200 Miles From the Citi

October 5, 2009 4:01 AM


Last week, after a Jets win, I chose to focus on the negatives. This week, after a Jets loss, I'm going to focus on the positives.

But the first thing that needs to be said is that New Orleans is very good. Not because they beat my team...but because they made the Jets look so bad in doing it. Even when the Jets were only down one score I didn't feel good about their chances because I didn't think the Jets could get the two scores they would need to win against New Orleans the way they were playing.

I knew about the New Orleans offense (which I now am even more impressed by, seeing their receivers catch EVERYTHING Drew Brees threw their way), but that defense was very good. I missed the boat on the Saints in my pre-season rankings - they're going to be a force in the NFC all year.

Now, onto the Jets. This is not a season-killer by any means. This was a loss to a legit team (a non-conference team, at that), and the Jets are still 3-1 with a big division game coming up next week. It's not like they're barely clinging to 3-1 like, say, the Bengals, who eked out a 3-1 record (rather than a 2-1-1 record) in overtime versus Cleveland.

My reaction to this loss is kind of like in the pre-season, when Mark Sanchez needed to struggle a bit to learn from his mistakes. I look at this game as a huge learning experience. He made rookie mistakes in this game - which he hasn't really been making yet. The interception that Darren Sharper returned 99 yards for a touchdown was a poorly thrown pass. Doesn't that ball have to go to the back corner of the end zone, especially when Sanchez's receiver is double-covered? He threw it where two Saints had a better chance of catching the ball than his receiver. And Sanchez simply held onto the ball too long in the end zone on the fumble that was recovered for a touchdown. Two rookie mistakes. I bet they don't happen again anytime soon.

The other good news was that even though the Jets couldn't get anything going offensively, their defense still gave them a chance. The Jets were in this game the entire time, because their defense kept them in it. And this wasn't a team with a bad offense - this was the Saints, who have an excellent offense. So that's a huge positive.

The Jets still don't seem to have things going on offense. I feel like they haven't put it all together yet....and they're still 3-1. So I think there's still some upside in a season that so far has been mostly up.

Next week is huge for the Jets - a division game, with a chance to get to 4-1 (which sounds a whole lot better than 3-1 coming off this loss). It's also big because the Patriots won again, beating a less-than-impressive Ravens team (their defense did not look as imposing as it had in previous weeks...and it also looked undisciplined in certain instances). So the Jets are now tied for first in the division, rather than alone in first. It's time for them to start proving their 3-0 start wasn't a fluke.

TELLING MOMENT: Apropos of nothing, other than the fact that I noticed it, I think I put my finger on why exactly Tony Romo and the Cowboys don't win important games. After Brandon Marshall made an impressive move to give the Broncos (ugh!) the lead inside of two minutes left in the game, the camera cut to Romo on the bench. Peyton Manning or Tom Brady would have been fired up, looking at the clock and thinking, "1:46 to take my team down the field and tie this baby up!"

Romo was waving his hand in disgust at the Cowboys defense. He actually did lead a good drive...but came up a couple of yards short of the end zone. And I think he'll always come up short in big situations.

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