As I watched the NY Jets and Cincinnati Bengals kickoff the playoffs on Saturday, I jotted down a few notes and observations…
– The setup for this game was an experienced University of Southern Cal. QB (Carson Palmer) going up against a rookie University of Southern Cal. QB (Mark Sanchez) in his first career postseason game. As it turned out, though, Sanchez was the QB who looked like the polished veteran as Palmer struggled to be on time and on target.
The Jets running game leads the way for their offense, don’t get me wrong, but Sanchez played well enough to win the game and Palmer did not. Sanchez completed 12 of 15 passes for 182 yards and 1 TD while Palmer was a disappointing 18 of 36 for 146 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.
But there were times when you could tell the Jets were conservative with Sanchez, specifically in the 3rd quarter on a 3rd and 6 when they ran the ball and settled for a FG try. The FG was good, but then there was a holding penalty and it negated the FG, causing K Jay Feely to try another FG. The 2nd try was good, but then there was a false start penalty against the Jets. That forced them to punt instead. Consecutive unlucky breaks doomed that particular drive, but it all started with not trusting your QB enough to throw on a 3rd and 6.
In the end, though, the Jets strategy prevailed as they walked out of Paul Brown Stadium with a 24-14 win. Congrats to the Jets.
– Wow, what a performance by rookie RB Shonn Greene. He had 21 carries for 135 yards and 1 TD, pacing the offensive effort behind a dominant offensive line. Anyone who’s got Greene on their fantasy football roster ought to seriously consider him as a keeper option heading into next season.
– Hats off to Bengals RB Cedric Benson, who had a nice season – 1,251 yards and 6 TDs in 13 games – and capped it off with a terrific effort against the Jets. On Saturday against a great Jets defense, Benson ran wild, tallying 169 yards and 1 TD on 21 carries. You wonder why Cincy didn’t go to Benson more in the 2nd half. At halftime, the former Texas Longhorn had 13 carries for 73 yards (5.6 yards per att.). In the 2nd half, Benson had just 8 carries but averaged 8.0 yards per attempt. I know the Bengals got into a bit of a throw game when they were behind in the 4th quarter, but it seemed Benson was live and in good rhythm. It’s always easy to sit here and play Monday morning QB, but I think the Bengals will look back and wish they had given Benson the ball more often in the 2nd half.
– I was constantly noticing the Jets offensive line and how they were consistently getting to the 2nd level of the Bengals defense to make blocks. I loved how the Jets attacked the edges of Cincy’s defense in the running game, which allowed Greene to utilize his speed. Then, the Jets did a nice job of power running, too, by mixing in some inside runs for both Greene and workhorse Thomas Jones.
– It was notable how poorly the Bengals used their challenges and how well the Jets used theirs in the 1st half. I know that sitting in my lazy boy and watching the game in slow motion and on high definition make it easy to see. I’ve obviously been in many stadiums at those times and I’ll admit it is much more difficult to make those judgments in the heat of the moment because you’re struggling to see a good replay and the time seems to go faster than when you’re sitting at home. With that said, though, the point remains. And the Jets did a much better job with their challenges.
– I expressed this opinion to Vikings offensive Darrell Bevell the other morning at breakfast, but I was reminded of it again while watching this game – Jets WR Brad Smith is one of my favorite players in the NFL. He can return kicks and punts, he can take snaps out of the gun or under center, he can run routes, run the option and even pass the ball. What a great weapon to have in your offense.
– Speaking of a great weapon for an offense, I think Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco is good for the game. Some might find his attention-grabbing tactics upsetting, but I find him entertaining. He doesn’t get in trouble with the law off the field, his gimmicks are in good taste, he seems to have good relationships with opposing players even though he chides them constantly and he can actually back up his talk. He didn’t have great games the last 2 weeks against the Jets, but he was going against Darrelle Revis and his QB wasn’t exactly sharp in delivering the ball.
– I love what Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan does with his defense on 3rd down. The Jets bring pressure and blitzes from the edges and it puts tons of pressure on the opposing QB. The downside was presented in yesterday’s game when Palmer alerted to a run against the blitz and Benson hit a home run with a 47-yard TD dash, but for the most part, the pressure the Jets bring is effective.
– Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer deserves tons of credit for what he’s done with Cincy’s defense over the past 2 seasons. The Bengals defense was ranked 30th and 27th in 2006 and 2007, respectively. But since Zimmer took over before the 2008 season, the Bengals have ranked 12th and 4th in total defense in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Zimmer’s wife, Vikki, passed away tragically and unexpectedly in October of this year, right in the middle of the season and with the Holidays little more than a month away. What Mike and his family have endured is unimaginable, so congrats to him on what he’s accomplished professionally.
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