The Jets’ defense made a strong showing in the season opener against the Ravens, but their humdrum offense cost them Monday night's game.
While Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez almost entirely threw dump-offs against a tough Baltimore defense, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco took some shots downfield. That was the difference.
Sanchez attempted only two passes over 15 yards the entire game, and both of them fell incomplete. His other 19 pass attempts consisted mainly of flips and check-downs to his tight end, fullback and running backs, which added up to an anemic 74 yards.
Sanchez played it too safe, and he was ineffective. Short passes usually yield a high completion percentage, but he hit on only 48 percent of his attempts.
By consistently throwing short, the Jets were only able to convert one first down, which came on the last drive of the game. And during that drive, when it counted most, Sanchez still was content to play it safe, even though the Jets were at their own 13 with no timeouts and only 1:37 to go. Even if Sanchez completed his passes, the short throws over the middle would have almost certainly run the clock out.
Had the Jets challenged the Ravens' secondary, they could have opened up even more holes for LaDainian Tomlinson ( who rushed well for 62 yards on 11 carries). And when they did complete short passes, the receivers probably would have had a little more running room after the catch.
Instead, the Ravens were able to blitz effectively and stack the line because they never had to worry about getting beat deep. Without Ed Reed roaming at safety for the Ravens and with the big play potential of Braylon Edwards, the Jets should have had even more incentive to throw deep. Sanchez did connect on a 33-yard pass to tight end Dustin Keller that would have brought the Jets to the Ravens’ four-yard line, but the play was called back on an illegal shift. After that, the Jets never looked for the end zone again.
While Sanchez deserves much of the heat, the Jets' coaching staff also needs to shoulder some blame. When they implemented any sort of wrinkle in the offense, whether it was putting Brad Smith in at quarterback for certain packages or even just having Tomlinson run off tackle, they moved the ball well. But for most of the game they played it safe, such as when Tomlinson ran up the middle on three straight plays to go three and out. The Jets need to take the reins off Sanchez and the rest of the offense, or else they won't get very far against good defenses.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Ravens showed how a little chutzpah can pay dividends. While the team only scored 10 points, both scoring drives came as a result of deep passes. During the only touchdown drive, Flacco attempted two long throws to T.J. Houshmandzadeh that caused a holding penalty and a crucial defensive pass interference call that gave the Ravens possession at the one-yard-line.
In the second half, Flacco hit newcomer Anquan Boldin on completions of 38 and 27 yards during the drive that led to the game-winning field goal. He also moved the chains when it counted, such as a 35-yard strike to tight end Todd Heap with around four minutes left to play.
By being aggressive, the Ravens caused the Jets’ secondary to chase receivers and make mistakes. Plus, the catch by Heap pinned the Jets deep in their own territory near the end of the game, which helped prevent them from moving into field-goal range.
Sanchez never gave the Jets the opportunity to benefit from a big pass interference call, and he never gave his receivers a chance to make a big play. The Ravens tackled too well to stick with the short passing game, and as a result, the Jets could never get anything going on offense.
The Jets needs to take more risks this week if they hope to beat the Patriots.