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Jets' Fight Can't Overcome Sharper, Saints, 24-10


2009 Week 4 - Jets at Saints Photos

New Orleans was big and ultimately not easy on the New York Jets. But the Green & White didn't go down without a fight.

In an interconference battle of a pair of 3-0 teams, the Jets weren't able to overcome the Saints' hot first-half defensive start. They weren't out of it until six minutes were left in the game but they finally fell in the Louisiana Superdome Sunday afternoon, 24-10, for their first loss of the young season.

"The Saints outplayed us," said head coach Rex Ryan, tasting defeat for the first time as an NFL skipper. "They forced a lot of turnovers and scored with them. You've got to give them a lot of credit. They ran the ball pretty effectively against us as well."

And remember how last week's win over Tennessee was a team victory? This result was also on the team.

"We did OK," safety Kerry Rhodes said about the Jets' defense, "but we did our part in no winning this game as well. It was a complete loss by us."

Even though quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints moved the ball to the tune of 343 yards, they didn't score a touchdown against the Jets' slightly undermanned defense (without injured cornerbacks Lito Sheppard and Donald Strickland for a second game) until Pierre Thomas capped their longest march of the day by going over from 1 yard out with 6:07 to play.

But rookie QB Mark Sanchez and the Jets' offense had their troubles all game and especially with two big first-half errors, committing one in the New Orleans red zone and one in their own end zone. That led to second-quarter defensive TDs by Saints safety Darren Sharper — on a 99-yard interception return — and backup nose tackle Remi Ayodele — who pounded on a strip sack in the end zone — that gave the home team a 17-0 lead it never lost.

"It's tough when the rest of the team plays well enough to win and your quarterback doesn't play very well," said Sanchez, who completed 14 of 27 for 138 yards and turned the ball over four times on three interceptions and the lost fumble in also losing for the first time.

When it was suggested that this is the kind of game that rookie QBs sometimes have to endure, Sanchez wasn't going for the bait.

"I don't want to use that as an excuse," he said. "I just felt I made poor decisions. We spotted them 14 points and the final score was 24-10. I've got a lot of work ahead of me. I have a lot to learn from this film and a lot to improve on."

The message that his teammates gave were that they were behind their precocious QB.

"I think it's just a team thing today," said tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson. "We all kind of take our parts in this loss."

"The kid is poised. All he has to know is we've got his back," said linebacker Bart Scott. "We'll let the kid know we're 100 percent behind him, period."

One reason for that is because as rough as that second quarter went, the defense delivered Sanchez the ball and he delivered a 34-yard touchdown drive. It began when OLB Bryan Thomas, playing expertly off his block on the edge, hit Reggie Bush hard on an inside move and forced a fumble that Dwight Lowery recovered at the New Orleans 34.

And it ended on a pair of 15-yard plays — a swing pass to Leon Washington and Thomas Jones' burst off left guard behind Ferguson's huge sealing block.

And suddenly, midway through the third quarter, the Jets were down by only 17-10.

"We were right in the game," said right tackle Damien Woody, who left in the third quarter with an ankle injury. "We just didn't capitalize when opportunities presented themselves."

And with a game between unbeatens hanging in the balance, the Saints finally cranked up an 11-play, 74-yard drive to Thomas' score to let the lead back out to 14 points. (Big play on the drive: Brees' third-and-4 slant to WR Robert Meachem past Drew Coleman for 19 yards to the Jets 12.)

Then Sharper rose up again for his second pick of the day at the Saints 47 with 4:09 left. That all but wrapped this up.

While the offense struggled, the defense was gashed for six runs of from 10 to 19 yards, and the return game was held to just a 17-yard Leon Washington kickoff return, the D definitely did have an interesting day. They got no sacks of Brees, yet pressured him into a tame 20-for-32, 190-yard passing day.

And while giving up 153 rushing yards, they also slammed Thomas and Reggie Bush down when it counted. For instance, they appeared to have given themselves a huge opportunity and a jolt of energy with a monster goal-line stand — first-and-goal at their 1, then four plays of keeping the Saints out of the end zone.

Except that the Saints got their TD anyway when, on the second play from in the shadow of their goalposts, Sanchez play-actioned, rolled right, couldn't find a receiver — and was hit from behind by DE Will Smith for the strip sack, with Ayodele recovering for a 17-0 lead with nine minutes left in the half.

Coupled with Sharper's return, it was the first time that a Jets opponent had scored two defensive TDs in a game since the 2002 home opener against New England, when Tebucky Jones scored on a fumble return and Victor Green on an interception return.

While no Jets fan wanted a loss in this showdown, some followers viewed this game as "playing with house money" not far from the casino in downtown N'awlins. You know: If you're going to lose any game, lose one to an NFC opponent on the road.

No Jets player said that's how he viewed this game. But the mood in the locker room, while muted, was not morose by any means as the Jets immediately shifted into Monday night mode for their next game against the Dolphins in Miami a week from today.

"Guys aren't hanging their heads," said Woody. "We're going to keep moving forward."

"We're disappointed about the loss. We thought we'd be leaving here 4-0. That's not the case," said Scott. "The Saints were the better team today. Next week we've got to be the better team."

Game Notes

In the first quarter Thomas Jones became the 40th runner in NFL history to reach 8,000 career rushing yards. ... Rookie RB Shonn Greene got his first NFL touches and did well. On back-to-back carries, he went for 9 and 7 yards and a first down. He finished with four rushes for 23 yards.

LB David Harris had a game-leading 12 tackles, including three for no gain, and forced a fumble. ... Jay Feely's 38-yard field goal late in the first half was his 20th consecutive successful attempt as a Jet.

Sharper's 99-yard INT return was tied for the second-longest by an opponent in Jets franchise history, trailing Tom Janik's 100-yard return for the Bills at Buffalo in 1968 and equaling Dave Grayson's 99-yarder for the Texans at Dallas against the Titans way back in 1961. ... Sharper has 59 career interceptions, ninth-most in NFL history.

The Jets fell short of becoming only the third 4-0 team in franchise history. The Saints became 4-0 for the first time since 1993.

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