AFC East Report: Postseason

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End of Regular Season

New England @ Pittsburgh, 6:30 p.m. Sunday

New York Jets:

The Jets played an excellent game and came up short because Doug Brien finally succumbed to pressure, and because the Pitt defense was able to stop the Jets offense when it counted. You have to give credit to Pitt's defense and running game, but the fact is the Jets should have won this one in regulation. I'm sad they lost the golden opportunity to play in the AFC Championship game, and annoyed they didn't get to stick this game in the face of all the so call "experts".

One other point in response to some of the insane local media saying Edwards blew the game, yes he should have run more plays in the final minute and perhaps one of them would have been a big play, but don't forget to be realistic too. The Jets were having a big problem gaining yards on the plus side of the field, and they might have run 2 more plays which in a good case scenario would have netted them 10 more yards. Brien's confidence was so shaky based on his 42 yard attempt that there's little reason to think a try from 32 would be any different. The Jets probably needed a touchdown to win, and that was not going to happen.

I'm going to digress a little because I want to give the Jets the respect they've earned but certainly not received from anyone outside New York City. It started with San Diego and snowballed all week long with the "experts" in the national media saying there was no way the Jets would beat the Steelers, they only stayed close last time because they didn't get the Steelers A game, that they needed to play the perfect game this time, and that they needed to get out to a quick start just to make it a game before withering away in the 3rd quarter. I listened to dopes like Merrill Hoge and many others smugly dismiss the Jets chances, predicting a rout. Then I listened to Dierdorf's awful commentary and ESPN's terrible post game write up (Clayton) both saying it was all Pittsburgh not playing to their capabilities. That it was Roethlisberger playing like a rookie and Pitt faltering inside the Jets 35. Rarely if ever were their struggles attributed to how well the Jets were playing and how well they designed the gameplan.

Why? Well most of the media is overrated in their ability to analyze what's happening, and they will rarely go against the grain. Ever since Pitt destroyed New England and Philly back to back the Jets weren't supposed to be able to play Pitt close once on their home turf let alone twice. It's why we keep hearing how cool Brett Favre is even when he throws 4 picks. And when he makes a stupid play of passing well beyond the line of scrimmage which not only costs his team a chance at 7, but the penalty yardage causes a missed field goal, instead of criticism we get platitudes like "that shows how much he loves the game".

I want to set some things straight about the Jets that the media can't seem to get right. Roethlisberger didn't play like a rookie, the Jets forced him into playing terribly. He tried several times to throw long downfield, plays that have been successfully run against notable defenses like the Patriots, Eagles and Ravens. He simply could not get the ball to Burress his favorite target who was supposed to make the difference this time around, and probably should have been intercepted at least one if not two more times.

Yes the Jets safeties are sometimes slow covering the deep ball, but they were there all game long, and the few exceptions when they were not in position Barrett and Abraham played Burress very well and denied him any chances of making plays. Barrett defended a well thrown deep ball early, as did Abraham, and Abraham later made a great shove at the line of scrimmage to break up another well thrown timing pass into the end zone. These plays combined with excellent coverage wore Roethlisberger down to the point he lost confidence in the plays and in Burress.

You also never heard how easily rookie Derrick Strait took Randle El out of the game, even though this was a "mismatch" I was reading all week that the Steelers would exploit. The Jets success wasn't dumb luck, and since the Jets corners have had rocky seasons, this is a clear sign how well Donnie Henderson draws up a gameplan. The Jets were stopping the run AND the pass for more than 3 quarters of football, and generating turnovers and points. It's no surprise that Roethlisberger's two worst games this year are against the Jets, even though both were home games.

It irritates me to read the poor analysis the media puts out because it's ultimately a sign of disrespect for everything the Jets accomplished. The team should look to extend Henderson's contract immediately and give him an "Assistant Coach" title so he doesn't get lured away after next offseason.


they didn't play poorly considering how good Pittsburgh's defense is, but the fact is they only generated 3 points and played at a level well enough to put up about 6-9 points. I believe they did not get in the red zone for the second straight time against Pittsburgh and they bogged down a few times just outside field goal territory, or in Brien's case what is supposed to be field goal territory.

The playcalling was exciting and Hackett seems to have found some fortitude in the face of losing his job - sadly it's an audition for his next job to show he can call the plays, but the fact is he was never comfortable calling them here until it was obvious he's the biggest part of the problem. The Jets threw deep and intermediate routes, but they needed to connect on one of those deep passes to generate points and that's where they fell a bit short. Also, Pennington threw the ball crisply but once again it seemed like a case of the team being able to complete 15-yarders when they were on their own side of the field, and not when they moved into Pittsburgh territory. I have no idea why they're so good at getting out from their own goal line, and so bad at moving from the opposing team's 40 yard line. In both cases you have the defense all worked up to make key stops and the pressure is on the offense, in fact there's probably less pressure once you're near scoring territory. Pennington just doesn't seem to make the plays when he's under pressure, something a winning QB needs to do 2-3 times a game. I would welcome other people's opinions on this one.

The more I see McCareins the more I love his play, and Moss played well enough he somehow should have generated a bit more than 4 catches for 31 yards. It is evident they need a pass catching tight end to exploit the middle of the field and for converting 3rd downs in enemy territory, or at least some other 3rd receiving option. Cotchery really provided nothing and Chrebet sadly looks to be at the end of the line. The bottom line is the passing attack needs to be able to generate tough yards (which I think of as 3rd and long, and inside the opponent 40) more effectively.

The Jets ran the ball credibly, averaging 4 yards a carry and gaining 110 yards, but scoring points was up to Pennington in this game and to me he was solid but came up a tad short for the reasons I mentioned. If the Jets didn't score on special teams and defense (as they did against the Rams) there would have been no overtime. So the offense was able to move enough to get the team out of trouble in the field position war, but not enough for the point scoring war.


Gave a heroic effort putting up 7 points and forcing 3 turnovers, the last of which should have salted the game away. Pitt had all its weapons, three receivers and two bruising backs, so I was as curious as anyone to see how the Jets would manage. They are typically very good at figuring out the one or two things the other team wants to do and stopping it or slowing it down, but in this game they had to worry about everyone except the tight end.

It was impressive that they stopped so many facets for nearly 4 full quarters, and as I've already said it's way under-analyzed by the people who are supposed to shed light on these things. And they did it without generating a ton of pressure on Roethlisberger. Was Abraham missed? I'd have to say yes but not in the way I expected. Other than generating a sack/fumble it was hard to see where added pressure would have made much difference for most of the game. But there were two places I think the Jets could have used him. First, to chase down Roethlisberger who on a couple occasions hurt the Jets with his feet, and second the DE's would have been fresher late in the game after spending so much time on the field. This situation got worse when Ellis got hurt and missed a few plays, and when Pennington missed a wide open Moss that would have allowed the Jets to control the clock late in the 4th quarter. I didn't see it, but supposedly the Jets had back up tackle Alan Harper playing some DE.

Eventually the Jets did wilt, starting somewhere around the early-mid 4th quarter when Pittsburgh kept pounding away at them with Bettis and Staley. Give full credit to Pittsburgh's offensive line because they ran on the Jets like no other team has all year. In fact they were simply running them over by the end of the game, as there were multiple runs where the Steelers made 3,4,5 yards after initial contact. Hard to blame the defense for being tired, they were on the field for 41 minutes, and many times they did get to the point of contact on time, they just weren't able to bring down the ballcarriers single-handedly.

I don't have a strong opinion against John Abraham, but I do wish he'd at least suited up and tried to play either in warm ups or for a few plays in the first quarter before reaching a decision he couldn't play. To say he couldn't play from the training table was a little weak. The only other thing you can believe is the Jets doctors/coaches completely mismanaged discussing his condition for the past few weeks. Come to think of it, Edwards clock mismanagement does raise a strong possibility he goofed here too.


It was a long and fairly satisfying season, it's hard to lose no matter how it happens, and the Jets finally showed they could beat the elite, on the road no less, and when it counted. The San Diego game was a strong showing throughout and they should have won again vs the best team in football this year which had an extra week of rest. This is a long way from the 6-10 showing in 03. In the offseason they need to make sure they don't regress. This means somehow bringing back at least 2 if not 3 of the following 4 players: John Abraham, Lamont Jordan, Kareem McKenzie and Jason Ferguson.

If Henderson is convinced they can do a better job blitzing next year, it might make sense to let Abraham go and resign all their other free agents plus try and add a receiving tight end (Marcus Pollard?) in free agency. If they can't realistically improve the blitz I think they must franchise Abraham who is simply too much of a playmaker and the type of person you'd like to have in big games. I realize the irony here. I've been feeling that CB is the top need of the team, but Strait has played well the past two games, and depending on who they can resign drafting a top CB in the first round might be a luxury.

Based on the way the season ended the Jets have to figure out a way to make the passing game a bit more dangerous. Luckily the draft looks to be deep at many potential positions of need, and Bradway has done a pretty good job over the years: CB (heavily stocked for 2 rounds), S (little first round talent, but a lot in rounds 2-4), RB (rounds 1-2), DE (round 1) and OT (rounds 1-3). There is little depth at DT (some 2nd round talent) and TE (1 late first rounder and maybe 1 or 2 second rounders) which are the other potential needs. It's important not to let much slip away this year because we've seen repeatedly that the regular season is secured in the offseason, and next year's schedule will be tougher.

Analyst: Nick Romano;

New England Patriots:

No report this week.

Analyst: Craig Natale;

Miami Dolphins:

End of season.

Analyst: Chris Dellapietra

Buffalo Bills:

End of season.

Analyst: Mark Weiler;

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