2009 NFL Divisional Playoffs Review

The New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts certainly didn’t look rusty after playing a few meaningless regular season games and having a bye week. In fact, they looked the opposite, healthier, fresher, and ready to roll.

Kickers played a huge role in this year’s playoff games. Nate Keading of the San Diego Chargers choked on two makeable field goals that probably cost the Chargers the game. Chris Kluwe had a fabulous day punting for the Vikings that had an impact on field position and the ability of the Cowboys to come back after getting down early. Last week Jay Feely of the New York Jets had to punt and placekick. His ability to punt effectively was impressive.


New Orleans Saints over Arizona Cardinals, 45-14

This game turned out about how I expected, although I thought the Cardinals would have more success on offense. The Cardinals defense played so badly last week that I expected another track meet in which the Saints would ultimately prevail. I did not think the Saints defense would play as badly as Green Bay’s last week, and they were at home, so I gave them a big edge. A few early turnovers and the Saints scoring a touchdown on nearly every possession in the first half sealed the deal early.

The Saints looked quite impressive on both sides of the ball throughout the game, and Reggie Bush even emerged as a significant scoring threat, as if the Saints didn’t already have enough weapons. His 46 yard touchdown run near the end of the first half buried the Cardinals early, and his 83 yard punt return in the third quarter knocked whatever spark the Cardinals had right out.

You have to hand it to Kurt Warner though. After getting blasted after an interception in the first half and leaving the game, he came out in the second half and played hard, in what increasingly looked like a futile effort given their defense was doing little to stop the Saints.

MVP: Reggie Bush, RB/KR

Indianapolis Colts over Baltimore Ravens, 20-3

The biggest weakness of the Ravens this year is they lacked a true number one receiver and had a hard time getting big plays in the passing game. That was ultimately their downfall all year, and against the Colts in the playoffs. Add to that the multiple turnovers, and they had no chance.

You could see the frustration on quarterback Joe Flacco’s face in the second half with the inability to get anything going. Derrick Mason is a decent receiver but too old and not fast enough to be a breakaway wide receiver and Mark Clayton, who should be that guy, is a bust.

The Colts, and Peyton Manning had a very efficient offensive game, controlled the clock, and simply ground out an easy win over the Ravens. The Ravens defense played well in spots, but with the turnovers and time of possession, there was not a lot they could do to pull this one out.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB


Minnesota Vikings over Dallas Cowboys, 34-3

While the Minnesota offense played extremely well, especially Brett Favre and Sidney Rice, it was really the defense and special teams that set the tone early and clamped down on the Cowboys. Tony Romo and the Cowboys offense were harassed early, with Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards emerging with three sacks and forced fumble early in the game. And they continued to frustrate the Cowboys offense throughout, leaving the offense to have its way with the Cowboys defense.

And even though I am no fan of Cowboys tackle Flozell Adams, once he was knocked out of the game, the Minnesota defensive line really dominated the action. Putting Jason Witten and sometimes a back to block Minnesota’s Jared Allen was foolhardy, and their back up tackle was not up to the task, either.

Obviously Favre played a great game with four touchdown passes (but one in garbage time), but it was the defense that really pulled this one out for the Vikings. I also have to include punter Chris Kluwe in that, who had some excellent punts which impacted field position.

It was a well rounded effort by the Vikings and gives them the kind of big win they need to keep momentum as they face New Orleans next week in the Superdome.

MVP: Ray Edwards, DE

New York Jets over San Diego Chargers, 17-14

I really thought the Jets had no chance against the Chargers this week. The Chargers won nine games in a row and were the hottest team heading into the playoffs. They looked completely flat offensively in this game, but hats off to the number one defense in the league for shutting them down most of the game.

Two big keys to game were the two interceptions thrown by Philip Rivers in the third quarter, one on a brilliant play by Darrelle Revis, and Nate Keading missing two makeable field goals, which probably cost the Chargers the win. The ten points off turnovers and missed field goals were huge for the Jets.

The biggest play of the game, and the one that ultimately sealed it for the Jets was Shonn Greene’s 53 yard run for a touchdown that put the Jets up 17-7 with a little over seven minutes left to play. Given the way the Jets defense was playing it proved to be too much for the Chargers to overcome, although they came close.

And what to make of Nate Keading’s two missed field goals? I would not call a 36 yarder and a 40 yarder chip shots, necessarily, but they are the kinds of kicks that must be made, especially in the playoffs. Hit one, and you might be looking at overtime and a chance to win. Hit both and you are likely looking at the Chargers moving on to the AFC Championship game. It will be a long, long offseason for poor Keading.

And finally, there as been much debate about Norv Turner going for an onside kick in near the end of the game with one time out and 2:14 left on the clock. Kick it away, and get a three and out with one time out and the two minute warning, you are probably looking at getting the ball at least your own 30 yard line (but probably better with the poor punting by the Jets’ Steve Weatherford) with about one minute and a half on the clock. Even though the Jets had played great defense all day, the explosive Chargers would have had a chance to get into field goal range to tie the game and give Keading an opportunity to redeem himself (or not). Or even score a touchdown for the win. A failed onside kick ends the game. I thought it was bad move by Norv Turner.

Are the Chargers simply snake bitten in the playoffs? It seems the years they have their best chance to get to the Super Bowl they play well but lose in the playoffs. They seem to play better in the playoffs when they are the underdog.

MVP: Shonn Greene, RB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Reggie Bush, RB/KR, New Orleans
Defensive Player: Ray Edwards, DE, Minnesota
Offensive Lineman: Kyle DeVan, G, Indianapolis Colts
Special Teams: Reggie Bush, RB/KR, New Orleans

2009 NFL Football Season: Week 2

OBSERVATIONS

Tom Brady: I don’t know why the press is beating up on Brady so badly after two games. He is coming off a very serious ACL injury and has not played in a year. Of course it is going to take some time to get back to where he was before. Anyone who thought Brady was going to waltz in and be the Brady of old from the first snap is seriously delusional. Peyton Manning had a knee surgery and only missed preseason last year and looked very out of sync at least for the first quarter of the season if not longer. Carson Palmer never played particularly well his first year back after ACL surgery.

The Running Game: For the most part the most successful offensive teams are the teams that are running the ball effectively and utilizing their running backs.

Mark Sanchez: Like Flacco and Ryan last year, Sanchez has started off the season looking like the real deal at quarterback. And what do all three have in common? Good teams around them, and solid defenses. It’s too early to evaluate Matt Stafford.

Jim Zorn: Is a terrible head coach. The Redskins look lost on offense.

Jake Long: I am sick of people saying how good a tackle Jake Long of the Dolphins is. I have not seen anything that overly impresses me about him yet. He’s good, but he’s not great. Maybe he will be. He gave us some sacks and struggled in his first game, and had a lot of help against Dwight Freeney of the Colts on Monday Night. And Freeney is not that good against the run anyway.


GAMES I WATCHED

New York Jets over New England Patriots, 16-9

The scariest part of the Jets win over the Patriots for Patriots fans is the realization that we should be 0-2. We have no real leaders left on defense and Tom Brady is struggling early in the season, as one would expect coming off a serious knee injury. With a hot Atlanta team coming to Foxborough, mounting injuries, and the tough Baltimore Ravens on the horizon, we could be looking at a 1-3 start if we don’t right the ship.

The Jets talked the talk during the week leading up to this game, and they certainly walked the walk. In fact their defense walked all over the Patriots. The most intensely frustrating part of this game was that the Patriots squandered excellent field position throughout the first half, either settling for field goals or not scoring at all when they had chances on the Jets end of the of the field.

Brady clearly is still working to regain his form after coming off a year long layoff and ACL surgery. His footwork, timing, and accuracy are all off the mark. It doesn’t help that Wes Welker was on the bench, but rookie Julian Edelman did decent job in his place, although he had a few rookie mistakes. Meanwhile Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis shut Randy Moss down all day long, and Brady had no time throw. It was a long, long, day for the offense.

Defensively the Patriots have gone from old to very young, and lack natural leaders on and off the field. Dan Dierdorf, who I usually think is an idiot, said it best. Needing a stop in the second half to get the offense back on the field, Dierdorf said (paraphrased) “no Harrison, Bruschi, Vrabel, Seymour, and now no Jerrod Mayo. There are no real leaders left on this team that you just expect to step up and make a play in situations like this.” And of course the Jets get a first down. The defense didn’t play terribly, but in the second half they made rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez look like a savvy veteran.

Despite all this you can also lay part of the blame for this loss on a horrendous offensive game plan. There is no way in a two close games Brady should be throwing the ball around 50 times a game. That is ridiculous. Even if he were fully healthy the pass happy game plan in these tight games is head scratcher. We have five serviceable running backs, use them! Most of the time we bothered to run the ball against the Jets we mostly had success, but we didn’t stick with it enough. The best way to slow down an aggressive pass rush is a successful running game, play action passes, and screens. I saw none of that on Sunday and I think that cost us the chance to win the game.

The Jets had a very good season last year and tanked toward the end of the season. This year they again look solid. Mark Sanchez so far looks like the real deal at quarterback and their defense looks very stout.

For the Patriots, I am not hitting the panic button yet. I do think that Brady and the offense will find their rhythm as the season progresses and the defense will continue to improve. But we better not fall into a big hole early in the season or we may be chasing the Jets all year for the AFC East title.

And for me the player of the game is Leon Washington. Although his stats don’t look impressive at face value, his kickoff returns consistently gave the Jets good field position and he made some key offensive plays to keep drives alive in the second half (his lost fumble excepted).

MVP: Leon Washington, RB/KR


Baltimore Ravens over San Diego Chargers, 31-26

The San Diego Chargers are another playoff caliber team that should be 0-2. The loss of Jamaal Williams on the defensive line, along with other injuries, really seems to have put the Chargers defense in a tailspin. Despite their solid play the last two weeks, the Ravens are not a high scoring team generally but they mostly had their way with the Chargers.

Like the Patriots, beyond Rivers two interceptions, their biggest problem was scoring in the red zone. You can’t get into the red zone and settle for four field goals and except to win the game. And once again little Darren Sproles was a one man show but it wasn’t enough.

The Ravens, meanwhile, have picked up right where they left off last year. On offense Flacco is playing well and they are utilizing their three running backs, McGahee, Rice, and McClain very effectively (hear that Bill Belichick?). And defense the old veteran Ray Lewis continues to be a disruptive force.

MVP: Ray Lewis, LB


New York Giants over Dallas Cowboys, 33-31

It is funny hearing Eli Manning touted as the second coming by the pundits when Romo gave up three gift interceptions which doomed the Cowboys to losing their home opener in their new gaudy stadium. They say things are bigger in Texas and Romo seems to be the biggest choke artist of them all. Maybe he’ll take Peyton’s spot in that category. Romo has a great deal of potential but he made poor throws and mistakes in the passing game, and tends to do so on the biggest stages.

Don’t get me wrong, the Giants played well and so did Eli Manning. But he Cowboys helped them out quite a bit. The Giants, in fact, are clearly now the team to beat in the NFC East, if not the entire conference. They have an excellent if inconsistent quarterback, a solid running game, and maybe the best all around offensive line in the league. And now they have found two receivers who have stepped up to the plate and had a coming out party of their own in Steve Smith and Mario Manningham who had nearly 300 yards between them. And as usually, the Giants defense has sketchy defensive backs, but their defensive line is one of the best in the league.

MVP: Mario Manningham, WR


Indianapolis Colts over Miami Dolphins, 27-23

This is one of the most bizarre games I have ever seen. Miami holds the ball almost the entire game, running the ball right now the Colts throats, but still lose. Peyton Manning and the Colts had the ball for less than 15 minutes but scored a touchdown on big plays on nearly every possession to win the game. Unbelievable!

On offense Miami did everything right, rushing for 239 yards, using the “Wildcat” formation effectively, and throwing when they needed to. But the defense gave up big plays, and fast, nearly every time the Colts touched the ball. The first play of the game was an 80 yard touchdown pass from Manning to tight end Dallas Clark and they didn’t slow down or get out of rhythm, they just kept doing it when they had the ball. Manning was just brilliant in this game. If you cut Manning open you would probably find wires because he is a machine.

Miami’s defense should be ashamed. As should Miami wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. who dropped a catchable ball at the end of the game that could of won it for Miami. I think Ted Ginn, Jr. is a bust of a first round draft pick at this point. I have seen nothing in his career that has impressed me.

After the game Steve Young said Miami lost because they do not have a big play offense. This is one of the dumbest things I have ever heard him say. Had Miami scored on big plays that would have likely meant that the Colts just score more points and end up winning anyway. 99.999999 percent of the time a team rushes the ball as well as Miami did, scores touchdowns, and keeps the other team off the field for 45 minutes of the game, they will win. And the best way to beat the Colts is to control the ball, get some points, and keep Manning on the bench, just like Miami did. Few teams are going to win a scoring race with the Colts. It was Miami’s defense that lost this game.

Dallas Clark had 7 catches for 183 yards, including an 80 yard touchdown reception on the first play from scrimmage, but I have to go with Peyton as the MVP because he was just brilliant in this game.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49’ers (207 yards rushing)

Defensive Player: Antwan Odom, DE, Cincinnati (5 sacks)

Offensive Lineman: Jake Grove, C, Miami

Special Teams: Leon Washington, KR, New York Jets

Rookie of the Week: Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets

Review of Tales from the New York Jets Sidelines

2001238489-177x150-0-0Tales from the New York Jets Sideline by Mark Cannizzaro
Review by C. Douglas Baker

Tales from the Jets Sideline is a very disappointing book. It’s almost difficult to know where to start in detailing its many shortcomings. Jets fans and football fans in general will find very little here worth bothering with.

But first a little bit about what the book is about, which unfortunately isn’t much given the rich and varied history of this team. Cannizzaro essentially serves up a hodgepodge of short vignettes about the New York Jets players, coaches, and owner from 1993-2003. Most of the tidbits are nothing new, nothing particularly interesting, and seem to be items gleaned from the “Sports In Brief” section of the newspaper. He probably should have called the book, “Jets in Brief, Since 1993.”

The book is organized in chapters primarily around the Jets many coaches with the owner and a few prominent players thrown in for good measure. So we go through the laundry list of chapters: Bruce Coslet, Pete Carroll, Boomer Esiason (QB), Rich Kotite, Leon Hess (owner), Bill Parcells, Curtis Martin (RB), Bill Belichick, Al Groh, K and Q (Keyshawn Johnson and Wayne Chrebet), Chad Pennington (QB), and Herman Edwards. Thus we get snippets and snapshots of these particular coaches, players, and their teams.

If there is a theme to the book it is that the Jets, since 1993, have been cursed with very lousy coaching, with the exception of Bill Parcells. Parcells resurrected the Jets, took them to the AFC Championship game after the 1997 season, then abandoned the team to drift in a mire of mediocrity for another few years. But it ends on a hopeful note with praise for current coach Herman Edwards and the bright future of quarterback Chad Pennington.

The most interesting part of the book was the impact the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 had on this team and the fact Jets players were ready to boycott a game if the NFL had not decided to postpone the season by one week after the attacks. I could almost add the chapters on the contentious relationship between Keyshawn Johnson and Wayne Chrebet and the surreal episode of Bill Beleihick resigning almost immediately after being named head coach but there was no inside information and nothing new in either of these stories.

The bottom line is this book just isn’t very good and tells us nothing even a somewhat casual fan doesn’t already know about the New York Jets. The New York Jets have a rich history and hardly any of it is detailed here. The book doesn’t even pick up the Jets story until 1993 but the team has been in existence since 1959. So there is no Joe Namath and his guarantee of the Jets’ improbable upset win over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, the highlight of the team’s history. There’s no Freeman McNeil, Wesley Walker, Joe Klecko and Mark Gastineau and their Gang Green defense. In short, we miss out on hearing about most of the Jets greatest moments and greatest players.

While this book is short and quick a read, I can’t imagine even Jets fans find too much of interest here.

 Tales from the New York Jets Sideline

2008 NFL Football Season: Week 12

Randy Moss Dominates the Dolphins

Randy Moss Dominates the Dolphins

New England Patriots over Miami Dolphins, 48-28  

Unfortunately I didn’t get to watch this game live because I can’t get DirectTV at my house. I did get to watch it on NFL Replay on the NFL Network.

Thank Matt Cassel and Randy Moss for this important win over the classless Dolphins!  This was essentially a playoff game in the regular season for both teams and it clearly showed.  The loser (Miami!) very likely will miss the playoffs.  Too bad the Titans, Eagles, and Chargers didn’t give the Patriots any help in our bid to get back to the postseason this year.  But a loss against the Dolphins would have been nearly catastrophic to the Patriots’ playoff chances given Miami would have the tiebreaker against us with a sweep of the season series and a better conference record.  Not to mention we would be two games behind the Jets.  As it stands we need to keep winning and hope someone can pick off the Colts and Ravens. 

The Patriots dominated the game offensively but let Miami stay in it because two turnovers lead directly to 14 Miami points. Matt Cassel had his second consecutive 400 yard passing game and is one of only five QBs in NFL history to accomplish this (the others being Dan Fouts, Dan Marino, Phil Simms, Billy Volek, and now Matt Cassel).  Meanwhile Randy Moss made some outstanding catches and recorded 8 catches for 125 yards, and 3 touchdowns. 

Joey Porter is a classless loudmouth punk and unfortunately he seems to be rubbing off on his teammates.  He received a couple of personal foul penalties late in the fourth quarter and his coach tried to pull him out of the game but he wouldn’t leave the field.  He’s not only a classless, loudmouth punk but a sore loser too.  Matt Light got into a fight with Dolphin linebacker Channing Crowder on a field goal.  I couldn’t tell from the replay what precipitated the fight but I’ve been watching Matt Light his entire career and he is definitely not a hot headed or dirty player.  The way the Dolphins were playing I’m sure the punk Crowder did something to provoke him then ran away like a sissy when the action got going. It was announced today they both got $15,000 fines but no suspension. 

While the Dolphins had a hard time stopping the New England offense, the New England defense wasn’t anything to get excited about. The Dolphins did not have “give me” touchdown drives on either of the Patriots’ turnovers. If the defense lived up to the offense the Patriots would be hard to beat.

Regardless of whether or not the Patriots make the playoffs, this has once again been a season where Bill Belichick, love him or hate him, has proven what a great coach he is (the debacle in the Colts’ game excepted).  The team didn’t panic after Tom Brady went down and Cassel has steadily improved all season long.  The offense, despite losing its best running back, is performing at a high level.  Ironically it’s the defense that has struggled more this year but they too have overcome significant injuries. 

And one more thing.  Wes Welker rules!!!

Next week will be a tough game against Pittsburgh.  I hope Big Ben sends a few of his stupid interceptions our way.

MVP: Randy Moss, WR, New England Patriots 

GAMES I WATCHED

New York Jets over Tennessee Titans, 34-13 

If you could only watch the offensive and defensive lines play and nothing else, barring turnovers, you could pretty much tell who won the game.  The team that dominates the line of scrimmage almost always wins.  The Jets offensive line put on one of the most dominating performances I have seen this year, and they did it against a great, highly touted defensive line.  Nick Mangold has been playing extremely well all season but this was an A+++ performance.  The interior line made Albert Haynesworth all but disappear as a factor in the game.  Haynesworth lined up at defensive end a few times and once overpowered the overrated D’Brickashaw Ferguson for a sack on Favre.  But for the most part the Jets handled the Titans tough defense. 

The Jets played a mostly run oriented, short passing game that was highly effective all game long moving the ball and putting points on the board.  Their offensive success kept them in third and short situations and they seemed to make nearly all of them.  The Jets controlled the ball for over 40 minutes compared to only 20 minutes for the Titans and they really started to wear down the defense in the second half.  Even though the game was, to me, already over because the Titans showed no signs of being able to come back, Leon Washington breaking off a 61 yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter was the nail in the coffin. 

Defensively the Jets also played quite well.  They clearly geared up to stop the run and were very successful doing so.  Unlike last week, however, the Titans could not generate offense through the air.  Kerry Collins didn’t play terribly, the Titans were just in third and long frequently.  It didn’t help that his receivers dropped several balls throughout the game, especially the first half, that could have made it a little more competitive. 

While this is only one game in the regular season, the Jets have served notice that they are going to be a team to be reckoned with down the stretch.  They have a five game winning streak and have knocked off two division rivals and the team most thought was the best in the NFL going into the game.  While all their wins haven’t been quite as impressive as this win over the Titans, if they can duplicate this kind of performance every week they are going to be hard to beat.

MVP: Brett Favre, QB, New York Jets

Washington Redskins over Seattle Seahawks, 20-17

As far as professional football games go, this one was a bit lethargic by both teams. It took a third quarter interception by Matt Hasselbeck with the game tied at 10, resulting in the Redskins starting in great field position and going up 17-10, to basically seal the game. While the Seahawks played fairly well defensively, Clinton Portis was the star of the show in the second half, grinding out 143 yards in the game. Ironically for these two West Coast, short passing oriented coaches, the game was decided by a power running attack by the Redskins in the second half.

Maybe it’s just me but the Redskins are not looking like a playoff caliber team. They seem lethargic (I say it again) and without the fire I saw earlier in the season.  And not just this week, but lat week against Dallas too.  Maybe it’s just a late season slump.  We’ll see.  Regardless, Jim Zorn is destined to be a solid head coach.  I’m impressed.

MVP: Clinton Portis, RB, Washington Redskins

Indianapolis Colts over San Diego Chargers, 23-20

The Colts and Chargers played a pretty even game. The difference in the game was one single turnover. Philip Rivers fumbled the ball in the red zone, on the 10 yard line, which the Colts drove to a 17-10 lead.  At least a 10 point swing, and possibly a 14 point swing if they could have scored.  Game over. Well, not quite. San Diego did come back late in the game to tie it at 20-20 but left too much time on the clock. Manning quickly got the Colts into very long field goal range but Adam Vinatieri booted a 51 yarder for the win.

I am frankly shocked that the Chargers, with all their talent, are 4-7. I don’t care if Tomlinson is not playing up to his standards or that they lost Shawn “Juicer” Merriman to injury, there is just no excuse for this team to have a losing record. 

And while Peyton doesn’t look like the Peyton we’ve seen in years past, he’s on a roll and the Colts are going to be a tough, scary match-up if they make the playoffs.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts

New Orleans Saints over Green Bay Packers, 51-29

Drew Brees put on a show with over 300 yards passing and four touchdown passes against the Packers in one of the best offensive showings I’ve seen this year. Meanwhile Aaron Rodgers did his best Brett Favre imitation, the bad Brett Favre that is, with three interceptions, two of them stupid ones that turned into Saints scores. The Saints offense was simply unstoppable all game long. The Packers put up some crazy numbers on offense as well but the turnovers and the inability of the defense to get a pass rush on Brees and his accurate passes and bombs just blew the game totally open in the second half. This was a phenomenal QB clinic by Brees in this game. He just shredded the defense of the Packers again, and again, and again. I think Green Bay is a good offensive team and will bounce back, but their defense, despite having two of the best corners in the league, were really exposed in this game.

MVP: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Terrell Owens, WR, Dallas Cowboys, 7 catches, 213 yards, 1 touchdown

Defensive Player: Ed Reed, FS, Baltimore Ravens, 2 interceptions and NFL record 108 yard interception return for a touchdown

Offensive Lineman: Nick Mangold, C, New York Jets

Special Teams: Domenik Hixon, 201 return yards and 68 yard kickoff return for a touchdown

Rookie of the Week:  Leodis McKelvin, CB, Buffalo Bills, 2 interceptions and 64 yard interception return for a touchdown

2008 NFL Football Season: Week 11, Patriots Miscues Lead to Loss Against Jets

Jabbar Gaffney Drops a 1st Down Pass

Jabbar Gaffney Drops a 1st Down Pass

New York Jets over New England Patriots, 34-31 (OT)

For much of this game both offenses pretty much moved the ball at will against the opposing team’s defense (third quarter excepted). The key difference in the game was superior special teams play on kickoff returns by the Jets, poor red zone offense by the Patriots, and three miscues on offense by the Patriots in the third quarter that cost them scoring opportunities. Even though the Patriots got down 24-6 late in the first half, they didn’t lay down and made a real game of it. But in the end, the Patriots, as they did against the Colts, lost a game they could have, and should have won. It is very unusual to see the Patriots beat themselves. For Patriots fans used to better, it’s also disheartening.

The first half of the game was a disaster defensively for the Patriots. The Jets scored on every single drive they started: two touchdowns, a field goal, and a kickoff return for a touchdown. Meanwhile the Patriots were in the red zone twice and traded field goals for touchdowns with the Jets until a nice last minute drive to close the half with a touchdown to close the gap 24-13. Matt Cassel seems to have a lot of trouble in the red zone, and in fact has the lowest percentage in the NFL for red zone touchdown passes. He threw a terrible pass to Randy Moss in the end zone that forced us to settle for three instead of six. Cassel had a decent first half but he was often inaccurate with his throws toward the sideline.

The third quarter was one of the most frustrating quarters of football I have watched. The Patriots defense finally stepped up and stopped the Jets and the offense was moving the ball well. But miscues by the Patriots offense turned a quarter that could have been a sterling come back into an embarrassing and uncharacteristic series of mistakes. First, during a nice drive Ben Watson fumbled the ball and he wasn’t even hit! Missed scoring opportunity. On the next drive Dan Koppen snaps the ball in shotgun formation when Cassel wasn’t ready resulting in a 23 yard loss and eventual punt. Missed scoring opportunity. Then, on another nice drive, on third and short, Jabbar Gaffney (maybe he should shorten his name to just GAFF), drops a nicely thrown pass that would have resulted in a first down. Missed scoring opportunity. There are a lot of reasons the Jets won the game, but those three plays really cost us a good chance to pull out a win. We finally scored a touchdown late in the third quarter and a two point conversion turned it into a 24-21 Jets lead. Game on!

The fourth quarter reverted back to pretty much what the first half looked like. The Patriots were able to tie the game at 24-24, but lousy kickoff coverage on a short kick gave the Jets good field position and the defense once again let the Jets march down the field on a long scoring drive that ate up the clock and left us in a 31-24 hole. And what do we do on our possession? End up taking a sack and having to the punt the ball. But miracles of miracles we stopped the Jets and Matt Cassel lead a desperation drive with no timeouts with less than two minutes to go which resulted in an amazing touchdown catch by Randy Moss. After the extra point the game was tied 31-31. OVERTIME.

I knew going into overtime that whoever won the coin toss would win the game barring a turnover. So it was a 50-50 chance. Too bad. The Jets got the toss, ran the ball down our throats, and won on a short field goal. A friend and fellow Patriots fanatic who I was watching the game with suggested we should go for a two point conversion at the end of the game to win it instead of taking the 50-50 chance on the coin toss (we both agreed whoever won the coin toss would win the game). Given the results and the way our offense was playing, I wonder. I wouldn’t have gone for the two-point conversion but what do you think:

 Other Observations about the Game

Jets Fans: My “friends” – and I’ll use that term loosely this week – who happen to be Jets fans, were unusually obnoxious leading up to this game. I guess because it has been a long time since they have had something to cheer for. I dread to hear their gloating this week and their praise of Eric “Traitor” Manweenie and Brett Farve, who has made a joke out of his career with the Packers with his actions this year.

Holding Penalty on Mike Vrabel on Jets Last Touchdown Drive: On third and short for the Jets in the fourth quarter the Patriots appeared to stop the Jets and force them to settle for a short field goal. Instead they got first and goal from point blank range. I am not suggesting bad officiating costs us the game, well maybe I am. I saw the replay several times and that was an egregiously horrible call that all but gave the Jets a touchdown instead of a field goal. That could have been the deciding factor in the game. I saw the replay several times and if that was defensive holding then the NFL should just fold and disband all the teams because you would have to call holding on almost every single short passing play. I am sick of seeing refs make such stupid bad calls in critical situations.

Matt Cassel: Matt Cassel has demonstratively improved as the season has progressed and played an excellent ball game for the most part. He did struggle with accuracy at times, especially on sideline passes. And his deep balls were way off target and that really takes away from our advantages on offense with Randy Moss in the mix. He clearly has an NFL caliber arm as his deep balls are mostly overthrown not underthrown. It’s the timing and accuracy that are off. His red zone passes are also a bit problematic and an area the team needs to improve on. Cassel still has a way to go in these areas, but overall I am very impressed with his improvement over the year. He showed a great deal of leadership in the second half and his last touchdown drive was, well, Brady like.

Game Plan: This game, unlike the Colts game, isn’t on Belichick or his coaching staff. They abandoned the running game when they got behind and had a game plan that allowed us to move the ball up and down on the field with ease for much of the game. It was the aforementioned mistakes by players that nixed us in this game.

Defense: If our defense could play like they did in the third quarter all the time we would really have something going. But for the most part they were just eaten up by the Jets offense. I don’t know if it is injuries, our weak defensive backfield, or something else, but we have to do better than we did against the Jets! Jerrod Mayo, our rookie linebacker out of Tennessee was phenomenal. I read an article that said he was overrated. That is laughable. This guy may turn out to be a dominant defense player barring injury.

Special Teams Play: Our kickoff coverage was horrible all game long and constantly gave the Jets good field position and handed them one touchdown. This late in the season I just don’t understand that. That was the one key area were we clearly lost this game. Thus I give you the MVP of the game.

MVP: Leon Washington, KR/RB, New York Jets

ONE MORE NOTE: LAST NIGHT WAS TROY BROWN NIGHT, ONE OF THE ALL TIME GREAT PATRIOTS. You can read my tribute to Troy Brown here:

https://cdbaker.wordpress.com/2008/09/21/tribute-to-troy