Scout Report: Around the AFC EAST Week 17
Insiders Report for the Bills, Jets and Dolphins
PHOTO: New England Patriots running back Corey Dillon celebrates his fourth quarter touchdown during the Patriots 21-7 win over the San Fransisco 49ers at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. Sunday, Jan. 2, 2004. Dillon rushed for 116 yards and one touchdown in the win. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Running back Travis Henry made it official on Monday. He wants to be traded to a team where he can resume being a starting running back in the NFL.
After playing the role of good soldier upon losing his starting job to first-year sensation Willis McGahee six games into this season, Henry spoke out about his future as players cleared out their lockers following Sunday's 29-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The loss snapped Buffalo's six-game win streak and prevented them from advancing to the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
"I want to go somewhere where I can be a starter and play and be a big contributor, that's where my mind is at," said Henry, who entered this year as Buffalo's fourth all-time rusher. "Like I said at the beginning of the year, I'm not a backup. Whatever they decide to do, wherever their mind is at, I don't know. I already know where my mind is at."
Henry was a second-round pick of the Bills out of Tennessee in 2001. He has started 48 of 53 career games, rushing for 3,849 yards (4.0 average) and 27 touchdowns. He has also caught 103 passes for 691 yards and two touchdowns. In 2002 and 2003, he topped 1,300 yards rushing each season.
Injuries opened the door for McGahee this season. Henry sat out the first Miami game, and McGahee gained 111 yards. Henry then missed the final five games of the season with torn ligaments in his right ankle.
Coach Mike Mularkey never officially demoted Henry to backup this year, instead promoting McGahee to a co-starter status. That was merely locker room politics. McGahee started the final 10 games of the season and wound up with 1,128 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns on 284 carries (4.0 average). McGahee's play sparked the Bills to wins in nine of their final 12 games. He had at least one run of 20 yards or more in five of his last seven games.
Henry, 26, is signed through next season but he said he's confident the Bills can find a team to trade him to.
"Most definitely, there are a lot of teams out there I'm confident that would live to have a Travis Henry on their team," he said. "It's just a matter of what the Bills want to do."
Bills general manager Tom Donahoe and coach Mike Mularkey have refused to speculate on Henry's future, but it's known they'd like to recoup the first-round pick they gave to Dallas last spring for the chance to draft quarterback J.P. Losman. Asking for a first-round pick for Henry, coming off his injuries, may be too high, however. Losing his job to McGahee doesn't help Henry's stock either.
"I don't think I lost my job, it was given away, let's get that straight," Henry said. "But it was a difficult year, 2004, but I look at it like I can only go up. I learned a lot this past season and I'm just looking forward to getting back healthy and doing the things I know I can still do on a football field."
- QB Drew Bledsoe wrapped up the year with a poor showing in Sunday's regular-season
loss to Pittsburgh, but wound up making several statistical jumps from a year
ago. Among them, TD passes (11 to 20), passer rating (73 to 76.6) and yards
per attempt (6.07 to 6.52). He was sacked 12 fewer times (49 to 37) as the
Bills' line made drastic strides.
- RB Willis McGahee wound up with seven 100-yard rushing games, the only first-year
Bills running back to accomplish that feat. Joe Cribbs and Gregg Bell had
the old record with three. McGahee finished with 284 carries for 1,128 yards
and 13 touchdowns. The 13 TDs were the second most in a single season in team
history, tying Cookie Gilchrist (1962) and Travis Henry (2002), three behind
O.J. Simpson's 16 in 1975.
- WR Lee Evans, the team's first-round pick from Wisconsin, enjoyed one of
the best rookie seasons in club history with 48 catches for 843 yards and
a rookie record nine TDs. Evans caught five passes of 55 yards or more (65,
55, 69, 60 and 56). Thirty-eight of his catches resulted in first downs.
- DE Aaron Schobel was unable to hit double-digits in sacks for a second consecutive
year, finishing with 8.0. He had improved from 6.5 to 8.5 to 11.5 in his first
three seasons. In Schobel's defense, he did a lot more dropping into coverage
on zone dogs this season, much to his chagrin, and the Bills did improve their
takeaways from an NFL-low 18 to NFL-best 39, one more than Carolina.
- CB Nate Clements recorded his team-leading sixth interception of the year against the Steelers, returning it 30 yards for a touchdown. With four career touchdowns, Clements tied Henry Jones for third all-time in team history, just one behind Butch Byrd and Tom Janik with five each. Clements has been playing only four seasons.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It doesn't matter. Those guys get paid the same way we do. That's just the sign of a good team when you have depth. Backups come in and they can still be efficient when the game counts. The credit goes to them." -- LB Takeo Spikes on losing to a Steelers team that mass substituted its starters or sat them outright.
REPORT CARD VS. STEELERS
PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Drew Bledsoe left the door open for rookie J.P. Losman to come in and compete for his starting job next season with a horrible performance. He made a poor decision on a pass over the middle that led to an interception and set up a Steelers field goal, then failed to protect the ball on a fourth-quarter sack that resulted in a mid-air recovery by linebacker James Harrison, who returned it 18 yards for the clinching TD. Bledsoe struggled with his reads all game against Dick LeBeau's 3-4 scheme (the same one he practiced against all last season and was sitting eight starters by the second quarter), and threw for just 101 yards taking away a final drive when he managed to hit Lee Evans deep for 56 yards. Bledsoe posted a 19.5 rating when the Bills fell into a 16-10 first-half hole. Bills converted just 2 of 12 on third down with Eric Moulds dropping one third-down catch. Evans finished with just two catches. Josh Reed, meanwhile, committed the day's most critical error, getting flagged for pass interference to nullify a first down in the red zone late in the third quarter. The Bills wound up with no points in that drive that consumed 13 plays when Rian Lindell shanked a 29-yard chip shot field goal. The running backs struggled with blitz pickup.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- Willis McGahee rushed for 79 yards and two TDs on 18 carries but four carries for 41 yards and a TD came on the offense's only touchdown drive of the game in the first quarter. After that, he was mostly a non-factor. Shaud Williams was part of an aborted play with Bledsoe on an important late possession. Bills' should've been able to move the ball on a Steelers' defense missing numerous key members, but the line was hamstrung by a stomach injury to RG Chris Villarrial. Bills wound up with just 96 yards rushing.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- Steelers backup WR Antwaan Randle El (seven catches, 81 yards, 1 TD) had a strong first half. Other than that, Steelers quarterbacks Tommy Maddox and Brian St. Pierre combined for just 12 completions for 120 yards, two interceptions and a 42.1 rating. CB Nate Clements returned a Maddox interception 30 yards for a touchdown, and LB Takeo Spikes also had a nice pick on a tipped ball. That turnover didn't lead to any points, however. Pat Williams and Ryan Denney notched Buffalo's lone sacks.
RUSHING DEFENSE: D -- There were some fine individual efforts, led by Williams, who finished with 12 tackles, and Sam Adams who made a couple nice plays. But there was no excuse for allowing fourth-string RB Willie Parker to gain 102 yards on 19 carries (5.4 average), which included a 58-yard burst around left end that set up a fourth-quarter field goal. Parker also had 12 rushes during a 14-play, 46-yard drive that led to another field goal and chewed 8:53 of clock in the fourth quarter.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- Bobby April's crew played arguably its worst game of the season. Clements fumbled the opening punt, setting up the Steelers' at the Buffalo 20-yard line for the first of Jeff Reed's five field goals and a 3-0 lead. Poor punting by Brian Moorman and some shoddy kickoffs by Lindell also gave the Steelers excellent field position in the first half. Lindell had made 10 field goals in a row until shanking his 29-yarder late in the third quarter wide right. Coverage units chimed in with several bad penalties.
COACHING: F -- Former Steelers assistants Mike Mularkey and Tom Clements proved no match for Bill Cowher, who took them to school with his backups no less. Galling. Devising an offense that had Bledsoe, a terrible touch passer, throwing short passes with his two starting tight ends injured, made no sense. Even after getting the Steelers' safeties to bite up, Buffalo never attacked deep with Evans until it was too late. Settling for a field goal on fourth-and-1 at the Steelers' 11-yard line while leading 17-16 blew up in Mularkey's face. Lindell missed the kick, and the next series, Parker ripped off his 58-yard run to set up Pittsburgh's go-ahead field goal. Buffalo wound up driving into a brutal wind in the fourth quarter, so whatever the Bills' strategy was after losing the coin toss and electing to defend the West end, backfired. A nice season overall for the new staff, just there were simply too many growing pains for a playoff berth.
Miami Dolphins interim coach Jim Bates addressed his team for what may be the final time Monday in the team's season-ending meeting.
Bates admitted he has hesitations about returning as Miami's defensive coordinator if given the opportunity by incoming head coach Nick Saban, who was chosen ahead of him for the position that opened when Dave Wannstedt resigned following the Dolphins' 1-8 start. Bates had served as Miami's defensive coordinator for the previous 41/2 seasons before the temporary promotion.
"It wouldn't be an easy deal for me after being in the front of the room because I have known that (head coaching) I can handle," said Bates, who will meet Tuesday with Saban to discuss his coaching future with the Dolphins. "If I make that decision, I can handle it. But it will be hard, especially from the offset. There has been a lot of the bond as far as between players and coaches that I have developed in a different way as far as being a head football coach for these last eight weeks."
Bates, 58, hopes that he showed enough skill in guiding Miami to a 3-4 finish to receive consideration for other NFL head coaching positions.
"I have always known that I could do the job because I have observed. I know the fundamentals, the technical parts of the game," said Bates, who was a head coach almost 20 years earlier for San Antonio in the United States Football League. "The biggest thing that I have as far as a positive, I can get guys to play better or at the top of their game. That is just not the great players. That is every player.
"Every place that I've been, I felt like when I went in and did a position, the position improved. I just have that inner confidence that I can do that with a football team. I have always had that."
- Jay Fiedler acknowledged Monday that he has likely quarterbacked his final
game for the Dolphins. Fiedler is slated to earn $7.7 million in 2005, which
is far too much for a player who lost his starting spot to A.J. Feeley at
"Looking at it realistically, I can see the team trying to go in a new direction," said Fiedler, who had a 36-23 record in 41/2 seasons as a Dolphins starter. "From my point of view, that would point me to free agency. If I had it my way, I'd end up with a starting job somewhere. I don't know where that might be, but that's the goal. You want to play and go somewhere and be on the field."
Fiedler ended the season on injured reserve with a neck injury.
- Dolphins quarterback Sage Rosenfels also is hoping for the chance to start
elsewhere. Rosenfels, who is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in
2005, showed promise in his first NFL start in Sunday's 30-23 loss to Baltimore.
Although he did throw three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown,
Rosenfels showcased a big-time arm on a 76-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver
"You'd like to hope I showed teams that I have a lot of ability, which I think I do," said Rosenfels, who completed 16 of 38 passes for 264 yards. "I made some throws that I like to blame on a lack of experience. Going in to compete, that's how you get experience."
- DE Jason Taylor is in jeopardy of missing the Pro Bowl because of a dislocated
right shoulder suffered in last Sunday's 30-23 loss to Baltimore. Taylor was
awaiting the results of an MRI exam Monday to determine the extent of the
- P Matt Turk set a franchise single-season record for punts in last Sunday's
30-23 loss to Buffalo. Turk's five attempts gave him 98 for the season, eclipsing
the mark of 93 set by Klaus Wilmsmeyer in 1998.
- KR Wes Welker broke a 15-year streak by returning a kickoff for a touchdown in last Sunday's 30-23 loss to Baltimore. The Dolphins hadn't returned a kickoff for a touchdown since Marc Logan had a 93-yard return in October 1989 against Houston.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I did look around and I kind of smiled. This group, for the stuff we've been through, we always stuck together and hung with each other. I can't say that about a lot of teams in a lot of places. This team did." - Defensive end David Bowens on Dolphins players cleaning out their lockers after a 4-12 season.
REPORT CARD VS. RAVENS
PASSING OFFENSE: C- -- Despite three costly interceptions, QB Sage Rosenfels showed at least enough potential to garner consideration for a permanent backup position in the NFL in 2005. It speaks volumes about the long-running problems in Miami's passing offense that WR Chris Chambers' 76-yard touchdown catch was his longest reception since November 2001.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- Sammy Morris had a career-best 35-yard touchdown run and finished with 89 yards on 12 carries. But with Morris temporarily out of the game in the fourth quarter with a knee injury, backup Travis Minor failed to score on two carries from the Baltimore 1-yard line. Rosenfels then threw an interception on third down to end the drive.
PASS DEFENSE: C -- The progress Kyle Boller has made in his second NFL season was evident in an efficient 14 of 27 performance for 142 yards. The Dolphins failed to record an interception or sack while yielding one touchdown pass.
RUSH DEFENSE: F -- Baltimore's Jamal Lewis became the fourth consecutive tailback and 10th this season to rush for 100 yards against the Dolphins. Lewis' 167-yard performance was a season-best against the Dolphins and helped Baltimore enjoy a 33:05 to 26:55 advantage in time of possession.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Wes Welker capped an excellent rookie season as a returner with a 95-yard score on a kickoff. K Olindo Mare sent a 53-yard field-goal attempt wide right in the second quarter.
COACHING: B -- Jim Bates can't be held completely responsible for this loss considering two of Rosenfels' interceptions led to 10 Baltimore points and the third came at the Ravens goal-line. The recent improvement of WRs Bryan Gilmore (three catches for 47 yards) and Derrius Thompson (1-13) speaks well of the progress made under position coach Jerry Sullivan.
It's a good thing that Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is so well organized. Weis' ability to divide his time successfully over the past few weeks has helped the Patriots offense remain productive while he has also worked to fill assistant coaching positions on his Notre Dame staff and make some phone calls to prospective players during a recruiting dead period.
Through it all, he has dedicated nearly the same time to the Patriots game plans and coaching that he has for the past five years.
"It's been pretty close," Weis said. "My hours get pushed a little later at night. It's been like a training camp mentality when we get three hours of sleep per night. That's how my family views it. That way we can do right by the Patriots and give time to Notre Dame."
Weis will leave to coach the Fighting Irish as soon as the Patriots' season is over, a stipulation he said he insisted upon while interviewing for the school's coaching job. "I told Notre Dame that I can't take the job if I can't finish the one I have now. If that cost me the job, so be it. I wasn't going to walk out on this job in the midst of a playoff run."
That's where the Patriots are once again, sitting back with a bye awaiting their Divisional Playoff opponent. This is the week, though, when NFL teams with head coaching vacancies are allowed to interview assistant coaches who are preparing for the playoffs. Weis is glad to have the doubt removed from his future this January.
"That's definitely big," Weis said. "Right now there is only one job open, the Cleveland Browns. This turned out to be the right moment for me."
But Weis also understands that this moment is about trying to make another Super Bowl run with the Patriots, and when it's over, he will ride off to South Bend, but won't be taking any of the other Patriots assistants with him.
"I'm not taking any position coaches from here out of respect for Bill Belichick," Weis stressed.
- Romeo Crennel is ready and willing to talk but waiting for a phone call.
When he met with the media Monday morning, there was still only one head coaching
job open, the Cleveland Browns, and they had not called to request an interview.
"Any vacancies that come along, I'd like to hear from those teams," Crennel said in a verbal want ad. "I have not heard from Cleveland. If they call, I'd be more than willing to talk to them."
Crennel has interviewed for jobs in each of the last two offseasons, but has not been hired.
- Bill Belichick explained how the Patriots would break down their three possible
playoff opponents this week. New England can play the Colts, Jets or Chargers
in the Divisional round either Jan. 15 or Jan. 16. Since New England just
played the Jets the day after Christmas, it has more familiarity with that
club and can spend time on a Chargers team it hasn't faced since 2002 or a
Colts team it saw all the way back in Week 1.
"It's hard to keep three balls in the air at once," Belichick said. "We do one, get some concrete information and then put it aside and move on to another team. It doesn't matter who it is right now. It matters who it is two weeks from now. It's a new season and every team that is still playing has earned its stripes."
- The Patriots' 437 points scored in 2004 were the second most ever by a Patriots
team behind the 1980 team that scored 441.
- DL Jarvis Green held up fine while starting at defensive end in place of
Richard Seymour, who missed the season finale with a knee injury. Green led
all defensive linemen with seven tackles in his most playing time of the season.
- LB Don Davis started at safety for the second straight week, this time in
place of Eugene Wilson, who sat out to rest a thigh injury suffered against
the Jets on Dec. 26. Davis finished with four tackles and came off the field
during sub situations when the Patriots used Earthwind Moreland at safety
alongside Rodney Harrison.
- OLB Tully Banta-Cain continues to be productive when he receives defensive
playing time, which is hard to come by playing behind Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel and Rosevelt Colvin. Banta-Cain had five tackles and a fumble recovery
in limited playing time, but is certainly a player to watch in the future.
- DL Vince Wilfork, the Patriots' first of two first round picks last April,
steadily improved throughout the season, but Crennel is curious to see how
the rookie performs in the postseason. "The best thing is that he is
a competitive guy," Crennel said. "He studies in the classroom and
he studies his opponent. He's adapted well to our system and now it will be
interesting to see how he competes in the postseason when (the intensity)
goes to another level. I think he'll be competitive."
- CB Ty Law missed his ninth consecutive game since breaking his foot back on Oct. 31, but was not around to talk about his playoff readiness. He was a regular in the locker room during the first couple of weeks of December and spoke about progressing toward a return to action. The last couple of weeks, even after being upgraded to questionable on the injury report, Law has not been seen in the locker room while it is open to the media, which leaves one to wonder about his status moving forward. Crennel only had this to say about Law and his possible readiness for the playoffs after an extended time off. "Anytime a player has been out, they have an extended rehab program. We like to see him practice to see what he can do and cannot do. We'll determine that when he gets back to practice. But for a player with Ty's experience and talent, it's like riding a bike."
REPORT CARD VS. 49ERS
PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Tom Brady's numbers were excellent overall. He completed 22-of-30 passes for 226 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for 102.9 passer rating. He spread the ball around to 10 different receivers, including 5 passes to fullback Patrick Pass and four for 62 yards to reserve tight end Jed Weaver. But all three of the Patriots' turnovers came in the passing game, and against a better team would certainly have been more costly. Operating out of the no huddle at times, New England moved the ball well until coughing it up. Corey Dillon fumbled at the end of an 18-yard pass play, Brady threw an interception on a high pass that bounced through Dillon's hands and set up the Niners first score while Brady also lost a fumble on a strip sack as he attempted to throw. Three turnovers in the passing game is enough to cost a team most weeks, but fortunately for the Patriots, they were playing the worst team in the NFL. When they weren't turning it over, the Patriots executed well.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- The Patriots' ground attack was as strong as it has been all season. Dillon had a huge afternoon, gaining 116 yards with a touchdown on just 14 carries. Rookie Cedric Cobbs added five carries for 20 yards as the Patriots ran 28 times for 174 yards for a 6.2-yard average. Dillon made yards after contact with his signature stiff arm and had a long run of 29 yards.
PASS DEFENSE: C -- This wasn't terrible, but it just wasn't that good either. San Francisco quarterback Ken Dorsey completed 18-of-29 passes for 189 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions while being sacked only once. Asante Samuel had the only pass breakup, but the Patriots did generate decent pressure at times, particularly on third down when the 49ers struggled to convert. New England's defensive backs kept the ball in front of them and made sure San Francisco didn't get any quick, easy scores.
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Kevan Barlow became just the third individual rusher to eclipse the 100-yard mark against the Patriots this season when he gained 103 yards on 25 runs, but 33 of those yards came on one run late in the game when many of the Patriots' regulars were on the bench. Overall, it was a solid effort by New England in a game where it could have been excused for not bringing its normal intensity, which would have shown up in run defense. It didn't. Tedy Bruschi led the way with 15 tackles while Rodney Harrison added nine and Ted Johnson had eight.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- An early penalty for an illegal block on Earthwind Moreland nullified an 86-yard Bethel Johnson punt return for a touchdown, but the Patriots recovered nicely. Je'Rod Cherry downed two punts inside the 5-yard line in what was a strong day for punter Josh Miller. The kick coverage was solid, and Johnson returned two kickoffs for 50 yards for New England.
COACHING: B -- Bill Belichick obviously doesn't share the same school of thought as many of his coaching brethren and while there is no right and wrong way to approach a so-called meaningless game, Belichick did expose some of his frontline players unnecessarily by playing them well into the second half of a game that mean nothing in terms of the team's playoff seeding. It meant something to a group that wanted to finish 14-2 for the second straight year, but the overall importance of that mark pales in comparison to the need for keeping players like Brady and Dillon healthy for the postseason. Belichick elected to play his regulars much of the game to keep them sharp with a bye week forthcoming rather than give them what would amount to three weeks between games, which also is a tough theory to argue against. Rather than trying to take guys out, he said he was merely trying to get more players into the game in case they are called upon to step into more regular roles during the postseason. Belichick did get his team emotionally ready to play a meaningless game even though the club turned the ball over three times in the first half. Those were not a result of poor effort. New England's use of the no huddle offense at times was a good move on a couple of fronts. They have not used it much since attacking Indianapolis with it throughout the season opener and with the Colts a likely first playoff opponent, the Pats surely wanted to dust the cobwebs off that approach. Also, they wanted to give their first round playoff opponent something else to work on and prepare for next week.
While the Jets managed to score 29 points against the Rams - their fifth highest output of the season - 13 came from special teams and the defense and another nine off a trio of field goals by Dough Brien. So the offense, quarterback Chad Pennington and coordinator Paul Hackett are hardly off the hot seat.
Pennington completed 21-36 attempts for 181 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Yet he was sacked six times by a Rams defense that produced just 28 sacks previously, one of the worst totals in the NFL.
Then there was the sequence of plays with 10:17 to go in regulation. With the Jets holding on to a 26-21 lead and starting on their own 16, Pennington threw three straight incompletions against a team that allowed Curtis Martin to run for 101 yards at that point. Granted, the second pass play was intended to be a run but Pennington audibled a pass when the Rams came in with an eight-man front. Nonetheless, the damage was done when the series burned off a mere 15 seconds before the Jets punted and gave St. Louis the ball at its own 41.
"That didn't work, you're right," coach Herman Edwards said when asked whether he could have stopped Hackett from calling for a pass.
"You watch what's happening then you get back on the phone and you talk about the situation. Talk about what we should try to do the next time we get the football."
The Jets and coach Herman Edwards learned that they had reached the playoffs before going into overtime Sunday. It was Edwards' son who came over on the sideline and told his father with a hug that the Jets were in the postseason.
"I said, `Really?' He said, `Yeah.' I said, "That's good but we're trying to win 11 games here, so back up off me here for a minute. We're trying to win this in overtime. That's good to know, but we're trying to win this thing, man.'"
- DE Shaun Ellis' three sacks Sunday were a career-high.
- Only six other teams have gone to the playoffs at least three times in the
last four years like the Jets have done.
- DE John Abraham will continue practicing this week and is expected to play on a limited basis in Saturday's wild card game at San Diego. He has missed the last four games with a sprained LCL in his right knee but is as close to 100 percent as he's going to get so the Jets will use Abraham, who is listed as probable.
- LB Kenyatta Wright is questionable this week with a sprained right foot. He's a valuable member of special teams and does play some in the base defense.
- WR Wayne Chrebet is probable for Saturday's game despite a mild concussion that knocked him out of the second half of the Rams game last weekend. Jerricho Cotchery replaced Chrebet in the slot and could play more against the Chargers even if Chrebet is able to play.
- S Oliver Celestin replaced the struggling Reggie Tongue in the second half Sunday and could see more time this week if Tongue continues to have problems.
- S Jon McGraw is expected to play a key role in defending against Chargers TE Antonio Gates. McGraw has the size and tackling ability to bring down big tight ends so that will likely be McGraw's assignment this week.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You back in when no one else wants to go. No one canceled and said, `You guys can go.' We actually won 10 games that say we were able to go. In our conference, the two teams that had the 10 wins went. It was us and Denver. We didn't back into anything." - coach Herman Edwards on comments that the Jets backed into the playoffs after losing three of their last four.
REPORT CARD VS. RAMS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- Chad Pennington didn't turn the ball over but he nearly got killed while being sacked six times by a depleted Rams defensive front. Pennington's arm is certainly hurting him since coming back from the rotator cuff injury. While he was never a deep passer, Pennington has lacked zip on many of his throws.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- With 153 yards rushing, Curtis Martin not only carried the Jets offense but earned himself a rushing title - by one yard. Yet for whatever reason, the Jets went completely away from the run once they got close to the red zone.
PASS DEFENSE: D-plus -- They allowed a season-high 432 yards in the air, 146 more than any other game. The Jets corners simply couldn't handle the deep passing routes used by the Rams receivers. It was a difficult game for corned Donnie Abraham and safety Reggie Tongue in particular as they were often out of position or just flat out beat.
RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The Jets stuffed the Rams for just 47 yards rushing, a testament to how well they've played against the run all year. Only the 29 yards on 10 carries for Steven Jackson was offset by his four catches for 51 yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- Jerricho Cotchery comes up with the big play the Jets have been looking for on special teams all season with a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
COACHING: C-minus -- The Jets blew this one plain and simple. Herman Edwards wasted a timeout on a worthless play challenge in the third quarter, Paul Hackett's play-calling on offense was very questionable as the Jets abandoned the run in the fourth quarter after getting the lead. The Jets got a touchdown each from their defense and special teams, were plus-3 in the turnover ratio and rushed for 180 yards. How exactly did they lose this game?
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