Behind Enemy Lines: New York Jets

In the often pre-programmed world of the New York Jets, Brett Favre's candor has been a breath of fresh air. But earlier this week, it was more like exhaust fumes, as Favre compared his 39-year-old body to an automobile.

"At some point, I have to fall apart," Favre said with a smile. "I'm not going to lie to you. It's like any car. (If) you drive it long enough, it's going to fall apart, you're going to have a flat tire, or something's going to happen. At some point, I'm going to fall apart. Right now, I'm still together."

The Jets certainly hope so, as they try to begin their, uh, drive to the NFL playoffs.

Like older models sometimes do, Favre didn't handle the wet conditions very well Sunday, completing only 23 of 43 passes in rainy and windy weather in the Jets' loss to Denver. The weather will be much better when the Jets visit San Francisco on Sunday, as temperatures are expected to be in the low 60s with dry conditions.

But after that, the Jets have two more home games this month, plus a visit to often soggy Seattle. So Favre's ability to handle weather again could be an issue.

Despite being from Mississippi, Favre earned a reputation as a tremendous cold-weather player during his 16 seasons in Green Bay. As a starter, Favre is 66-23, including 1-1 this season, when playing in temperatures of 45 degrees or less. He's also 43-6 at home, including the playoffs, when playing in 34 degrees or less.

"I grew up in south Mississippi," Favre said. "I never saw snow fall until I got to Green Bay. It wasn't like all of a sudden I got off the plane and said, 'Woo, my kind of weather!'"

Favre had some rough games in the cold at the end of last season. He went 17-for-32 with two interceptions in a loss at Chicago on Dec. 23, with a game-time temperature of 16 degrees plus strong winds. And one week after he braved a Green Bay snowstorm with three touchdown passes and no interceptions in a playoff victory over Seattle, he had two touchdown passes and two interceptions against the Giants in the NFC championship game in sub-zero temperatures. His second pick set up Lawrence Tynes' game-winning field goal.

"I thought I played pretty well in the championship game last year," Favre said. "I threw an interception to end the game. ... Everyone said all of a sudden, 'Brett can't play in bad conditions anymore.' The week before, I played one of my better games in a blizzard. No one was saying anything about it then."

Then there also is the issue of whether time is catching up with Favre, and he's struggling as he gets deep into the season. Favre threw 22 touchdown passes and eight interceptions in the first 11 games of the 2007 campaign. He had six touchdowns and seven picks in the last five, and suffered an injury to his right (throwing) elbow against Dallas in the first of those five games.

Favre admitted he missed some throws he should have made against the Broncos, but refused to blame it on a slick ball slipping out of his hands. He also said fatigue wasn't a factor.

"It's not because all of a sudden," he said, "it's the latter part of the year and I'm falling apart, yet."

"I haven't noticed a difference (in Favre's passes)," rookie tight end Dustin Keller said.

He jokingly added, "He's still breaking fingers left and right."

And Favre said that at his advanced NFL age, there is one advantage for him in December.

"I find that I don't get quite as tired in colder weather," he said, "if you're looking for something older versus younger."

For Favre and the Jets, the objective is not to be out in the cold when playoff berths are decided.

***** ***** *****

How long has Favre played in the NFL? Well, consider that San Francisco interim coach Mike Singletary played against him twice in 1992, the final season of Singletary's Hall of Fame career with Chicago, and Favre's first year as a starter with Green Bay.

The Packers and Bears split that season, and Singletary remembers the second game, which Green Bay won.

Singletary recalled, "I remember after that game, thinking to myself, this guy is going to be special. ... It was cold that day and the ball passed by and I literally heard the ball (as it went by). The guy had leadership; something about him that you knew he was going to be successful."

***** ***** *****

Jets coach Eric Mangini said he wouldn't do anything different in terms of preparation this week in adjusting to the time-zone difference from the last two times the Jets played in California. They lost at San Diego and at Oakland earlier this year.

"At the end of the day," he said, "you wake up and you play football. East Coast, West Coast, Mars, Mexico, London, whatever it is, rainy, hot, you've just got to go out and play."

Mangini didn't speculate on how weightlessness on Mars might affect the passing game.

***** ***** *****

What rookie wall? TE Dustin Keller has hit his stride, with 27 receptions in the last four games.

"I feel good," he said with a smile this week. "No signs of the wall coming anytime soon."

Veteran CB Ty Law, who played one season for the Jets in 2005 and had a career-high 10 interceptions, quickly became a starter in his second go-round with the club. Thirteen days after agreeing to terms, he started at Tennessee.

The Jets had been looking for veteran help in their secondary. Rookie RCB Dwight Lowery was benched at Buffalo after being beaten several times, and then committed two penalties against St. Louis. His playing time has diminished now that the more physical Law is here, although Lowery did notch his first NFL interception against Denver, off Jay Cutler.

***** ***** *****

Kris Jenkins wasn't in a talking mood earlier this week.

The nose tackle was upset with his performance in a loss to Denver on Sunday, and finally unburdened himself Thursday.

"I know for the past couple of days nobody has seen me," Jenkins said. "I just decided that I was going to take a couple of days off from y'all just to unwind. Sometimes you need a second to just kind of put things into perspective. We got our bubble burst. We went out there with all the best intentions and, honestly, we didn't get it done."

But Jenkins certainly didn't stop there.

"As far as I'm concerned," he said, "I can take full blame for the fact that I didn't get it done. I could've done better shedding (blocks). I was in place a lot of times, but just didn't shed. We didn't get the tackling done, things like that, and I take it upon myself because the responsibility on me is big and I've always known that.

"If I'm doing good, then it's good," Jenkins continued. "If I'm doing bad, then it shows. It's just one of those things that I have to take it like a man, suck it up and now it's San Francisco week."

Jenkins had only three tackles, as the Jets' defense, ranked third in the NFL against the run before the game, allowed 129 yards and a touchdown to converted fullback Peyton Hillis. It was the first individual 100-yard rushing game by a Jets' opponent this season.

Jenkins and the front seven had trouble with Denver's zone-blocking schemes, plus 285-pound Denver center Casey Wiegmann was able to handle Jenkins one-on-one quite often, despite giving up about 75 pounds in the matchup.

"If I would have done better would it have changed the outcome?" Jenkins asked. "Who knows? But it's not for me to say. I just know when I looked at the film afterward there were some things I could have done better. I'm going to make sure that I definitely take responsibility for that. My position, it's one where I have to be the point of attack for this defense."

The Jets should get another test on the ground from San Francisco's Frank Gore, who has rushed for 926 yards at 4.3 yards per carry. The 49ers have allowed 43 sacks, tied for second most in the NFL. Shaun Hill, who has started the last four games, has been sacked 11 times this season. The Jets were sackless against Denver.

"We've been playing a little bit more coverage," linebacker Calvin Pace said. "I know I have more coverage than (pass) rushing. Obviously, that's not my decision. That's more game plan. ... Ideally, me personally, I like to rush a little bit more, but it's not a problem. Whatever's called, I'm willing to do, but I envision the numbers picking back up.

"It's not that we're getting blocked up," he added. "We've just been covering a little bit more."

***** ***** *****

As per the NFL's rules regarding minimum access to assistant coaches, the Jets make offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer available once every two weeks. And because he talked to the media two days before the loss to Denver, he won't speak to reporters again until Dec. 12, prior to the Buffalo game.

Too bad, because there certainly are some questions for him following the Jets' 34-17 loss to Denver.

After calling a brilliant game against Tennessee in the Jets' upset victory, some of Schottenheimer's play calls didn't go so well against the Broncos.

There was a botched reverse to wideout Jerricho Cotchery after a direct snap to Brad Smith in the first quarter, a play that resulted in a fumble that was returned for a Denver TD.

Then there was the sequence in the third quarter in which the Jets tried two pass plays starting on third-and-1 at the Denver 46, despite the fact that Thomas Jones already had topped the 100-yard mark. They didn't get the first down.

Head coach Eric Mangini admitted this week, "I think on the reverse play with Brad, I probably would have changed the ball-handling and made it more of an underhanded pitch instead of an overhanded pitch. I think that would have softened it a little bit. I didn't feel like the conditions made that exchange impossible. I thought that it was very reasonable, but I think that could have helped that."

But maybe a straight handoff would've been better, or maybe it was ill-advised to even try a play like that given the rainy conditions. Still, had Cotchery handled the pitch, there was plenty of open space on the left side of the field.

As for the fourth-and-1 play, Mangini said, "I liked the concept, going with big people, the hard-sell play-action. We really felt like the safety would (come) up and (we'd have) a chance for a big play to Chris (Baker). When the safety didn't come up, I would have had a better outlet answer when that happened. We had an outlet. I just don't think it was as good as it could have possibly been."

When tight end Baker wasn't open, Brett Favre was forced to scramble for a 1-yard loss.

These ill-fated plays perhaps underscore the fact that Schottenheimer still feels the need for trickery because Favre hasn't been able to throw deep lately. He tried for Laveranues Coles on a deep pass Sunday, but Dre Bly intercepted. Coles and Cotchery are having trouble getting separation, and the Jets still haven't used speedster David Clowney in a game.

San Francisco, the Jets' next opponent, doesn't blitz too much because the 49ers (4-8) are afraid of getting beaten deep. However, the 49ers might change their tactics once they discover the Jets are having trouble throwing downfield. With better conditions, Favre likely will try to go to tight end Dustin Keller a lot. Keller has 27 catches in the last four games.



Niners Digest Top Stories