Sunday, December 20, 2015

Jets Escape Dallas with Slim Playoff Hopes Alive

JETS 19
COWBOYS 16

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. The Jets won a game they should have won against a dreadful Dallas Cowboys team, but did so while trying their best to hand the Cowboys an early Christmas gift.

There were so many things that went wrong for the Jets, it is amazing that the final result came out right in the end. As they say with another cliche, good teams win bad games, sometimes.

Well, on Saturday the Jets didn't look like a playoff team for 3/4 of the game. They shot themselves in the foot with costly penalties; failed to convert on a huge fourth inches deep inside Dallas territory; watched their kicker, Randy bullock, miss both an extra point and field goal. They allowed a fourth string quarterback with a noodle of arm, who barley reaches six feet, drive Dallas into the field goal range for the game-tying kick.

Yeah it was ugly.  Had the Jets been playing the Dallas Cowboys that broke camp in August, they probably would have lost this game.

Instead the Jets averted near disaster thanks in big part to the guts of their quarterback, a bloodied Ryan Fitzpatrick. While Fitz didn't have his best day, for example, his third quarter interception, one play after Calvin Pryor gave the Jets the football back on an interception of Kellen Moore was bad; the Jets grizzled QB made the big plays when it the mattered most.

With the Jets entering the fourth quarter down 13-9, it was do or die for Gang Green on their opening possession. And Fitzpatrick was money. He connected with Brandon Marshall for 14 yards, then found Eric Decker for 13 more to the Dallas 43 yard line. Two plays later, Fitzpatrick rolled out and found Marshall for 20 yards down the side to move the chains to the Cowboys 23 yard line. A holding penalty on Brent Giacommi pushed Gang Green back ten yards, but it didn't fluster the quarterback.

On a crucial third and fourteen, Fitzpatrick stepped up the pocket and threw a laser into the hands of Quincy Enunwa for 24 yards to the Dallas three, giving an exasperated Jets team new life. Two plays later, Fitzpatrick dumped it off to Eric Decker for the easy touchdown to put the Jets up 16-13.

But leave it to the Jets on this day, a day where they were far from sharp to allow a dreadful Cowboys team to comeback. Dallas went to its fourth quarterback in Kellen Moore in the second quarter of this game when it became abundantly clear that Matt Cassel just didn't have it. Cassel was sacked for a 19-yard loss, threw a costly pick, and overall, looked stupefied against the Jets.

Moore wasn't any better. He threw an interception on the second pass he threw all day, and even threw a ball that went straight up into the air like a pop up. In the third quarter, after driving Dallas deep into Jets territory, he threw poorly timed pass into the end zone for an interception as well. In short, there is a reason nobody drafted this short quarterback from Boise State. He flat out stunk, but leave it to the Jets to let the kid look good in critical situations.

The Jets allowed Moore to tear them apart on an 11-play 51 yard drive into field goal range in a drive that 7:03 on the clock. He hit Jason Witten uncovered for seven yards on the first play from scrimmage. Moore later threaded the needle to Cole Beasley who made the catch between three Jets defenders for a 23-yard pickup. After a couple of big penalties on Dallas, Moore connected on his next three passes: Witten for 12 yards, Dez Bryant for 11 yards and Beasley again for nine more yards to move the ball to the Jets' 37 yard line.

Dallas would settle for a 50-yard field goal that hit the cross bar and bounced through, tying the game.  The fact that the Jets even allowed this to happen without any real pass rush on the young quarterback was inexcusable. Moore was asking to get roughed up by the Jets and they let him do as he pleased.

Yet, here were the Jets with 1:55 to go in the game, and they had a chance to try to win this thing in regulation. And once again, Fitzpatrick stepped up big. On a crucial third and one, Fitzpatrick saw seldom used wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins break containment and run free down the sideline. Fitz dropped a beauty in Thompkins hands and the wide out went streaking down the near side for 43 yards to the Dallas 26. Ball game. The Jets centered the football for Bullock who redeemed himself with a 40-yard field to give the Jets a 19-16 lead with 0:36 to play.

The Jets would get one more interception of Moore and that would be it, an escape from Dallas 19-16 with their playoff fates still hanging in the balance for another week.

The Jets (9-5) will watch inventively to see what the Chiefs and Steelers do on Sunday. New York needs one or both of them to lose to give Gang Green a better shot at making the playoffs this year. While lucky, the Jets will take it; and they are fully aware they have to play 1000X better next Sunday when the visiting New England Patriots roll into town two days after Christmas.

NOTES: Dallas running back Darren McFadden looked like the Darren McFadden who torched the Jets as a member of the Raiders back in 2011. McFadden ran for 100 yards on 16 carries, including a carry that went for 33 yards. The Cowboys are eliminated from the playoffs ...  finally! Jets running back duo of Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell were slowed down pretty well by the Dallas defense, but between the two backs, Powell had the better day. He scored the Jets first touchdown of the day that made it 6-3 in the first quarter. Powell now has a touchdown in three consecutive games. Eric Decker now has 10 touchdowns for the Jets this season, giving Gang Green two wide outs with double-digits in TDs this year. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw his 26th touchdown of the year, and is now three TD passes away from Vinny Testaverde's cherished record of 29 touchdown passes from 1998.

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