Ever since I saw the score from the Jets/Steelers game from last weekend I wondered how in the heck New York beat Pittsburgh. I would have never guessed that the Jets could pull off that kind of upset. Well, I just went through the game for this week’s Scouting Report and this is what I saw. I will be matching up the Jets offense and defense against the Cowboys, but will be referring a lot to how the Jets got away with the win last week.
Jets offense vs. Cowboys defense
The first thing that went right for the Jets was they were able to run the ball. Thomas Jones went over 100 yards but I didn’t think the Jets were doing anything special and their blocking was OK, not great. But the Steelers were awful tacklers on the day, it was impossible to count the number of tackles Jones broke on the way to that 100-yard game. I don’t think this was necessarily a trend for the Jets running game, it was more of a bad day by the Steelers defense. But I will credit Jones for running extremely hard, he’s a capable back and we need to be very careful with him. By running the ball, the Jets were able to at least be somewhat competitive in time of possession and they also were able to get some FG’s out of those drives. One thing they didn’t do well is run the ball in the redzone.
The other thing that went right on offense was the play of QB Kellen Clemens. He wasn’t a world-beater out there, but he ended up only making one big mistake by throwing a bad INT, fortunately the Jets defense got the ball right back. Unlike Pennington, Clemens will take shots downfield and completed a big pass on a flea-flicker that set up their only TD on the day. He also got a pass interference call on a long pass that helped set up a FG. On the other passes deep, he wasn’t that accurate but he kept the defense honest. Clemens was also pretty calm in the pocket and didn’t panic at pressure. He took a lot of short and intermediate completions. Against a very good pass-rush defense they were able to protect Clemens fairly well. In the 2-minute offense Clemens threw almost exclusively short out patterns and comeback patterns on the outside of the field, so Dallas needs to watch that.
The last thing about the Jets offense is they were willing to gamble to win the game. They ran a flea-flicker play, they ran a QB option by inserting Brad Smith as the QB, and twice they went for it on 4th down. Once they lined up for 4th and 2 at the Steelers 31-yard line eschewing the FG attempt. They got a false start penalty making it 4th and 7 and still went for it, unsuccessfully. Later they went for a 4th and 5 at the Steelers 41-yard line and missed that, too. Eric Mangini figures he’s got nothing to lose so I would expect the Jets to be willing to gamble again this week.
Jets defense vs. Cowboys offense
At the start of the game the Jets were very aggressive and sent blitzes on a lot of the plays. They snuffed out a run with a CB blitz and they sacked Big Ben when another blitz went unblocked. Later, they backed off some but they still had some very effective plays blitzing the Pittsburgh offense. They sacked Big Ben seven times on the day and those were split between blitzes that went unblocked and coverage sacks created by excellent coverage. All day long the Jets had fantastic coverage in the secondary and they switched between man-to-man and zones. It looked like when they rushed more than five guys they would go to man-to-man. Either way, I was impressed with the tight coverage and the Jets corners were very good in coverage. The one area of the field that was open was the middle. Hello Jason Witten. The Jets secondary made good breaks on the ball and tipped up two passes, one that was almost intercepted and the other was intercepted. Shaun Ellis had a good day pass rushing and caused a critical turnover by slapping the ball out of Big Ben’s hand and then recovering.
The Jets defense was able to control the Steelers running game. Willie Parker was having no luck running the ball and they only managed some success when they switched to Najeh Davenport later in the game. The Jets front seven was doing an excellent job of controlling the line of scrimmage and forcing the Steelers to win through the air. But since the coverage was so good and the sacks were coming, the Steelers offense just couldn’t generate enough points to win the game.
We’ll see some old friends this week on defense, Kenyon Coleman and Abram Elam. Elam had a great pass rush on a blitz that forced Ben forward and into a sack.
The Steelers dealt with Leon Washington on kickoffs by pooching it high into the air and down to the 25 or 30-yard line. Their coverage units were able to get there and hold Washington in check because several of the up guys caught the ball instead of Washington. But in overtime, they punted a low line drive ball to him and he burned them by returning it deep into Pittsburgh territory and set up the game-winning FG.
With a rookie-esque QB, Dallas should apply pressure but more importantly mix up their defenses and move around before the snap so he can’t get a good read. Watch out for the deep throws because he will try it every so often but he hasn’t developed the accuracy needed for it to work consistently. If Laverneus Coles doesn’t play there biggest weapon on offense will be Thomas Jones and the Cowboys are very good against the run.
On offense, look to middle of the field especially if they show zone because that spot was open all game. Other teams have run the ball on the Jets and Dallas should be able to do it, too. If we can’t run on them then we probably need to re-examine what’s going on in our running game. Their secondary turned in a great performance last week but I’m not sure they can make it two in a row.
And whatever you do, don’t let Leon Washington beat you.