Eagles humiliate Jets, 45-19: Post-game Breakdown

This was “that game.” Once the Jets beat Kansas City, it looked like Jets fans might not have to suffer through “that game.” It’s the once-a-December game where the Jets should theoretically win, but inexplicably just get killed, and they weren’t just killed, they were massacred, 45-19, by the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Jets franchise is 0-9 against the Eagles franchise lifetime now. Those past games had little to do with this one. For example, the Jets were actually competitive in some of those games. CBS showed highlights of a game Boomer Esiason started for the Jets where the Jets lost in the fourth quarter.

This one was practically over at the opening coin toss.

[caption id="attachment_428" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Santonio Holmes (10) losing control of the ball as he's hit by Casey Matthews (50) and Kurt Coleman (42). It was the first of four Jets' turnovers. Photo by Michael Perez // The AP."][/caption]

Wide receiver Santonio Holmes, probably the Jets’ best offensive player, made two costly errors that led to a 14-0 deficit before the first quarter was up. Holmes fumbled on the Jets’ opening drive, which was recovered and run back for a Philly touchdown. Then, on the very next series (after the special teams had recovered an Eagles turnover), Holmes had one of quarterback Mark Sanchez’s rare perfect throws bounce off his hands to get picked off, which led to another Eagles touchdown.

It was 28-0 before the Jets got it together enough to answer. At the end of the first half, it was 28-13, and it looked like the Jets were collecting themselves enough to mount a comeback in the second half, but it didn’t happen. The Eagles tacked on points to put the game out of reach.

Sanchez’s final line was 15 for 26 for 150 yards with two touchdowns. He had two interceptions, though one really should have been caught by Holmes, and a fumble on a busted play. He should have had more yards and a better completion percentage, but there were some drops.

There were some highlights though. His first touchdown pass was a perfect laser to Holmes (who promptly went on to get flagged 15 yards for taunting). There was also his 41 yard completion to tight end Dustin Keller, by far one of the duo’s most impressive plays of the year.

But beyond that and a great catch by Plaxico Burress, which went from “incomplete” to “touchdown” on review, there wasn’t much to be impressed with.

The offensive line failed again, and Sanchez was sacked four times. He was hit a bunch of times without being sacked, once looking seriously injured. Doubled over with his right arm hanging, center Nick Mangold helped Sanchez off the field and backup quarterback Mark Brunell began warming up on the sideline. Sanchez returned the next series after the medical staff massaged the kinks out of his neck and shoulder, but once again, Jets’ fans held their breaths as Sanchez was hit over and over again.

[caption id="attachment_429" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Mark Sanchez (6) lies on the turf, surrounded by Eagles defenders. It was a sight Jets fans had to get used to as the game wore on. Photo by Matt Slocum // The AP."][/caption]

For all anyone complains about Sanchez, nobody can say he isn’t tough or durable.

One of the offensive line’s biggest problems was that right tackle Wayne Hunter was embarrassed by Eagles’ defensive end Jason Babin. Babin had three of those four sacks, and Hunter allowed the hit that nearly knocked Sanchez out. Hunter, since getting his contract and becoming a starter, has not had a good year and doesn’t look like starter material. In addition to his lousy job protecting Sanchez this game, he had two costly false start penalties.

The idea that Hunter is an upgrade over former offensive lineman Damien Woody, as lineman Matt Slauson once claimed, is laughable at this point. Unfortunately, Hunter looks like one of the problems the Jets need to fix in the off season.

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer can’t be blamed for turnovers or poor execution, but he can be blamed for going away from the run too early. The Jets were down 14-0, but they weren’t completely out of the game. Running back Shonn Greene had 33 yards on 4 carries before the Jets went away from the run. Philadelphia isn’t very good at stopping the run but is very good at rushing the passer. It was nothing but panic to change the game plan that early, and it was changing it to a non-winning strategy. Sure, this loss was more terrible execution than bad offensive play calling, but it was still not the right call.

The defense matched the offense’s completely inept performance, allowing 45 points and 420 total yards. Running back LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick ran all over them. Knowing how fast and talented those guys are, you could expect that. You could almost forgive it…if it wasn’t for the other stuff.

The Jets’ defense has two glaring weaknesses. The first is the fact that they have no real pass rush. Aaron Maybin, while very good, is a specialist right now – he’s a small guy who only plays certain downs.  Nobody else on the Jets consistently gets to the opposing quarterback. Today, Michael Vick’s speed exposed the Jets lack of pass rush even further, because what looked like sure sacks ended up being big gains as Vick danced away, throwing for completions on the run or rushing the ball himself.

The other massive hole in the Jets’ defense is their ability to cover tight ends, especially big tight ends. Brent Celek had 5 receptions for 156 yards. Nothing against Celek, but he’s not New England’s Ron Gronkowski. He’s not a superstar in the making. In his previous two games, he had 4 receptions for 39 yards and 3 receptions for 21 yards. He’s just a big tight end that the Jets couldn’t cover.

The Jets are small at safety. They weren’t effective at covering tight ends even before they lost safety Jim Leonhard last week. Leonhard and Eric Smith were not big enough to bring down big tight ends. Brodney Pool is a bit bigger, but not as fast and he can’t cover everyone at once. Opposing offenses don’t have to challenge cornerbacks Darrelle Revis or Antonio Cromartie on the edges, all they have to do is throw the ball over the middle to a tight end and the Jets’ defense is beaten.

These two trends are disturbing for a team that likes to think of itself as a defensive minded football team.

The only part of the game today that wasn’t a complete disaster for the Jets was their special teams. They didn’t commit any turnovers, have many penalties, and even recovered a turnover. Antonio Cromartie had some good runbacks on kickoffs. Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley looked good on punts. Nick Folk kicked two field goals.

This game was a turnover disaster for both teams, but where the Jets got some field goals, the Eagles scored touchdowns. And the Jets were penalized 11 times for 93 yards – holding, unsportsmanlike conduct, roughing the passer.

This wasn’t the reason the Jets lost, but it was still irritating: one of the roughing the passer calls, the one on Marcus Dixon, was total garbage. Vick still had the ball and Dixon hit him in the chest with his arms. Protecting quarterbacks make sense, but when you can’t hit him with your arms in the chest when he has the ball, what do you expect defenses to do? Hope the QB falls down? It was a bad call that cost the Jets 15 yards and the Eagles scored not long afterwards. The roughing the passer call on Calvin Pace was also questionable, but at least you could argue he led with his helmet.

Even with this absolute disaster, the Jets were helped for a second straight week. The Raiders lost in the last minute to the Lions, a comeback that saw some incredible throws from quarterback Matt Stafford. The 0-13 Colts beat the Titans to improve to 1-13. Cincinnati won, but the Jets hold the tiebreakers and are currently still in the sixth and final playoff slot.

So they still control their own destiny, even though they don’t deserve to after this game. Neither of the next two games will be easy. The Giants are fighting for their playoff lives too, and the Dolphins would love to play spoiler. But for now, the Jets are still in the position of “win and in.”

Jets fans would like to thank the universe for bailing the Jets out as an early Christmas gift, and hope the Jets return the universe’s favor by being less pathetic and actually fighting for their own playoff berth in the next two weeks; that this is the last one of “those games” for quite some time.

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