The Jets' quarterback mess got all the headlines last week and again on Sunday, and that's certainly understandable. And it's a shame for Geno Smith that his big chance to revive his career ended in less than a half.
But Smith, like Ryan Fitzpatrick, likely wouldn't have figured into the Jets' future regardless. So here's the real shame of what happened on Sunday for the Jets:
If the rest of their team had played all season like they played in their 24-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens, they probably wouldn't have needed to switch quarterbacks at all and they wouldn't be sitting in this 2-5 hole.
That, and the play of the two quarterbacks, are all covered in my Top 5 takeaways from the Jets' "big" win:
1. Presumably with concerns over Smith, the Jets went into the game with a conservative game plan. But it worked for them. They rode Matt Forte to the tune of 30 carries for 100 yards and dumped off four passes to him for another 54 yards. It's what they had done early in the season, and what they had promised to do once they signed him in the offseason. He's a dangerous weapon. And the Jets are so much better when they're not throwing the ball all over the field. Yes, as Todd Bowles has said, the blocking hasn't always been there for Forte. But he only gained 3.3 yards per carry against the Ravens. The difference is the Jets were committed to the run from the start - even after Fitzpatrick was forced back into the game. As a result, they wore down one of the best run defenses in the NFL. Sticking to that game plan the rest of the way wouldn't be the worst idea, especially with receiver Eric Decker out.
2. The passing offense isn't going to work, no matter who the quarterback is, if Brandon Marshall doesn't start playing like a No. 1 receiver. He caught just there of the eight passes thrown his direction and those only went for 39 yards. No, it doesn't help when he's constantly covered by the opponents' best corner, with safety help and double teams since he's the Jets' only dangerous receiver (or maybe not, but more on that in a moment). But late in the first quarter, Marshall missed a bullet pass thrown by Smith that he probably could've caught. He hurt another drive with an inexcusable false start. And then, on a 3rd and 1 in the fourth quarter, he dropped a pass that was a little low and a little behind him but certainly catchable for one of the best receivers in the game. He's got to raise his game. The Jets need him.
3. Who knew Quincy Enunwa had the second gear he showed on his 69-yard touchdown. It was a short pass, but he turned and burst away from the three Ravens who surrounded him and then outran everybody down the field and to the end zone. For a guy that everyone thought was more like a tight end last season, and then who seemed to be a nice possession receiver this season, maybe he's got more breakaway ability than we all thought. "I wanted to make sure people knew (Odell Beckham) wasn't the only explosive receiver in the 2014 NFL draft class," Enunwa said after the game. He was joking. At least I think he was joking.
4. Early in the game, Ravens receiver Mike Wallace caught a 50-yard pass where he beat Jets CB Buster Skrine, then got inside position on him, and S Calvin Pryor was late coming over (and then misplayed the ball). It reeked of "Here we go again" with a Jets secondary that has been a nightmare this season. But remarkably they got a ton better as the game went along. Marcus Williams broke up a would-be touchdown pass in the end zone. Skrine broke up a deep pass to Wallace midway through the third quarter. And of course the Jets had two interceptions, including one Skrine returned 41 yards to the Ravens 3. It was by far their best game all season long. If only it hadn't taken until Week 7.
5. This still wasn't the dominant defensive line the Jets showed in their seven-sack opener, but for the first time since then they got consistent pressure. And it was by far the best game Sheldon Richardson has played (8 tackles, 3 for loss, 2 quarterback hits and a sack). Maybe it's not a coincidence that the Jets' best two games at defensive line came when they were "shorthanded". They were without Richardson in the opener and without Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) on Sunday. That forced defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers to stop messing around with Richardson at linebacker or any other gimmicks to get Richardson, Wilkerson and Leonard Williams all in the game together, and it kept guys at their natural positions. Whatever it was, it worked and whatever the Jets did scheme-wise, they should stay consistent in the weeks to come.