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This analysis is based on watching and re-watching TV footage. As such, it is not always possible to accurately determine everything that was going on. However, every effort has been made to ensure that the information below is as complete and correct as possible.

Coming up after the jump, an analysis of yesterday’s loss to the Giants, including details of Darrelle Revis’ “decent” but wasted performance, the evolution of Sione Pouha and Dustin Keller’s eventful day. Remember, if you want me to look into anything in particular or go into more detail, leave a comment and I’ll include it in BGA Extra, which will follow in a few days.

Oh, and Merry Christmas!

Guh…well, that sucked. So many things went wrong that I don’t know where to start. Let’s just get right to the Playoff Hopes Autopsy Report:

Quarterback

If there’s one excuse I can’t use for how difficult it is to assess Mark Sanchez’s performance on Sunday, it’s that I don’t have a big enough sample size. Sanchez dropped back a staggering 71 times on Sunday, as the Jets ran a remarkable 97 plays, including penalties. Had Sanchez not been intercepted in the last minute, it probably would have gone over 100.

To put that into perspective, the Jets last ran that many plays against the Browns last year. Of course, that game went into the last minute of overtime, so it was 25% longer than usual. The Giants only ran 56 plays.

It’s not surprising therefore that Sanchez had to deal with almost two games-worth of pressure. Having said that, there were almost 50 plays where he dropped back with no pressure, so you’d expect him to have generated much more than 258 passing yards overall and a completion percentage barely over 50%, so I don’t think the fact he was under pressure a lot was an adequate excuse. He was five of 15 for 32 yards with a pick when pressured.

PFF only counted two dropped passes for the Jets, but it depends how strict you want to be. Shonn Greene, Dustin Keller and Santonio Holmes arguably could have had two each. Even if they weren’t straight drops, these were all passes where they could have helped out their QB – and this week there weren’t many examples of great catches that did bail him out. That’s a slightly better excuse.

Another excuse might be that although the protection held up plenty of times, the pressure had a bigger effect in that it meant he was rattled and perhaps dedicating more attention to where he was in the pocket and who was coming, than to actually reading the defense. Also, the fact that pressure was generated without blitzing – although they did blitz 18 times – meant that they could often drop a lot of guys into coverage to make his life harder. It’s also harder to complete passes when the defense knows you are passing.

That’s a point which is affected by the Jets’ near-abandonment of the running game in the second half. They had only passed 18 times until they fell behind for the first time late in the first half – a reasonable number (and they had started off being modestly successful). As the Giants stretched their 10-7 halftime lead into a 20-7 lead, it was understandable that the Jets might look to pass to get back into the game quickly, but once they pulled within 20-14 and had the ball with five minutes to go, surely they should have returned to a more balanced approach that had seen them have some success early on in the game.

It makes you wonder if the coaching staff lacks faith in the running game, or actually in Sanchez himself – insofar as they didn’t want him to lose any rhythm by taking the ball out of his hands, or they feel more confident that he can move the ball downfield if given three or four shots at a first down than they would if he only got one chance on third and four or something. In other words, they believe he can go 5 of 12 for 70 yards on a scoring drive, but don’t want to put him in a one-off do or die situation. In any case, on that drive, they perhaps would have run the ball if they gained positive yardage from the first down screen pass, which saw LaDainian Tomlinson get held up in traffic at the line, so Sanchez couldn’t get the ball to him with three blockers out in front. We shall never know.

So, what of Sanchez’s performance, then? He led one nice scoring drive, although they needed a 4th down penalty to preserve that one and then he led a scrappier drive down to the goal line, which he belated finished off following an exchange of turnovers.

Of the 29 passes that Sanchez failed to complete, five were batted at the line, five were deflected and two were intercepted. That’s 12 passes – more than 20% - where a Giants player got a hand on one of his passes first. Theoretically, any of these could have resulted in turnovers. That’s not good enough.

So, while Sanchez had a few nice throws and some gutsy scrambles, including one for a touchdown – where he had just about the easiest touchdown pass of all time to Matt Mulligan, but, perhaps wisely, decided to put his body (literally) on the line – he had a lot more in the way of bad throws. And that’s before we even get to his decision making in terms of getting rid of the ball.

I could get into how much of the pressure he was under he brought on himself, but he’s been punished enough. Again, literally.

Sanchez did get better this year, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Time has caused the memory of his late game and playoff heroics to remain fresher in the mind than all the bad throws and decisions he made last year. However, is his progress towards what the front office signed him to a $50m contract to be too slow? I’m beginning to think perhaps it is – we know how impatient these guys can be, so maybe we should be expecting the unexpected following the season.

Offensive Line

The offensive line did not play well as a unit or individually. However, Wayne Hunter was the only one to receive a significant negative grade. Despite this, I thought his performance actually exceeded my expectations for him from a technique evaluation standpoint.

The Jets gave him some help, occasionally leaving a back in just in case and chipping his man with a tight end every once in a while, but most of the time he was left to his own devices against Justin Tuck. Although he gave up six pressures, Hunter didn’t allow a sack and only allowed Sanchez to get hit once. Even on the plays where he did surrender a pressure, I have to give him credit for sticking to his assignment and he was usually able to recover well enough to keep Tuck from getting to Sanchez cleanly and allowing him to get the throw away, usually by forcing him upfield or driving him out of the play as Sanchez stepped up to avoid him. He was only what I would call “cleanly beaten” twice, although one of those did lead to Sanchez’s first interception.

Hunter also graded positively in the running game, although his overall grade was hurt by his holding penalty, which seemed unnecessary, because he had Tuck well-blocked, but then tugged his jersey as he was going to ground.

Next week, Hunter will get to face Cameron Wake again. I have literally no idea how this will go. Wake tore Hunter a new one last year, but then Hunter kept him quiet early this season. If he sticks to most of the things he did in this game, then hopefully he’ll be able to limit the damage.

While I do think Hunter’s gone at the end of the season, but I don’t necessarily think his NFL career will be over. Sadly enough, there will always be starting jobs available for players of Hunter’s caliber.

Despite Hunter’s performance, I was far more concerned over the performances of Matt Slauson and D’Brickashaw Ferguson.

Ferguson had a rough day in the running game and, although he received a positive pass blocking grade from PFF, they did credit him with a sack and two hits allowed. It could have been more though. Sanchez’s incompletion that was originally called a fumble would have gone against him had it remained a sack. Also, there were two other sacks by Jean Pierre-Paul on his watch. One went down as a coverage sack and the other was credited to Slauson, but it was Ferguson who initially was beaten and Slauson just tried to make a last ditch save.

Slauson actually had his BEST game of the year as a run blocker, by some margin….and his WORST game in pass protection – again by some margin. PFF had him down for two sacks, one hit and three pressures, including the one above that could easily have gone to Ferguson and the one that ended up being a safety. There were a couple of other plays that also saw him get beaten, but where no pressure was recorded and he was bull rushed into Sanchez at least once too. Very discouraging. And unlike Hunter, Slauson WAS getting beaten cleanly.

Brandon Moore did give up two pressures, but had a positive performance in pass, run and screen blocking. His grade was ruined by his three penalties, although one of these was incorrectly attributed to him when it should have gone to Ferguson.

Nick Mangold had a solid performance, albeit not up to his usual dominant level. He only gave up one pressure, but did have a costly bad snap.

Vladimir Ducasse was mistake free this week, but only saw action on four snaps. In the two games before that it was 21 and then eight.

Running Backs

Shonn Greene carried just 14 times for 58 yards and now has 999 on the season. He made some nice cuts and had a couple of first downs with good second effort, but his hands let him down in the passing game.

LaDainian Tomlinson saw action on 62 snaps and Greene on 36 snaps. Clearly this is because of the pass-heavy gameplan, but is there more to this? Is Greene still hurting? Was it a benching? Tomlinson did catch six passes and gained 65 yards on 11 touches overall.

Joe McKnight saw action on three snaps, but his contribution has been pretty limited since that “break-out game” in Denver. I know he’s been hurt, but even before that he seemed to be making some contribution every week and that hasn’t happened for a while.

John Conner got a pretty good grade from PFF, but I was a bit frustrated with some of his blocks this week. He did make more good ones than bad ones – hence the positive grade – but I felt he missed some that he should have done a better job on. Perhaps the fact that my standards for him are increasing is a good sign.

Congratuations to Josh Baker for his first NFL touchdown. We’ll include him here because he was a FB/H-Back on his only snap this week. I think this kid is a keeper.

None of the backs recorded a broken tackle this week.

Receivers

With Sanchez dropping back over 70 times, some of the receivers must have had monster performances, right? Hardly.

Dustin Keller was really busy though. Eight catches for 77 yards sounds pretty good, but he was targeted 16 times overall! This is one week where you can’t complain that they didn’t try to make him part of the gameplan.

Of those eight misses, there were three that he arguably should have caught, one that he appeared to lose sight of in the sunlight and the one that famously hit him in the face.

When I saw that one hit him as he didn’t even look back for the ball, I thought back to a recent game where someone made the observation that Santonio Holmes caught a touchdown pass where he deliberately didn’t make it look like the ball was on its way until the last moment and this meant that the defender didn’t have as long to react. I wondered if this was a similar situation to that, with Keller making it look like he was not involved in the play and then perhaps bursting into life, leaving behind the lulled-into-a-false-sense-of-security defender. Perhaps Sanchez just delivered it too early?

Having looked back at the play, I don’t think this is the answer, because Keller just grumpily pointed over at Holmes, as if to say “You were supposed to throw it to him.” Looking at the film, Sanchez looked left, didn’t like what he saw, so looked underneath to his second option instead…just like we’ve been wanting to see him do for weeks. It’s bad, bad news if the Jets have become so used to Sanchez never bothering to find his secondary reads that they’ve given up all expectation of ever getting the ball in those situations. Keller was actually only half-open and would have been sandwiched by two guys for a short gain, so maybe it wasn’t that damaging in the overall scheme of things, but there’s an overriding concern in situations like this one.

Was Keller just being lazy, has he tuned out his coaches or given up on the team? It doesn’t look like it, because despite these lapses in focus, he did make some big catches, looked fired up whenever he did and even made some good blocks, although he still had a negative grade. Also with a negative grade for blocking was Mulligan, who has actually been avoiding the big mistakes over the last three weeks, yet has had his three lowest rated games since week six. Go figure.

Plaxico Burress had three catches in the first half and none in the second half. It’s weird how his catches seem to come in bunches. Obviously he did catch one ball in the second half, but his touchdown catch was correctly negated by the officials – although judging by some of the catches Revis and Antonio Cromartie have given up this year, not every officiating crew would have flagged that.

Santonio Holmes had just four catches for 50 yards and the frustration over his lack of production continues. He also had two other catches that he should have held onto. Eight touchdowns each from Holmes and Plaxico Burress is a nice return, but Sanchez himself has six and is closing fast.

Jeremy Kerley looked comfortable and dangerous returning punts. If only he’d stayed healthy all year – although they actually won most of the games where a punt was muffed anyway. He had a couple of first downs, including a clutch 4th down catch, but he got very lucky when his fumble was reversed by replay. They got it right, but it was touch and go, so they could easily have stuck with the call on the field there.

Patrick Turner was in for 14 snaps and was targeted in the endzone on a play that was negated by a penalty.

Defensive Line

Earlier in the year, I suggested that the Jets should leave Sione Pouha in the game in pass rushing situations in order to prevent the Jets from being so susceptible to the run. I reasoned that pass rushing nose tackles are generally double teamed and therefore aren’t expected to get many pressures, so any deficiency in his pass rushing ability compared to the likes of Marcus Dixon is more than made up for by the fact that the other team is dissuaded from running. (I also reasoned that Bart Scott should stay in more often too, because any perceived weakness in his coverage skills would not be a dramatic drop-off compared to a backup defensive back, over whom he would possess much better attributes against the run).

Finally the Jets have started to do this and it is paying dividends. Not only is Pouha in the game and no doubt making teams think twice about running the ball, but he’s also contributing better than his history as a pass rusher would have ever led us to expect. In the last three games, Pouha has had a sack and six pressures, after having had just five pressures and no sacks in the first 12 games. On one play on Sunday, he beat his man, but then there was a back there to pick him up. No bother. He beat the back too, and flushed Manning from the pocket. Pouha is also contributing by getting a surge to collapse the pocket when used in this role.

Of course the concern over this is that Pouha will break down like he did at the end of last year, if they’ve increased his workload. However, they haven’t had to increase his workload that much, due to the fact that Dixon has been freed up to become part of the regular rotation and is flourishing. I was concerned that Pouha would be less dominant against the run and it is true that he was driven off the line by a couple of double teams on Sunday. However, he more than made up for that with a solid performance against the run, in which he was otherwise tough to move and registered three stops to complete an excellent all-round performance. For all the criticisms of this Jets team, the defensive line has been great, especially considering the lack of resources spent on it. However, Pouha is the main reason for that and his impending free agency is starting to loom as the biggest priority to address once the year is over.

Dixon didn’t have an enormous impact this week, but did get one hit on Manning, batted down a pass and got some good penetration in the running game. Mike DeVito started in his place and doesn’t look to be fully recovered from his knee injury yet, as he was handled easily by his blocker on two of the three Giants TD runs. (Although part of me wonders if the Jets let the Giants score on purpose down 20-14 with over two minutes left). DeVito did stuff three runs for short gains though, including two in the early stages, as the Jets held the Giants to six yards rushing in the first half.

Muhammed Wilkerson continues to be up and down, but did recorded another sack and was in on two tackles for losses. He let himself down with two missed tackles, though.

Martin Tevaseu was back in action for eight snaps and got good penetration on one play, but overall was a clear downgrade from Pouha.

Also, I was promised Potty wielding a club for Christmas, so I was upset to see that not come to fruition.

Linebackers

It was a good game by David Harris this week. He continued his recent spate of impact plays with a sack and a spectacular interception, but this week he also did a good job of keeping blockers off him and made some good plays against the run – although he did only make one stop and had one missed tackle.

Alongside him, Bart Scott had an eventful game and constantly seemed to be around the football. Oddly, he only blitzed three times, the fewest since the Pats game in week five where he was only in on seven pass plays. He was in on several stops for short yardage, but his best play saw him burst into the backfield to blow a play up, which Calvin Pace finished off with the tackle for a loss. He was also involved in a key play at the goal line where he was covering Travis Beckum and jammed him hard before the pass was thrown, knocking him off balance and causing him to drop the ball at the one yard line. He did have one missed tackle. It was interesting to see him contributing on special teams, where he had a good tackle on punt coverage.

Pace came off the edge to make two tackles for a loss, including the one mentioned above, to highlight a solid performance. He did get caught on the inside for a couple of big runs off the edge, though. He also just one pressure as a pass rusher.

Jamaal Westerman did a similarly solid job coming off the edge to blow up four runs. He had one QB hit, but was called for roughing the passer. His only other mistake saw him blocked out on Bradshaw’s last touchdown, which may or may not have been by design. It’s encouraging to see him playing the run better. It seems the competition with Garrett McIntyre has had a positive effect.

Aaron Maybin again did a good job of pressuring Manning, getting to him twice and nearly getting there one other time in just 15 pass rush attempts. However, his enthusiasm got the better of him late in the game and he was called for a costly late hit.

Josh Mauga was in on nine plays, unsuccessfully rushing the passer on five of them.

Defensive Backs

So Darrelle Revis is a “decent” cornerback is he? While the Giants may have laid temporary claim to the King of New York crown, there’s no question who the best player is after Sunday. Sorry, Jason Pierre-Paul. Revis broke up six passes and there wasn’t a hint of a penalty on any of them, just great technique again and again. One even ended up being intercepted. He did give up two catches, but one of these was for 11 yards on 3rd and 16, so he just gave the receiver a cushion and tackled him immediately to force a punt. The other catch was a 20-yarder, thrown high and to the inside down the seam with Hakeem Nicks high-pointing the ball for a leaping grab. Credit where credit’s due on that one, that’s impossible to cover, even for Revis. Even though they lost, this performance really was something special by Revis.

As always, Antonio Cromartie was a mixed bag. He looked comfortable and confident in coverage early and ultimately gave up just four yards on five targets with a pass defensed. Unfortunately, he gave up a lot more than that with two horrendous missed tackles, one of which led to the momentum-changing 99-yarder by Victor Cruz. Cromartie also did some damage with some poor kickoff return decisions, although he wasn’t helped by his blockers on the second one.

Kyle Wilson had a nice pass breakup on Cruz early on, but it all went downhill from there. Two bad missed tackles, including one on Cruz’s 99-yarder were just the start of his problems. Cruz burned him deep for another 36 yards later on and then beat him again but Manning’s throw to the endzone sailed on him.

Brodney Pool got off to a good start, breaking up a pass and getting an early pressure off the edge. However, he then gave up a catch to Cruz in the red zone and then missed the tackle, leading to a 29-yard gain. Later on, Ahmad Bradshaw ran over him in the secondary for another touchdown and he had to get tested for concussion.

It was a non-eventful day for Eric Smith, other than having the unfortunate task of trying to chase down Cruz on his touchdown. I don’t think he took a bad angle, just that he was never going to catch him. I haven’t seen the coaches film yet to see whether he was slow to react to the initial missed tackle, but from the point where you could see them both on screen, it never looked like Smith had a shot at catching him or even slowing him down.

Donald Strickland and Isaiah Trufant both saw time at slot corner, but neither was thrown at.

I thought it was interesting that Tracy Wilson went to free safety for three plays while Pool was getting assessed for a concussion, although it’s worth remembering that Marquice Cole is injured. Wilson added a good special teams tackle.

Special Teams

Once again, both kickers are underwhelming. TJ Conley had one awful shank and a few others didn’t seem to be well-hit. Nick Folk missed a field goal that could have been big. What if the Jets were down three with the ball and five minutes to go instead of six?

Ellis Lankster, who had two fumble recoveries last week, had an interesting day and continues to do a great job of getting down the field. He had two chances to down punts inside the five and did it perfectly on one, but botched the other. He also had a penalty.

Speaking of penalties, Nick Bellore had two on special teams and is now 2nd in the league for special teams penalties. However, he also had three tackles and is 2nd in the league for that too.

It's a minor nit, but I didn't like the "onside punt" after the Giants got a safety to go 22-14 up with just over two minutes left. I'd have kicked away there, tried to force a three and out and then got the ball back with about a minute or so left. It just felt like a failed onside kick there ends the game (because they can kick a chip shot field goal after running the clock down) and even a successful one leaves you needing 75 yards. Anyone agree/disagree?

Conclusions

Like I said above. That sucked.

The Jets are actually mathematically alive, needing three teams to lose their games (none of which are easy) and could still scrape into the playoffs with a win over Miami. Some people are saying “who cares?” because they don’t think the Jets can beat Miami, but I still maintain that they CAN beat anyone. If you don’t think there’s any way they could have won last night’s game, you wouldn’t be – justifiably in most cases - complaining about all the things they did wrong. They just DON’T beat everyone they should…and after spending the best part of 300 hours watching, analyzing and writing about this team’s games over the last five months, I’m still not sure I’m any closer to determining what are the main reasons why that is.

So, they CAN beat Miami but, if the last month is anything to go by, they WON’T and then the doom-mongers' propechy will be fulfilled and everything negative that anyone ever said about the team will be proven true. Except that this is nonsense, because even though the overall outcome was a negative one, that doesn’t mean that every criticism levied at this team was fair*. Some were, some weren’t – and evaluating which is which is what we at BGA continue to strive to determine, in order to try and figure out what the front office SHOULD do this offseason…and then trying to figure out the reasons behind them doing what they ACTUALLY do.

* If a hypochondriac dies, does that mean he was right about EVERY illness he ever thought he had?

And if, by some festive miracle, the Jets should find themselves in the playoffs, I’ll be excited for the postseason. The Jets have backdoored their way into the playoffs in the past and anything can happen once you get there. Of course, they’ll have to fix a lot of things to make “anything” happen, but we’ll worry about that if it happens.

If not, it’s going to be a heck of an offseason…

Remember, if there's anything else you'd like me to comment upon or go into more detail about, let me have your suggestions in the comments and I'll respond in BGA Extra later in the week.
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