Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez and a number of other Jets were right on all counts. They said they had a good week of practice, the Tim Tebow midweek kerfuffle may have brought them together, and they were ready to butt heads with the Rams.
Now if their 27-13 triumph in St. Louis this afternoon does prove "contagious," as the Jets quarterback suggested, the Green & White will be onto something.
The Jets built the victory that Ryan said they were "desperate" for offensively on Sanchez's sharp passing, Chaz Schilens' timely receiving and quality running by Shonn Greene early and Bilal Powell late. There was also some more timely pass-rushing and takeaway magic from Muhammad Wilkerson, Eric Smith and the Green & White defense, and Nick Folk's franchise-historic day of long-range field goal kicking.
"It's great to get a win," said Ryan. "I'm happy for our guys. I think all that work on the practice field and in the classroom, it paid off today on the game field. Our guys have been working extremely hard and I'm really happy for all of us that it showed today. That's important. We needed a win, obviously in the worst way."
This is nothing to get wild and crazy about just yet. There were still enough mistakes that still need to be cleaned up. The Jets improved only to 4-6 while the Rams fell to 3-6-1.
But it puts the Jets in a much better team frame of mind heading into their Thanksgiving night rematch with the Patriots at MetLife Stadium. And it puts them into the realm that Ryan reminded reporters about a few days ago — the 2009 Jets, Rex's first edition, were 4-6 before starting their playoff push.
However, enough talk about long-term team goals. The Jets know they're in one-game-at-a-time territory.
"You get to enjoy it for about five hours and then it's on to the next opponent," said the fourth-year head coach.
At least it was nice to be able not only to hold a lead but to build on it as the game wore on. In part that was made possible by Schilens getting held by Rodney McLeod on Chris Givens' seeming 98-yard kickoff-return TD after Folk's second field goal late in the first half.
In the second half, the visitors from the east opened up their largest lead in four games when Sanchez, in his most efficient and effective performance in a while (15-for-20 passing for 178 yards and no turnovers), moved the offense 12 plays and 63 yards, the capper a draw play on which Powell scored the first touchdown of his NFL career from 5 yards out. That made it 20-7 on the second play of the fourth quarter.
"I think this team can really turn it around," Sanchez said. "We've shown that we can handle pressure situations before. And we've shown we can play well on the road, at home. Now, we've just got to keep building off of it."
Then the Jets picked up their third takeaway of the day when LaRon Landry applied one of his patented licks on RB Daryl Richardson, jarring the ball loose for Garrett McIntyre to pounce on at the Rams 38.
In short order, Powell weaving his way to career touchdown No. 2, an 11-yard run with 8:29 to play.
The home team wasn't dead, although the Jets had once again taken a home crowd out of this game (and unlike Seattle, kept them out in the second half). The Rams slashed their way to Sam Bradford's second short scoring pass to WR Brandon Gibson, this one from 2 yards out over Antonio Cromartie with 5:40 to go. Rams coach Jeff Fisher inexplicably decided to go for two points. Bradford overthrew a fade and it remained 27-13.
With 4:28 left, St. Louis got the ball back on its 10 after another nifty Robert Malone inside-the-209 drop punt. At 3:12, Bradford threw his fourth straight incompletion, on fourth down, and the Jets took over at the Rams 23.
Right after the two-minute warning, Folk who had already become only the second Jet ever to hit two 50-yard field goals in a game, came on for a mere extra point, from 44 yards out. He sailed it wide left. But Bradford finally threw his last incompletion on fourth down from the Jets 41.
The Green & White were in victory formation again. That, and the flight home, were very sweet indeed.
"This is a hard-working football team that believes in each other and I think that's obviously a start in the right direction," Ryan said. "It hadn't paid off on the game field until today, so it was good. You've just got to stay the course, believe in what you're doing, and good things happened today."
But short-lived. As Smith said: "Yeah, this win's big — we're running out of games. We're going to enjoy the plane ride back, but we'll be right back to work tomorrow."
The Return of the Offensive TD
The Jets' opening drive moved nicely across midfield as Shonn Greene ran forcefully for 26 yards on four carries, then stalled, with Sanchez recovering a strip-sack by S Quintin Mikell, who got past FB Lex Hilliard's pickup. Robert Malone hit another nice inside-the-20 fair-catch punt to the Rams 13, giving him four consecutive I-20 punts.
The Rams also opened briskly on offense with Steven Jackson runs and Bradford-to-Danny Amendola passes. Then right after a fake fleaflicker lost 2 yards on a Yeremiah Bell stick of Amendola, Bradford hit WR Austin Pettis, single-covered by Bell for a 36-yard strike to the Jets 17.
The hosts moved to first-and-goal but the Jets defense stopped three plays. However, Fisher was in a gambling mood and went for it on fourth down from the 1, and Bradford delivered a 1-yard TD pass to Gibson, sprung loose by the D and all alone in the back of the end zone.
The Jets again moved the ball well into plus category, with a key play Joe McKnight's first catch of the season for 18 yards to convert third-and-3. Again the offense was stopped, but this time Folk came on for his first field goal try in two games from 51 yards out. Folk calmly, as always, dropped it through, giving him his second 50-yarder of the season and the seventh of his Jets career.
The Green & White were back and knocking on the door quickly as S Eric Smith picked off a Bradford out pass for TE Mike McNeill and returning it to the St. Louis 13. But this time the un-special teams struck again as Folk's 26-yard try was blocked by Janoris Jenkins, coming unblocked off the Jets' left end. It was the second Jets field goal blocked in the last three games and the score remained 7-3.
The Jets defense continued to find its footing with a four-play series that ended with Antonio Cromartie's hard, legal crushing of Pettis for a third-down incompletion. Then, following the first opponents' stop of a Tim Tebow fake punt this season after three successes (Lex Hilliard stopped for a 1-yard loss on a Tebow shovel pass), the D — and Mo — struck again.
Wilkerson blew past his blocker and stripped Bradford from behind, with Bart Scott picking up the bouncing ball and rambling 38 yards to the Rams 28.
Mo put his play in simple terms: "I just got upfield and made a play for the defense. That's all."
"There's been a emphasis on stripping the ball," said S Yeremiah Bell. "We've seen on tape some instances where we could possibly get the ball out, so we continue to knock the ball out and try to get turnovers. I think anytime you can make a team turn the ball over, it's a momentum shift in the ballgame. It's something we stress and it's something we try to do week in and week out and we did a good job today."
Then, finally, Sanchez and the Jets broke the dam on their offensive TD drought. On the second play of the series, Sanchez pump-faked to Dustin Keller, Chaz Schilens whipped a double move on CB Trumaine Johnson, and Sanchez hit Schilens for the 25-yard strike and a 10-7 lead.
It was Schilens' second touchdown reception as a Jet, and was Sanchez's first TD pass since, in fact, he hit Schilens in the fourth quarter against Miami. It was also the Jets' first offensive TD in 17 possessions and gave them their first lead in 10 quarters plus the overtime at New England.
"An emphasis coming into the game is taking care of the football and being in control of those situations down in the red zone. Some plays that have got us earlier in the season, we just wanted to be real smart in those situations, make the right reads and the right throws," Sanchez said. "That was all a part of it, just like every week. There's nothing different there."
More good news, more Folk. The Jets on their next drive could move only to the Rams 33. On came Folk for another 51-yard field goal. Once more he converted, giving the Jets a 13-7 lead. They took it into the locker room, too, giving them their first halftime lead in four games, or since they led the Colts, 21-6, in those halcyon days of Week 6.
It also gave Folk a franchise distinction, making him only the second Jets kicker to nail two 50-yard tries in one game. Pat Leahy was the other, turning his long-range trick on Oct. 20, 1985 at New England.
The Jets outgained the Rams, 289 yards to 281. Shonn Greene ran for 64 yards on 18 carries, Powell for 42 on 11. Schilens, with a nice all-around game, led the Jets with four catches for 48 yards. ... Landry led the defense with eight tackles and also had two forced fumbles. He's the first Jet with two FFs in a game since Aaron Maybin last year vs. Miami, first DB to do it since CB Drew Coleman at Pittsburgh in 2010.
E.Smith now has six career interceptions. ... The Jets love taking, not giving, the ball away from the Rams in the new millennium. In their last four meetings, the Jets' TO margin is plus-12 with one GA (none the last three games) and 13 TAs.
John Hall holds the record with nine 50-yard field goals in his Jets career, plus one more in the playoffs. ... NT Kenrick Ellis, playing in his first game in the last five, suffered another knee injury and didn't return to the game.