We’ve heard it so many times that it’s become a part of our sports lexicon, “There is no such thing as a moral victory.” I can understand how that applies to the players and the coaches, who’ve given their all for the W, and will accept nothing less. I can understand how that may apply to a franchise, one that sets a standard of excellence very few can dare to achieve. But you know what… we’re not the players, we’re not the coaches, and we represent no franchise.
We are the fans, the spectators, the invested observers of sport at its very best.
Yes, it means the world to us when our team wins, and crushes us when they lose; but as fans, we are allowed to enjoy the stages of a team’s metamorphosis from cellar-dweller to champion. To the combatants it’s basic, larva or moth; we the fans can find victory in the phases that transform one to the other.
The 4-0 Houston Texans rolled into Metlife Stadium looking for win number five under the bright lights of Monday Night Football. The list on inactives from the New York Jets painted the bleakest of pictures. Gang Green would be without the services of starters: Darrelle Revis, John Conner, Dustin Keller, Stephen Hill, Sione Pouha, and Santonio Holmes (IR). Already severely undermanned, the Jets would lose Kendrick Ellis (MCL sprain), Nick Mangold (right ankle), Clyde Gates (left shoulder) and Josh Mauga (torn pectoral) to injury by game’s end.
Popular media and many prognosticators gave the Jets little chance to hang with Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster and JJ Watt. The way the Texans stormed down the field for their first touchdown, a 34-yard strike from Schaub to Owen Daniels, they might’ve been right. Both teams trade three & outs. The Jets, on their second possession, let one slip away as Tim Tebow throws a beautiful ball downfield for Jason Hill, which he dropped. Pregame reports had Tebow warming up his left shoulder more than he had for any game prior, and the 40 yard attempt to Hill may have been why. It was good to see Tebow throw the deep ball, and the coaching staff show a little creativity. The drive ended in another three & out, but it was there… and it won’t be that last time Tebow goes deep this season.
When Revis went down, it was up to Kyle Wilson to step up and join the starting secondary alongside Antonio Cromartie. Cro has drawn the assignment of taking on the opposition’s number one receiver, and this week’s challenge was Andre Johnson. On the ensuing drive, Cro showed he was up for the challenge as he stepped in front of a Schaub pass to Johnson for the interception. That play may have haunted Schaub the rest of the game, as Johnson finished with only one reception and 15 yards. Cro would get a shot on offense, playing WR on another toss from Tebow. It was incomplete, but if Tebow let’s that ball go on time, it very well could’ve been another completion and a big play.
After the pick by Cromartie, Sanchez drives the Jets downfield in four plays for the touchdown. Sanchez throws a dart to TE Jeff Cumberland for the 27 yard score. Mark Sanchez ended the game 14 of 32 for 230 yards, the one touchdown, and two interceptions. When asked after the game whether Sanchez would remain the starting QB for the Jets, HC Rex Ryan responded, “No question, yes!” His low completion percentage is a major area of concern, but Schaub didn’t look much better going 14 of 28 for only 209 yards, 1TD and 1INT. Another area of major concern is stopping opposing running backs. We’ve watched Fred Jackson, CJ Spiller, Reggie Bush, Frank Gore, and now Arian Foster torch the Gang Green defense on the ground. Missed tackles and gaping holes have been the norm as the Jets give up big run after big run. Arian Foster finished the game with 29 carries for 152 yards, including long runs of 21 & 46 yards.
As always, the QB will get the blame for the interceptions on his ledger, but tipped balls and dropped balls have plagued the passing game all season. Both of Sanchez’s picks were tipped balls, plus he’s playing without his number one and number two WR, his number one TE and starting fullback… all that before he loses his starting center and yet another WR during the game. Nick Mangold is still waiting on the results of his MRI, but Clyde Gates seems to be fine after suffering a dislocated left shoulder during the game. It was popped back into place, and he should be available against the Colts on Sunday. Kendrick Ellis has a MCL sprain, which may sideline him for a couple of weeks, but nothing was torn, which is the good news. I wish I could say the same for LB Josh Mauga, but he’s got a torn pectoral muscle and will most likely miss the rest of 2012. The worst of the injury news was that of Texans LB Brian Cushing, who suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on a hit from Matt Slauson, and will miss the rest of the season.
To stay in this game, the New York Jets coaching staff took chances, and showed some of the creativity I’ve been begging for the last four, five, six weeks. They converted another fourth down fake punt with Tebow running it for the first. It was deep in Jets territory and showed that the team was all-in for that elusive W! They didn’t capitalize on the conversion, going three & out afterward, but it was a shot worth taking. Another play I loved was the onside kick after the Joe McKnight 100 yard kickoff return for touchdown. The crowd’s jumping, the place was rocking, and the Texans return team just chased Joe McKnight up and down the field. I say why not try to catch the Texans going through the motions instead of having their heads on a swivel? The play was executed perfectly by Nick Folk, and Chaz Schilens was in position to make the play, but it wasn’t meant to be as it slipped through his hands and was recovered by the receiving team. Opportunities missed, but the coaching staff did what it could to put the team in position for a win. Those blown timeouts on player substitution errors need to be cleaned up, those timeouts would have come in handy at the end of a seven-point game. Small victories in the face of defeat, maybe not for the team, but fans should look at this as a step in the right direction.
Tune into the N.Y. Jets in 30, with your hosts the Amazing Jinx Grand (@JGSportsTalk) and myself every Saturday at 4pm for game analysis, predictions, and a breakdown of the next week’s opponent. Join the huddle!
Contact Joseph Haas and Follow the conversation on Twitter @JerseyHaas