By Brad Carroll
Don’t look now but the once left-for-dead New York Jets are tied for first place in the AFC East, holding a 3-2 record along with the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills. The Jets, who got an uninspiring but effective as any other win over the Cleveland Browns Sunday, 17-14, will now play the Patriots in a showdown for first that nobody ever saw coming next week.
The Jets got just enough offense Sunday and rode another dominating game by the defense, plus a big field goal before halftime, to beat the Browns and put themselves in a position nobody thought they would ever be in this season.
Suck for Sam has been replaced by playoff dreaming, no matter how remote those dreams actually are. Unlikely or not, this season has taken on a completely different direction than once thought after Week 2.
The Jets have won three straight games, and while beating the Browns and Miami Dolphins might not have people pumped about the team’s actual talent level, the win over the Jacksonville Jaguars looks that much better now, after they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-9 Sunday.
Next weekend will feature a completely different type of opponent, but if the Jets can beat the Patriots, well, it would turn those unrealistic playoff dreams into reality. But there’s still a long way to go until next Sunday, and a lot more work to be done before the playoffs is considered a strong possibility, so let’s take a look back at the Jets victory over the Browns and see how the three keys to victory played out on the field.
Did Jets Force DeShone Kizer To Throw Ball?
The Jets defense forced the Browns quarterback right out of the game Sunday, as he was benched after halftime in favor of Kevin Hogan. But while he was in the game, the Jets more than did their part in having Kizer try and beat them. He threw 17 times in two quarters, completing just eight for 87 yards and an interception. The interception came with 3:19 to go in the second quarter with the Browns facing a third and three from the Jets’ 4-yard line in a still scoreless game. Hogan did a much better job against the Jets defense in the second half, but forcing him to throw the ball another 19 times is and was a recipe for success, even with him completing 16-of-19 passes for 194 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. In the end, the Browns threw the ball more than they ran it and it’s not surprising the Jets came out with a win because of it.
Did Jets Exploit Porous Browns Secondary?
Overall the Jets didn’t exploit the secondary enough to make this game a laugher, but on the two biggest passes of the day, they did get the better of the matchups. Josh McCown hit Austin Seferian-Jenkins on a perfect fade route in the end zone for an uncontested touchdown to put the Jets up 10-7 with 4:17 to go in the third quarter, and then hit a wide-open Jermaine Kearse for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 8:30 to go in the game to push the lead to 17-7. McCown had another solid showing, completing 23-of-30 passes for 194 yards with the two scores and an interception. He wasn’t great by any stretch, but made the two big touchdown passes when the Jets needed them. Seferian-Jenkins had a big day, catching six passes.
Did Jets Let Duke Johnson Beat Them?
The Browns running back tried his best to win this game, totaling 83 yards of offense and scoring a touchdown on a fantastic catch and run that forced the Jets to recover an onside kick to seal the game. But the Jets defense again shut down a big-play running back until the final score. Johnson had six carries for 20 yards and caught three passes for 63 yards, including the 41-yard touchdown to pull the Browns within 17-14 with 1:49 to go. So, Johnson had a solid game, with one potential game-changer, but the Jets defense held their own again in limiting his yardage until that final offensive play.