Thanks to an AFC rival's loss early afternoon loss, the New York Jets qualified for the playoffs yesterday. So the season won't hang on what will transpire at the New Meadowlands Stadium next Sunday against Buffalo, as a result. But for a team that has puffed its collective chest and repeatedly expressed its belief in itself, an 11-5 record is more palatable than 10-6.
The truly damning part is all the Jets had to do yesterday was beat a flawed NFC opponent and they could answer myriad questions about the team's maturity and mindset. Instead, their defense was torched by Jay Cutler and the Bears, 38-34.
For an organization that prides itself on its shutdown defense, there was precious little to feel good about outside of Dwight Lowery's 20-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter and sacks of Cutler by Marcus Dixon and Bryan Thomas. The Jets surrendered more than 100 rushing yards to an opponent since their 24-22 loss to Jacksonville on November 15, 2009. Maurice-Jones Drew rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown in that game. Matt Forte gashed the defense for 113 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries yesterday.
Forte benefitted from an offensive line that pushed the Jets front three into their linebackers, and the effective play-action passing game. Cutler completed 13-of-25 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns. Cutler also rushed for two-yard score in the second quarter. All three touchdown connections occurred in a 7:14 span of the third quarter, in which the Jets went from having a 24-17 lead to trailing 38-31. Cutler sandwiched touchdown passes of 40 and 26 yards to Johnny Knox with a 25-yard hook up with Devin Hester. Hester was also vital in special teams with a 40-yard kickoff return and a 38-yard punt return.
Robbie Gould drilled a 37-yard field goal in the first quarter. He missed a 35-yard attempt to the right early in the fourth quarter. It was Gould's first missed kick from inside 40 yards in 65 attempts.
Mark Sanchez was impressive for the first time in months as he completed 24 passes for 269 yards and a 23-yard touchdown to Santonio Holmes in the third quarter. However, Sanchez was picked by Chris Harris with 52 seconds remaining to seal the loss.
Nick Folk added field goals of 26 and 34-yards.
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