Saturday, January 8, 2011

Jets vs. Colts Diary: The Mystery Of Chess Matching

Let's begin The Chess Game! So many people love chess who watch football, it seems. After a touchback, QB Peyton Manning finds WR Pierre Garcon for a slant for nine, and I think Garcon might be the Colts' best WR in this game. Second and one is another throw, with TE Jacob Tamme not making the grab. A quick snap run is sniffed out, with RB Joseph Addai getting stretched out and flattened. Big play to force the punt, and P Pat McAfee gets a roll. Really dumb play by PR/WR Santonio Holmes, who nearly touches the ball as it is rolling for absolutely no reason. Colts coach Jim Caldwell throws the challenge flag for what appears to be no reason, but I can see why he's tempted, given that it's the ball on the Jets 30. But it's still a waste, and a break for the Jets.

A dropped pass to TE Dustin Keller, then a breakaway run by RB LaDanian Tomlinson; if he's a factor in this game, that's a big deal. His best playoff carry; it's followed up by another carry for a yard. From midfield as the crowd gets loud, QB Mark Sanchez on a slow and low LT screen that's telegraphed from space and a four yard loss. From the gun, Sanchez takes a bubble screen to WR Jericho Cotchery for seven pointless yards. Punter Steve Weatherford's kick is almost saved deep, but not quite, and the Colts will start at their 20. I get that you want your young QB to avoid turnovers on the road and all, but with the Jets WRs being physical, I don't get why you don't at least try a deep fly to see if you can get a DPI flag for the figgie or more. It's not as if you are going to win a game against Manning on the road 17-14.

Addai with a good effort to get four. From the gun on second, Manning has time to find Tamme for five and no YAC. Third and one is an out to WR Blair White that's straight from the Jon Gruden Pointless Completion Playbook; it's caught for no actual benefit, and that's another three and out. The McAfee punt is short, caught by Cotchery instead of the puckish Holmes, and we've got more commerce.

From their own 38, Sanchez is crushed off play action for a five yard sack. Greene for a recovery six, and on third and nine from the gun, Sanchez finds Cotchery in traffic, who bounces through bodies for the first. Big, big play. Next play is a rollout and incomplete where it looked like the QB had more time to do something useful. Greene for a few, and anoher long third down throw is behind Holmes. The Jet WRs are getting open, but to no big avail yet. Another Weatherford punt into the end zone has to be galling his coach. Almost as much as these Barry Switzer ads for Coors galls any human with a sense of shame...

The Colts go back to their hurry up, getting a 12 men flag on the defense to set up another short third down... but for the third straight drive, the Jets defense stands up on the short down, and I'm starting to get flashbacks to watching an Andy Reid offense here. Yeesh. Another mediocre punt is returned by Cotchery to good effect, but Jets utility knife Brad Smith hobbles off with an obvious groin pull. That just looked awful on every level.

From their own 42, it's Greene for a few, with LT riding pine for the second straight serieis. Curious. A Greene draw is east-west for another four, and on third and two, it's Sanchez from the gun missing Holmes deep. The WR was open for a lot, but the QB missed it, whether from pressure or inaccuracy. Sanchez isn't looking hale and hearty after that as we go to commerce. AMERRICA.... YOU ARE GETTING SLEEPY... SLEEPY... SLEEPY... and the Jets add to the naptime with another three and out and punt.

Starting the second quarter, Rhodes bucks for a few, then Tamme actually gets a first down. Wow, a first down! I woke up and everything. It's so exciting that Manning does it again to Tamme for another 10, then tries a deep ball to Garcon that misses. Addai for two for another long third down. Manning fakes a quick snap, then forces a short cross to Wayne, who can't make five guys miss, so that's another punt moment. NBC is starting to wonder if they should have made the Seahawks the early game; I've seen more exciting preseason games than this one. The QBs are 11 of 18 for 71 yards, and the RBs have 15 carries for 53 yards. Riveting!

From his 10, Sanchez takes an easy outlet to LT for 13. He takes a carry for a yard, then Sanchez uses play action for a high strike to WR Braylon Edwards, who brings it down for 24 yards and a big play. The young QB is starting to look a little more comfortable back there. LT for 3 on the ground, then the QB is mangled on a play fake into a blitz. A more media-worthy QB might have gotten a flag out of that. From the gun on third, the Jets take a delay penalty -- yeesh -- then see the QB do one of those insane back flip passes while being sacked to LT, who gets no yards from it. I think Ryan just passed a solid gold brick watching that play. Weatherford's punt is covered deep, but it's ruled corectly as a touchback, another moment where Weatherford isn't getting it done. The way the Jet defense is playing, these are safety opportunities being missed here.

Improv check down from Manning gets a first, then Addai for eight. Another short third down, and for once then run it, with Rhodes converting the distance. Wow, running it on third and one. Who would have thunk it? Manning then finds Garcon running free on a deep slant, who pulls in a perfect pass for the lightning strike. 57 yard touchdown for first blood, and I'm patting myself on the back for my preference for him over Wayne. Of course, Garcon also destroyed one of my fantasy teams this year with his intermittent play, so maybe, um, not. Colts 7, Jets 0, and that's going to leave a mark. CB Antonio Cromartie, not one of his finest moments.

A toss to LDT for a reasonable gain, then Greene to move the sticks. Sanchez rolls out and misses by a mile. Quick out to Holmes for six, setting up a third and four. From the gun, Sanchez is bailed out by Holmes on another high slant for another first. In another age, the QB would get his WR killed from throws like that, but not anymore...

Greene with some room on first, and that's the two minute warning. Quick and not terribly interesting first half so far. Sanchez dances, pumps, and misses as the defense looks invigorated after the commerce. Big third down for figgie and other purposes, and a nice play call to LT is a toss left that gets plenty. The Chess Match! Oh, it's Chess Matchy!

LT for 2, then a false start as the Jets take the clock down to avoid more Peyton. Another slant to Holmes works well for 14, and Sanchez takes a timeout as Green enters the red zone. Nice answering drive here, real nice.

From the 19, Sanchez misses Keller off a good play fake, and the TE pules for a flag when he should be puling for a better pass. Another slant, another Keller pule, another incomplete. 1:01 left in the half. Third and 10 from the 19 sees Sanchez make a brutal mistake. With tons of time, he goes across the grain and high to Keller, and the ball is picked and brought back to the Colts 23, with 45 seconds left in the half.

A give to Rhodes shows that the Colts are just going to eat this, and Manning sits on second down rather than risk things. So that's the half, and it's hard to remember the last time that the Colts were this conservative. Colts 7, Jets 0, and so far, you can put this all on the Jets QB. He is 9 for 19 for 84 yards with the pick, with a running game that's on pace for 150 yards, and a defense that keeps giving him the ball. And I don't think we can use health as an excuse, since there have been many solid throws.

The Jets open the third quarter with a strong drive, with Sanchez finding Keller for 20, then LT for another 11 into the red zone. Greene takes it for another eight to the Colts 4, and this is looking like the mid-season run defense that made this one of the lesser Colt teams of the Manning Era. LT for the first down to the 1, and the Hall of Famer wiggles his way in for the answering score. 63 yard drive, 8 carries, and that's downright manly. Colts 7, Jets 7.

Addai for a loss, then Manning from the gin to WR Blair White for a big gain on a cross. You have to wonder how much longer the Colts are going to bother with running plays, especially since the Jets haven't been getting a pass rush for months now. Fale start flags are just wrong at home, but Addai's toss sweep gets back the damage, if not the down. From the gun on second and nine, Tamme drops a ball on tight coverage. Big third down at midfield from the gun sees Chess Matchery, then a give to Addai who bursts for fifteen around the right side. Chesstastic! Addai up the gut for five, then it's more Adventures in Pre Snap to Tamme for four to set up third and one. Green is starting to look blitzish. From the gun on third and one, Manning switches to center, then gives to Rhodes for a stuff. Four out of six times, the Colts offense has failed on third and one. Wow. K Adam Vinateri converts from distance, and it's Colts 10, Jets 7. I'm kind of amazed at how bad the Colts offense has been on third and one today, but you've got to give credit to Ryan's defense, too. Both offenses are starting to look like they are finding the range here.

Brad Smith, and his groin, are back! And they both go for 12 yards on a kickoff return that made Jet Fan grab their own. Not the best thing. LT for 4, then Keller for 11 as a Colts blitz doesn't get there. LT has room for 8 to the right, and the Jet ground game now has 129 and growing. Edwards on Sanchez's favorite slant for 11, then Smith And His Groin for eight on a WILD!cat play. (It's WILD!) Greene converts the first, and it says everything you need to know about the Colts defense that this was the best play of the drive so far for them. Greene gets flattened by rookie LB Pat Angerer, who has a far better name than production, but so be it. Second and 12 at the 45 gets the crowd moving, and reserve TE Ben Hartsock gets five yards and pain as the third quarter ends. Well, at least this is moving quickly. Colts 10, Jets 7.

On third and seven and a figgie down, Sanchez from the gun improv shovels to LT for the first; nice play, though I suspect he could have just run for it himself without the drama. WILD!cat to Smith is an option to LT, and that's a WILD! 3 yard gain. Greene nearly breaks the second yard gain, but gets stopped just before the sticks. Third and one sees Sanchez keep it on a bootleg for the first down, and the Colt defense is just looking gassed. WILD!cat to Greene for a yard. Sanchez finds Keller inside the 2-yard line as we get to that part of the game where we have to notice that Manning has been on the sidelines for a long time. Maybe he should learn to play defensive back.

Greene for two as the drive is now at nine minutes and counting. Perhaps the Colts should not use so much hurry up? LT almost gets in, but is stopped just shy of paydirt. Third and goal, 17th play of the drive, and it's LT with ease for the touchdown. Just your average 84 yard drive for 10 minutes, and if Jet Fan isn't pumped after that, I'll eat my hat. Jets 14, Colts 10, and this is just the blueprint for how to beat the Manning Colts. Except for, of course, not having nearly enough points on the board to be entirely confident about things. But the way the Jets OL is destroying the Colts right now, one Green defensive stop might be all they need.

Rhodes is lit up at his own 19, as the historically meh Colts special teams do what they do. Ten minutes left, and the Jets have an edge of 11 first downs and 11 more minutes of possession to go with a 3-to-1 edge in rushing yardage. And if Sanchez had taken care of the ball at the end of the first half, they'd be ahead by the full touchdown.

NBC notices that WR Reggie Wayne doesn't matter, thanks to CB Darelle Revis. Yup. Addai for 9, which is just dangerous for Indy, since it could set up third and one. Another give to Addai converts it for five. From the gun on first, Manning has time to find Garcon as a secondary receiver, and it's good for 14. If I were the Jets, I'd be tempted to sneak Revis onto Garcon by now. Addai for 3 gets it to midfield. Eight minutes left and counting. Play action to Addai is a poor choice, since the RB is in no way open; Manning had the opportunity to pull that down and do something else. Rhodes in for third and seven, and Manning gives it to him for a converting long draw; nice run and play call by the QB. Manning tries Garcon deep, and the crowd wants DPI that isn't warranted. Seven minutes left. From the gun on second and ten, Rhodes is stopped on a draw for a couple, and it's third and 8 with a hurry up. Manning hits Garcon on a huge slant, and that's just immense. 21 yard gain and life for Blue. From the gun on first, Tamme is wrecked on a slant, and had the TE been a WR, this is a flag, even though it shouldn't be. Six minutes left. A give to Rhodes for three, and it's third and seven from the 15. Chess Matchery, then a give to Rhodes, which is stopped by LB Bart Scott. Advantage, Green, for making Manning this tentative in big moments. Vinateri connects from 32 yards, and it's 14-13 Green with 4:37 left.

Can Blue get a stop? I have to think that if Green gets one first down, they'll get a buch; only adrenalin can suffice when talent and size do not. Vinateri's kickoff leaks into the end zone before it goes out of bounds, so Green will start on their 20. Greene for three. Four minutes left. Blue gets some penetration, but Greene still gets two. Third and five and the game on the line, 3:30 left. Sanchez from the gun hits Holmes in the hands, but the WR drops what should be a first down. Ye gads... and then the Colts special teams blow the whole deal by hitting the punter for five yards and a first down. Unbelievable fail for Blue there, as special WR free agent Taj Smith out of Syracuse achieves national infamy. Whoops.

Greene for two with 2:57 left, Blue timeout #1. Brad Smith is in for a WILD!snap, and he gets three on a keeper. Blue timeout #2. Third and five with 2:51 left is another life-defining play, not that life is important or anything. From the gun, Sanchez goes deep and misses, and while that's a ballsy call and all... um, it's really not a good one. Weatherford puts it into the end zone yet again, and that's another agony point for Jet Fan. Everything you've done in this game, and you have one of the best QBs in the game's history with the chance to win it. Like he's done, well, before.

Manning from the gun senses the pressure, but stays in and finds Tamme for a curl route and 15. Very big. He goes to the TE again on a cross for 10 yards and a first; no pass rush for Green. Addai hacks through the blitz for six yards, and Blue has the ball on the Green 46 at the two minute warning. NBC starts fluffing Vinateri. From the gun on second and four, it's Chess Matching, and Manning takes White against a blitz that doesn't get there. On the Green 36, it's a give to Addai, who only gets two. 90 seconds left, and Manning lets the clock run. Second and 8 is Chess Matching for a bubble screen to White, who gets three. Ball on the Jets 32 for third and six, and Green takes a timeout with 1:02 left. Reasonable move by Ryan. From the gun, Green shows blitz and comes. Manning rolls right and almost gets White at the 19, but the ball is short, and Vinateri has to hit from 50. Not his range anymore... but he's Adam Vinateri, Dammit, and the kick is true. Colts 16, Jets 14 with 0:53 left, and Green has two timeouts. We're far from over.

McAfee's kick gets to the end zone, but Cromartie busts a big return as the Colts special teams continue to kill the club. Huge return to the Jets 46 with 53 seconds left. Just massive. Sanchez from the gun to Edwards, and we're getting a review as the WR had it loose all the way to the ground. NBC thinks it's a no-brainer, and the refs confirm it as a catch, fumble and recovery. 40 seconds left, Green ball at the Blue 44. From the gun, Sanchez gets it to Holmes on an out for 11, and Green is now in figgie range. LT falls forward for two yards and the Colts call time with 29 seconds left. Both coaches playing way too much for long figgies, in my opinion. From the gun on second and eight, Sanchez gets it to Edwards to the Colts 14, and the WR might have gotten away with a push, but CB Jacob Lacey never had his head around, so that call is never happening. K Nick Folk makes a 32 yarder, and that's your ball game. Jets 17, Colts 16, and the Jets are going to Foxborough next week. I think Jim Caldwell blinked. So much for last year's Super Bowl teams, and my playoff picks... and in both cases, the better team won.

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