How did the Jets-Panthers game on Sunday go?
Look no further than the first drive of the game for evidence that it was as poorly played as you might have expected.
3rd and 17 for the Panthers after two running plays. Nothing doing so far. They run again, just looking to eat up some yards, and get 18 yards. First down. Looks like the Jets defense is as ineffective as it's been the past couple of games and the Panthers are on their way to a runaway win.....until.....
Jake Delhomme throws to Steve Smith, who's not looking. The ball bounces off his foot, into the unsuspecting hands of Darrelle Revis, and he practically walks the other way for a 67-yard Jets touchdown.
The Jets essentially cruised the rest of the way...and that's got to be tremendously frustrating to Carolina fans.
The Revis pick was one of four thrown by Delhomme...and I'm not quite sure it was overwhelming work by the Jets defense to force those turnovers. What it was was pretty microcosmic of his - and Carolina's - season.
This was typical Jets and typical Panthers - the whole game made you realize why these two teams lost the games they lost and, moreso, wonder how they won the games they won.
But there were some positives for Jets fans:
- After being benched (read: not starting), Kerry Rhodes responded with two interceptions. There's two ways that could go - a player could shut down and whine or respond the way his coach wants him to - Rhodes obviously did the latter. I think that speaks not just to the kind of mentality Rhodes has, but the respect Rex Ryan has garnered in the locker room.
- Mark Sanchez is capable of playing a smart game and learning from his mistakes (a big mantra here at '200 Miles From the Citi'). Sanchez was 13 of 17 for 154 yards. He didn't have a touchdown, and he did throw an interception. But the stat I want to focus on is the 4 incompletions. I don't remember each and every one, but I do know that on one rollout, where he would have forced the ball into coverage last week, he threw the ball away this week. That was huge. The interception he threw, if I remember correctly, was not a bad interception - it was more of a good defensive play than a very poor decision on his part. So I think that's a good takeaway from this game for Mark Sanchez.
I'm not going to get all excited and say the Jets are now on their way to 10-6 and a wild card berth...but I'm also not ready to see them roll over and position themselves for a high draft pick. I want them to compete, build on this performance and play better the rest of the way.
It starts with a Thursday nighter against the somewhat resurgent Buffalo Bills. The Bills flat-out embarrassed Mark Sanchez in their first meeting in the Meadowlands. This one is nationally televised, and has an international flair - it's going to be played in Toronto.
So I'm looking for more improvement from Sanchez the rest of the way - starting with a big revenge game on Thursday night.