Stillers 18, Jets 7 ���. Dec. 9th, 2001 ����Game #12
Stillers-Jets Postgame Analysis and Grades
The Stillers turned in another steady performance, along with yet game chock full of missed opportunities, en route to an 18-7 dismantling of the vaunted NY Jest (sic). The Stillers dominated in just about very meaningful stat, but true to their nature, were clinging to a flimsy 8-point lead deep into the 4th qtr. before a FG just before the 2-minute warning allowed the fans to breath just a bit easier. The basic fundamentals of blocking, tackling, and hitting were all present today; about the only missing element was the proclivity for scoring points.
1. Hall misses a 50-yard FG on the Jets first drive.
2. Ward turns a basic 10-yard curl into a 29-yard gain on the Stillers' 2nd series, which helped set up the Fu TD plunge 7 plays later.
3. Curtis Martin lobs a quail-like 18-yard TD pass to Chrebet on the HB Option play.
4. Bobby Shaw gains 24-yards on a catch-and-run, setting up the Stillers for a FG 35 seconds before halftime that gave the Stillers a 12-7 lead.
5. Kris Brown hooks a 40-yard FG as time expires at the half, which would have given the Stillers a 15-7 lead.
6. On 3rd & 18 in the 3Q, Stew's long lob to the EZ is hauled in by Burress, but his feet land OOB. Kris then follows this with a badly shanked miss on a 44-yard FG try.
7. On 3rd & 5 early in the 4Q, Stew hits Ward on a curl in the seam of the Jets' defense, and Ward's strong RAC results in a 20-yard gain. 4 plays later, Brown finally makes a FG, putting the Stillers up 15-7.
8. On 3rd & 8 deep in Stiller territory and only 1:14 left in the game, Martin catches a short dump in the middle, but Mike Jones steps up and makes a superb hit-and-wrap to limit Martin to a paltry 3-yard gain. The next pass was inc., and the game was over.
QB: Stewart had a very strong all-around game. His passing was decisive, crisp, & accurate, and he was hitting receivers in-stride so that they were in good position for RAC yardage, which the Stillers WR crew racked up (no pun intended) a bunch of today. In fact, take away the spiked passes to stop the clock; the throwaways to avoid pressure; and the 3 or 4 dropped passes, and Stew had a very solid day of about 20-of-28. I was a bit disappointed in the one deep bomb to Plex in the 1Q, in which Plex had run past the CB and was clearly open, yet the ball was floaty and a bit short. But the other deep lobs to Plex were pretty good throws; one Plex failed to come down in bounds, and the other Plex slipped. Stew also ran pretty well with the ball, including a good 21-yard run, and a very crafty, elusive 8-yard run that set up Fu's TD plunge. Stew's one near-INT was actually on a play in which Ward slipped on the shitty Heinz Field turf. In all, a very good day for Stewart. A.
RB: The Tubby Tailback had to sit this game out with the groin and hip injury, so Chris Fu got the start. Fu ran with a lot of power and determination, and ended up with 50 hard-earned yards on 18 carries, as well as a good, hard dive through the pile for a TD. Amoz capably chipped in with 7 carries for 30 yards, including a nice 19-yard scamper, but also committed a large boner when he dropped a perfect pitch on a toss sweep and lost 7 yards. Fu caught a cutesy throwback pass that fooled no one, and was dumped for an 8-yard loss. B.
FB: Witman and Kreider shared the work at FB, although Wit probably got a bit more work. From what I observed neither did anything spectacular or blatantly clumsy, although Witman dropped the only pass thrown to him, and Kreider caught a short dumper that gained 0 yards. B.
WR: A pretty decent day for this WR crew. Hines Ward had the best game of his career, snaring 10 balls for a career-high 124 yards despite a deep quad contusion suffered midway through the game. Ward's RAC was simply outstanding, with an array of moves, jukes, spins, anticipation, and hard-nosed running. As I said a couple weeks ago, Ward is playing with such supreme confidence that everything he does is saturated with the decisiveness that spurs from this confidence. Plexico Durress had 3 grabs for 29 yards, including a nice diving grab of a low slant. But Durress committed two more boners to add to his long list. On the one bomb, the ball was a bit underthrown, but still very catchable for a starting WR in the NFL. But Durress, as is his penchant, allowed the ball to his chest-plate, and the ball ricocheted off and fell incomplete. On the lob to the end zone in the 3Q, Plex actually plucked the ball with his hands in a rare fit of receiving expertise. Only problem was, Durress was casual and made no effort at all to "arc" his size 16 feet to land in-bounds, and both feet thus landed harmlessly OOB to essentially remove a touchdown from the scoreboard. This was by no means an easy play, but Durress made no effort to get his toes in bounds. Bobby Shaw chipped in superbly, making two clutch catches for a total of 42 yards. Troy grabbed one short hitch, and showed good quickness on his RAC to turn a 5-yard gain into 9. The duress of Plexico Durress takes this group out of contention for an "A". A-.
TE: Jerame Tuman and Matt Cushing each caught 9-yard passes. Geason played a lil' here and there. The blocking was adequate. B.
OL: Aside from a few gaffes here and there, the blocking was pretty good in both the running and passing phases. While Fu didn't have an overly prolific day as the starting QB, the rushing attack still averaged 3.4 yds/crack. And on the whole, Stew had decent time and vision to complete his passes. Smith, Gandy, and Tylski did allow pressure on different plays using sloppy technique, but overall the protection was solid. Faneca did a superb job on Fu's TD plunge. B+.
DL: This gang did a fairly decent job of jamming the running lanes and minimizing the holes for Martin. The line also got some penetration to disrupt a few of Martin's runs. Surprisingly, Aaron Smith was held off the score sheet. B+.
LB: Ken Bell and Holmes led the way, with 3 solos & 2 assists, and 3 solos & 3 assists, respectively. Holmes was flagged for a 5-yard illegal contact penalty. Joey Porter also chipped in with 3 solos. Having yet another quiet, no-impact game was Jason Gildong, who not only contributed little the entire game (2 solos, 1 assist), but stood around in no-man's land on Martin's TD pass, not even trying to provide any heat on Martin and instead standing at the LOS in a space that provided no pass coverage whatsoever. Coming out of nowhere to have a nice game was backup LB Mike Jones. Jones, as you may recall, was not allowed to dress on opening day in J-ville, because Justin Kurpeikis was deemed too valuable for Jones to suit up. Jonesy had a crisp, sure-handed tackle in pass coverage and one on a draw play, and also defended well against the pass. B+.
DB: A decent game for this crew, except for Chad Scott, who continues to be the whipping boy for any offense that wants to accrue easy passing yardage. The Jets picked on Scotty unmercifully, whether with Coles, Chrebet, or Swayne. Coles, in fact, abused Scotty on 1 deep fade, but the throw was a teeny bit long and Coles kind of alligator-armed the ball. Chad was also beaten by Chrebet on the HB option pass for the TD. DeWayne had a solid outing, with 5 solos and pretty good coverage. DW was tested on a bomb early, and had perfect coverage. Probably the only gaffe DW committed was the foolish 15-yard masking penalty. Flowers awoke from his doldrums with a solid day of run support, flying in on a couple occasions to stuff Martin. Logan and Townsend continued their solid contributions in the nickel/dime defense. A-.
Spec teams: Another day of woe for the special teams. Kris Brown led the way, so to speak, with 2 missed FGs and a botched PAT that looked like some of my totally mis-hit drives from the tee-box. Brown's KOs were also cheezy -- among his no-squibbed KOs, they traveled to the 17, 7, 7, & 19. There were other mishaps, like Justin Kurpeikis going offsides on a kickoff, and then on the re-kick, Lenzie Jackson was flagged 15 yards for masking. Logan did have a killer hit on one kickoff coverage, and Jackson chipped in with decent coverage on another. Bobby Shaw emerged out of nowhere in the punt return department, contributing two big 2nd half punt returns. Perhaps the biggest play on spec teams was one created by pure luck, when Brown's squib KO hit a Jet and was recovered by Fiala late in the 2Q. Of course, 4 plays later, Brown hooked the FG as the half expired. C-.
OC: Mularkey had a solid gameplan, and didn't commit too many boners today. The most egregious of them was the sequence of plays near the end of the 1st half. With a 1st down at the NY 16, Mularkey orders the ever-clever draw play, which gained 1. 2nd down - a short crosser to a slipping Ward, inc. 3rd & 9 - the Gaypride screen play, which was harried and inc., thus settling for the FG. This is the kind of gutless turtling that produces close playoff losses, not wins. Of course, Mularkey isn't always calling the shots in these situations, so he gets a slight reprieve. The trick plays Mularkey used, such as the designed Amoz reverse-field play, and the throwback pass to Fu, fooled no one; were poorly blocked; and took a bit long to develop. The offense had a dominant TOP (time of possession) of nearly 37 minutes, and consistently had golden field position the entire day, but mustered only 18 points. TOP is nice, but, like SOG in hockey, its true worth is if you capitalize on the chances you have. One TD in 6 trips inside the red zone -- absolutely pitiful. Clearly, the Stiller offense continues to play turtle and squander one opportunity after another. B.
DC: Lewis staunchly insisted on the vanilla, mamby pamby defense for the entire game today. Sure, Martin had to be contained, and the Jets also spread the field on occasion with multiple WR sets. But Lewis rarely ever pressured Vinny Intercepteverde, instead allowing Vinny to stand unfettered in the pocket with eons of time to throw. This may work against the likes of Vinny, Swayne, and Coles, but it's not the recipe for success against the better passing teams that we'll see in the playoffs. Lewis gets some credit for bottling the NFL's leading rusher. At the same time, Lewis gets credit -- in a negative way -- for insisting that Mike Jones rot the bench until the 12th game of the season, and even at that it took Holmes' gimpy knee to convince Lewis that using Jones once in awhile wouldn't be such a hideous act or treason or insanity. B.
HC: Cowher had his men ready to play after last week's close scare to the Vikes. Aside from the spec teams' continued fiascoes, this team is conducting the fundamentals of blocking, tackling, and hitting pretty darn well. The turtling on a few of the drives was Billy Ball at its best, er, worst. B.
Synopsis: Sloppy and shoddy at times, and a somewhat boring game at times, this was nonetheless a big win and a very solid overall effort. The 10 wins equals the numbers of wins I predicted for this team going into the '01 season. The defense shut down the Jets vaunted running game, while the Stiller offense, aside from scoring woes, had a very dominant day. Emerging from this game -- victorious, healthy, and confident -- is exactly how I wanted the Stillers to enter the week of preparation for the Ravens. I was quite pleased that the Stillers were able to show the world that they are much, much more than simply Jerome Bettis. And in spite of the confidence and the gaudy 10-2 record, I don't get a sense of any foolish overconfidence or cockiness. Next week's game in Baltimore not only serves as the last chance for Balt. to win the division, but also will serve as a litmus test for the Stillers as they prepare to enter the playoffs next month.