By Brad Carroll
If you take away the 11 penalties for 105 yards and two turnovers, the Jets dominated their season-opening game against the Oakland Raiders. But in the NFL, penalties and turnovers can't be taken away, and that's why a game that should have been a laugher, ended just 19-14 in favor of the Jets.
If the Jets are going to make the playoffs this season after a three-year absence, they can't duplicate those number again, especially considering how difficult the schedule becomes starting in Week 2. The Jets will play at Green Bay, home to Detroit then Chicago, at San Diego, home to Denver and at New England. If the Jets turn the ball over and commit an obscene amount of penalties in those games, they might not win one of them.
But while those penalties and turnovers put a sour note on a Week 1 victory, there was a lot to like about this Jets victory.
[Read our Jets Game Balls and Game Falls story here]
On offense, Geno Smith wasn't great, but he played more than well enough to be the team's no-doubt starter. He completed 23-of-28 passes for 221 yards with a touchdown, interception and fumble lost. He had another pass that should have been completed for a 27-yard touchdown, but Greg Salas dropped a very catchable pass in the end zone. Smith rushed 10 times for 38 yards. He just needs to find a way to finish drives with touchdowns going forward.
Eric Decker made his presence felt in the passing game, catching five passes for 74 yards. It's way too early to make any rash judgments, but he sure looked like a No. 1 wide receiver in this game. Jeff Cumberland, who didn't play much during the preseason, had four catches for 50 yards, bringing another element to the passing game. Smith definitely has weapons to work with this year.
Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson are going to be a fearsome twosome in the backfield. Johnson looked explosive all game long, picking up 68 yards on 13 carries, a 5.2 average, and added five catches for 23 yards and a touchdown. Ivory sealed the Jets victory with a 71-yard touchdown run with just over eight minutes to play. He ended with 10 carries for 102 yards. In all, the Jets rushed for 212 yards on 34 carries. That is dominating a football game at the line of scrimmage.
Defense? They were as good as advertised against Oakland. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw for 151 yards, most of which came when the Jets had sealed the game. Oakland rushed for just 25 yards on 15 carries. The front seven was great and the secondary held their own. The only misstep for the much-maligned corners was Darrin Wall getting beat for a 30-yard touchdown with 1:21 to play. And on that play, James Jones had to make an incredible catch to score.
The only thing the defense didn't to was cause a turnover, which has always been a problem under Rex Ryan. The Jets can play defense better than most, but they need to find a way to create turnovers, especially when playing a rookie quarterback as they did Sunday.
The turnovers and penalties are a huge concern for the Jets this season, and if they don't tighten up those two areas, there will be no playoff berth at year's end. But this Jets team showed on both offense and defense Sunday they can be a playoff team. The stretch from hell is next, but the Jets and their fans should have plenty of confidence now to come out of that with their playoff hopes firmly intact.