2009 Week 12 Jets vs Panthers Photos
The Jets' 17-6 triumph over the Carolina Panthers at the Meadowlands today wasn't a DaVinci. It also wasn't nearly as ugly as the teams' "Shrek Game" in 2001. In short, it wasn't always pretty but it was certainly up to code.
The one code everyone wanted to talk about afterwards was the colored bands on QB Mark Sanchez's wrist
"Basically it's a thing between me and Rex [Ryan] and Schotty [Brian Schottenheimer]," said Sanchez, who efficiently managed the offensive side of things with his 13-for-17, 154-yard, one-interception game and one short touchdown drive. "I don't know how else to explain it. There are color codes, there are words associated with it. ... I just know the code works."
More on that shortly. But the combination to this victory was no enigma — it belonged to the Jets' defense. And one of the faces of the D could well belong to the man who lost his starting job for the first time in five years but came up with his first two interceptions of the season.
"You saw Kerry today and that's what you'll see," said safety Kerry Rhodes in a short statement before leaving the locker room.
What fans saw was Rhodes' first pick of Jake Delhomme, under heavy blitz pressure from James Ihedigbo, which set up that 38-yard march to Thomas Jones' sideways dance to a 3-yard score with 28 seconds left in the first half. Then they thrilled in his second pick, the last of Delhomme's four errant throws, at the Jets' 13 with 1:10 to play, virtually sealing the win to lift the Green & White record to 5-6 while ending a three-game losing streak overall and a three-game skid at home.
But Rhodes had to share face time with Darrelle Revis, who also had two interceptions while holding Steve Smith, the Panthers' dangerous No. 1 wideout, to one reception for 5 yards, and Eric Smith, who moved into Rhodes' starting spot and had eight solo tackles plus a pass breakup.
Then against the run, Calvin Pace and David Harris (each of whom had seven tackles and a sack) ranged the field as DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers' one-two rushing punch who normally combine for 149 yards a game, were held to half that amount, 75 yards on 25 carries.
And to think the Jets' defensive showing, which smothered Carolina for 179 yards and no touchdowns, could've been even better. After all, they started off inauspiciously on their first drive as Williams converted a third-and-17 with an 18-yard dash — the longest third-down conversion on a run by an opponent in the last 20 seasons — Stewart followed with a 13-yard run on third-and-10, and Delhomme hit TE Dante Rosario for 13 yards on third-and-7.
"We hadn't seen Carolina do that hurryup," Pace said. "Sometimes that can catch you off guard. They can kind of put you out of your zone a little bit. I just think we clued in a little better after that. And it's good to be able to preach something in practice and meetings and then go out there and do it."
That certainly was the case with Sanchez and the offense. Head coach Rex Ryan announced the plan during the week that he would be more involved with his rookie QB. That resulted in the coach talking with his QB before the start of every series, and also into the colored bands on Sanchez's wrist, which in short were keys not to plays but to the mindset he needed for each series: conservative, cautious, let it fly.
But just as valuable, Sanchez said, was having his defensive-oriented head coach focusing on the offense like he hasn't before.
"I don't know how to say it enough — it's not taking away from Schotty," the QB explained about his coordinator. "Rex isn't calling the plays. It's Schotty's deal and he's doing a heck of a job. Rex being in the meetings just lets us know on offense how much he cares about us winning, so it was important."
Does Ryan regret not making this adjustment earlier? "Maybe so," he said. "Again, I'm new to this thing. It certainly isn't me that won this game. It's a little thing."
"I'm definitely happy with it," WR Jerricho Cotchery said of the head coach's involvement, "because at the end of the day it helped us win."
There were mistakes, to be sure. On the first drive of the third quarter, TE Dustin Keller was fighting for a 17-yard TD catch to make it 21-3 but instead wound up with a 16-yarder and a fumble recovered by Carolina CB Richard Marshall in the end zone for a touchback.
Then on the second play of the fourth quarter, Sanchez tried to connect with Braylon Edwards but instead threw his only interception, to CB Chris Gamble at midfield. That led to a Delhomme-to-Smith 10-yard TD — except that Ryan threw his red challenge flag and referee Jerome Boger reversed the call into an incompletion. Shortly after, John Kasay's second field goal made it 14-6.
But Feely, who missed from 48 yards to the west in the first quarter, drilled a 47-yard field goal through the East uprights with 3:39 to play to turn it back into a two-score game. And unlike the losses to Buffalo, Jacksonville and Miami (twice), this time the Jets didn't fold.
"This was a great win," said Ryan. "It feels good to say that. It's been a while."
The players are now faced with trying to turn this win into the first of a six-game closing kick without thinking about it. But they all have different metaphors to help them deal with the enormity of this task. Feely said ST coordinator Mike Westhoff supplied one to his unit.
"He related our situation to pool," the kicker said. "He said you can't run the table if you don't make the first ball. That's kind of where we're at right now. We know if we have any chance at all, we've got to win out, and we had to come out here and win this game."
"If we can take it one play, one series, one game at a time, we'll let the chips fall where they may," said Pace. "The bottom line is we have to finish this last stretch out right. You never know what might happen."
Sanchez left the game for four plays when he scrambled to his right and was taken down by Marshall at the Jets sideline. As the medical staff examined his left knee, Kellen Clemens came in for those plays. Then Sanchez returned to finish the game. "Nothing," Sanchez said of the nature of his injury. "It's just an awkward fall, I guess."
Jones finished with a game-high 75 yards on 25 tough carries in helping the Jets to 33:18 in possession time. ... Danny Woodhead had his first two pro receptions, including a 16-yarder to convert a third-and-2 on the Feely FG drive. ... Keller led all receivers with 68 yards on his four catches. ... David Clowney began handling the kickoff returning after Justin Miller was waived late Saturday, but Brad Smith came on for a 38-yard fourth-quarter return.
Revis' touchdown was the second of his career as was his two-interception game. Both his first score and his first two-pick game came vs. Arizona last season. ... And Rhodes' two picks gave the Jets their first game of two players with two picks apiece since Victor Green and Marcus Coleman turned the trick in 1999 vs. Denver.