It happened all of a sudden. Nobody was really sure how, or when it happened, but it happened. The New York Jets, a team that had lost by 40-points the week prior, pulled off the unthinkable. They defeated a heavily favored New Orleans Saints, 26-20.
Unlike their previous wins, this time the Jets didn’t need any help from an unknown rule, or a late penalty flag. They flat out out-played, out-coached, and out-schemed the opposition.
“Looking at this game, we knew it was going to be tough,” Rex Ryan said after the game. “There’s no doubt it was going to be a tough game. We didn’t know how we’d win it and all that, but all I know is that I have a team that believes and will fight to the end and find a way. That’s really what we did. It was a great team effort. The pride of this Jet team, that’s why we won.”
Former Saints running back Chris Ivory put the whole organization on his shoulders Sunday. He allowed quarterback Geno Smith a chance to relax and merely manage the game; he enabled Rex Ryan to utilize his beloved ground and pound style of offense; and he gave General Manager John Idzik a chance to relish in the off-season move he made with the Saints to acquire the running back. Ivory made the New Orleans Saints brass sorry they ever deemed him replaceable as he powered the Jets to victory with 139-yards rushing and a touchdown on 18 carries.
“I think I did well with the opportunities I had today,” Ivory said. “I went with my role today and we won. You guys want me to say that (I made a statement against my former team) but that’s just not how it feels. I really look at it just like another game”
It was behind the powerful running style of Chris Ivory that the Jets thrived. Ivory ripped off runs of 46, and 25 yards, one of which came when the Jets were backed up on their own 1-yard line.
“We know if he’s healthy, this young man has the ability to be a punch-you-in-the-face type of back,” Rex Ryan said about Ivory. “He has speed, he has vision, and he runs with power. To complement him with Bilal Powell, those two guys really do a great job for us.”
The Jets defense entered the game to prove that their dismantling at the hands of Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals last week was an anomaly, and not a representation of the New York Jets. They proved just that. The defense confused, harassed, and ultimately shut-down Drew Brees. Brees was intercepted twice, as both linebacker David Harris and cornerback Antonio Cromartie pulled in deflected passes to turn momentum in the Jets favor.
Early in the second quarter it looked like the Jets were about to succumb to Brees and his high powered Saints offense. Already leading 7-6, Brees connected with wide receiver Robert Meachem for a 60-yard completion deep into Jets territory, before throwing his second touchdown of the day for a 14-6 lead– a 10 yard jumpball to tight end Jimmy Graham over the head of cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
“I should have stayed outside leverage, but he made a great catch on it, he attacked the ball,” Cromartie said about the play. “You just have to forget about those and get going.”
Not to be outdone, Geno Smith and the Jets offense continued to plug away at Rex Ryan’s twin brother’s defense. Josh Cribbs returned the ensuing kickoff 42 yards, and Smith and Ivory orchestrated a 8 play 61-yard touchdown drive that culminated in an untouched 4 yard Ivory score, cutting the deficit to a single point at 14-13.
Following Brees’s second interception — a tipped pass to Cromartie on the sideline — Smith connected with his band of replacements with a 13 yard pass to Greg Sallas, and 21 yard pass to Zach Sudfeld, before taking matters into his own hands and running into the endzone for an unlikely 20-14 Jets lead at halftime. A lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“It was designed. It was a read play,” Smith said about his running touchdown. “It was actually Nick [Mangold]’s idea. He saw something on the D-line so he relayed it to Marty [Mornhinweg] and Marty relayed it to me and then I had an opportunity to score there right before the half and kind of tried to stretch the play. We did a great job at obviously running it and I just cut back, got into the end zone. I think it was one of those plays going into the half that really elevated us because not only did we get points but we gained some momentum.”
Smith played a mistake free game, as he completed just 8-of-19 attempts for 115-yards. The rookie quarterback was smart with the football, and didn’t force any throws. While it doesn’t show up on the stats sheet, it was a game of significant growth for a rookie quarterback with a history of turnovers.
“I think I did a pretty good job of managing situations, not trying to force the ball, knowing when to tuck the ball and run, knowing when to get the ball out of my hands versus the pressure look or even throw it away,” Smith said “I think not having so many negative plays and negative yardage, I think that’s something that really helped us today because many times we were able to flip field position with punts and it helped our defense out going up against a really good offense.”
The Jets now head into their bye week with a 5-4 record, and, for the moment at least, hold sole possession of the final wildcard spot.