Thursday, October 16, 2014

"Geno-friendly" game plan not enough even to top blundering Patriots

I will be the first to admit that the New England Patriots had absolutely no business beating the New York Jets in Foxboro Thursday night. Nick Folk’s blocked field goal attempt on the last play of the game allowed the Patriots to sneak away with a 27-25 victory, although at least there was some “justice” in that the officials didn’t call some previously unknown penalty against the Patriots that gave Folk another shot to win the game, like last season. 

Still, this was a game that was a bitter pill to swallow, especially for those who think little of Geno Smith’s abilities. What happened to the defensive “genius” of Bill Belichick in game-planning against the hapless Geno? Perhaps he was so contemptuous of Smith that he didn’t think he needed to? Or should we give Rex Ryan more credit than he has been given? He definitely had the right “game plan” in mind: Keep the ball out of Geno’s hands as much as possible. 

That plan would have worked had Smith been a more competent quarterback. In first half, the Jets run game dominated the Patriots line—as well as putting the lie to the claim the Jets’ “problem” is that they have no “weapons.” No, the problem is Smith, and several times during the radio broadcast Boomer Esiason wondered aloud why Smith wasn’t throwing to clearly open receivers in the red zone. Despite dominating time of possession by 3 to 1 in the first half, the Jets actually trailed the Patriots 17-12 at halftime. 

When the Jets scored on their first possession of the second half, that meant they had scored on all five of their possessions up to that point. They had dominated every offensive stat in the box score, had outlasted the Patriots in time of possession 28:30 to 7:30. Yet they only led 19-17, and when the Patriots kicked a field goal on their first possession of the half, they never trailed again.

But they almost gave it away at the end. Everyone knows that Smith becomes discombobulated late in games when pressure is put on him, so why didn’t Belichick send in a blitzer? No, he sends out the “prevent” defense squad, and as we all should have learned by now, all that means is preventing you from winning. Smith was allowed to throw underneath passes at will and somehow got the Jets into at least field goal attempt range. 

I could not help but think that here was another game, like that lifeless 16-9 “win” against winless Oakland before this same home crowd, that left you with the feeling that this team needs to lose this game. They deserved to lose this game. The Patriots deserve to be embarrassed. The Jets have no business looking “good” against an “elite” team on national television. They aren’t that good, not a 1-6 team.

Of course, what really annoys me is that the Geno apologists are going to come out of the woodwork and heap praise on him and try to convince people that he was actually “good.” Oh, sure he didn’t throw an interception, but neither was he able to take advantage of a game plan perfectly suited to overcome his weaknesses as a quarterback. Those “weapons” that Smith supposedly doesn’t have made him look better than he was, but they were not enough to overcome lack of quarterbacking efficiency when the Jets could have put the Patriots completely out of the game early.

Now the Jets, having lost six in a row and with Smith “only” in his second season yet looking worse than in his first, face Buffalo at home, Kansas City on the road, and Pittsburgh at home. Those are all “losable” games if Kyle Orton starts for Buffalo. Fortunately for the Jets, the “toughest” part of their schedule is nearly over and a 6-10 record is still within the realm of fantasy. That will leave observers wondering if Rex Ryan will be gone next year, but not Geno. If a new coach is coming, he is no doubt going to be forced to sink with Smith if he wants a job with this team.

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