While walking the sidelines during the pre-game warm-ups in MetLife Stadium, I crossed paths with an old opponent, former Jets great and Ring of Honor member DT Marty Lyons.
Marty and I had some great battles over the years and it’s always fun to get together and reminisce about the “Glory Days.”
We somehow always seem to end up talking about Terry Bradshaw’s last game as a Pittsburgh Steeler and the last game at Shea Stadium for the Jets before they moved to the Meadowlands. One memory that always comes back was the fans pouring out of the stands at the end of the game and taking anything they could carry with them as memorabilia. One poor schmuck attempted to take Marty’s chinstrap from Marty’s helmet while Marty was still in the helmet. Not a good move.
* The Jets held a salute to the veterans before the game in advance of Veterans Day. I had the privilege of meeting four incredible young men who were attending West Point. Since my eldest son Kyle had graduated from West Point, I had a great time talking with the Cadets. There can never be enough thanks to the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces.
* Terrible Towels waved madly on this awesome football afternoon in November and when Sean Spence gored, and I do mean gored, Percy Harvin on the opening kickoff, I thought it was going to be a terrific Sunday beatdown of the New York Jets. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
* On the Steelers' first snap from scrimmage, after the Jets had rolled out a to a 3-0 lead with a field goal, the Steelers came out in their 3-WR package that had Antonio Brown split to my side of the field all by himself. Now. I know the Jets have had problems in their secondary, but lining up 6-6, 290 pound linebacker Quinton Coples in press over AB seemed like overkill to me. That’s a serious size differential. Le'Veon Bell ran for four yards, but it gave me the first indication that Rex Ryan was going to pull out all of the stops on this day.
* A little late, Ben Roethlisberger took a shotgun snap with the Jets blitzing seven. The Jets were fooling around, or “Sugaring” up, with the blitz and coverage looks at the snap, but from my very safe sideline vantage point I could see Jaiquawn Jarrett, the Jets' free safety, drop down into a semi-screened linebacker position at the snap behind three blitzers. The clock in my head immediately started ticking because I knew they had overloaded the Steelers' left side. There are too many on your left, Ben! “THROW IT! THROW IT!” my mind screamed as the blitz began to overrun the pocket. Obviously Ben hadn’t heard my telepathic warning as Jarrett sacked him.
* Later, I was watching as Jets DE and pass-rushing mutant Jason Babin, he of the four-point sprinter’s stance with the head low to the ground, known in some places as the “Wide 9,” crashed on a false start into guard David DeCastro. As the officials were blowing the whistle and running to wave the play off, Babin kept coming and finally rat full tilt into Ben. Babin drilled Ben in the knees, drew a flag and almost precipitated a full-on brawl. I realize maybe Babin couldn’t see what was going on with his head stuffed into DeCastro’s chest, but I don’t think Babin is deaf. Somebody needs to be taken to the woodshed, I’m thinking.
* More Babin. Just before halftime, Babin got his wide-9 on again and got a great jump up the field as he was rushing on Marcus Gilbert. Babin went for a hand trap, using his hands to knock down the hands of Marcus, who’s carrying his a little too low for my comfort level. Marcus circled his hands around to re-engage Babin, who countered with an inside club, using his right arm to club Marcus to the outside. Marcus was caught on his outside foot and Babin broke to the inside rushing Roethlisberger. Ben shaked-and-baked Babin, slid to the outside, and his Lance Moore with a pass to set up Shaun Suisham’s 53-yard FG before halftime. How Ben evaded Babin, I haven’t a clue. I’ve seen Ben do this many times over his career and he still amazes me with his escapability.
* Watching the West Point Glee Club at halftime was another nostalgic moment for me. Happy times at West Point with my son Kyle and thoughts of how young he was and how rigorous the training at West Point was and the exceptional man he is today in large part because of his time spent there.
* In the third quarter after Roethlisberger was intercepted, Michael Vick passed to Jets WR Eric Decker. Now Decker’s a pretty good-sized wide receiver at 6-3 and 215 pounds. Antwon Blake checks in at 5-9 and 198 pounds. Blake is bigger in his heart than he is in body and tackled through Decker as if Decker was a straw man. I love watching Blake compete. He exudes a winner’s attitude, and isn't afraid of laying it all on the line.
* When Martavis Bryant got behind a Jets defender, I was at an angle behind the line of scrimmage near Roethlisberger. Ben stepped out of the pocket with a little heat in the kitchen and slid parallel along the scrimmage line to buy time while spying the breaking Bryant down the field. Ben finally whipped the cannon into action and connected on an 80-yard bomb. What was so fun for me was to be at such an angle that shortly after Ben saw the streaking Bryant, I got a peak from a somewhat over-the-shoulder type look at what Ben was looking at.
* Mike Mitchell got air born on an over-the-top victory formation leap that drew the disdain of all the Jets and their fans and even some teammates of Mike’s. I have to tell you, I understand that today’s NFL is much more safety conscious and better for long-term longevity for everybody, but back in the day it was never a foregone conclusion that the other team was going to let you take a knee. I get that it might be seen as something other than honorable in today’s game, but I have to smile when I think of some of the days gone by when guys would scream off the line of scrimmage and belt you, for no better reason than to take one more shot at you. You, on the other hand, might be a little miffed with the defense rocketing into you, so you got your “dog on” as well and might take a few liberties with the other guy’s spleen. It’s just the way it was.