t gonna cut it next week, New Orleans. Jerraud Powers will be healthy, and so will the entire Colts secondary. You’re going to need to have a healthy and balanced offense to score on Indy and keep Peyton Manning off the field. (And even if you keep him off the field for long periods of time, he might still burn you.) I was really impressed with his rapport with Collie and Garcon yesterday. That’s a deep team that can say “What, I can’t throw to my top two guys (Wayne/Clark)? No problem.”
I’m not thrilled about this turning into the Archie Manning Bowl, but it’s a far cry better than any Favre Bowl combination. I’ll still be rooting for Drew Brees and the Saints, but I’m looking forward to getting a little deeper into this matchup in the next week and a half.