Dizzy Dean said it right: “If you say you’re going to do something, and you don’t do it, that’s bragging. Bt if you say you’re going to do something, and you do it, that’s just plain ole’ predictin’.”
Kerry Rhodes’ statement last week that “I don’t just want to beat the Patriots, I want to embarrass them” wasn’t merely a statement of how he felt — you don’t announce such sentiments unless you think you’re going to back them up. As such, Rhodes’ words must be taken as braggin’, not predictin’. The Jets did not embarrass New England today, but Rhodes’ words weren’t far from predictin’. Had Leon Washington not fumbled early in the game and given the Patriots a cheap three points, New England would have been held to two lousy field goals and then we’d have to count a jets ten-point victory as an embarrassment for the Patriots.
The headlines, of course, for the second week in row, are for Mark Sanchez, who didn’t really deserve them.
He was good — 14 of 22 for 163 yards and a touchdown, no interceptions — but not great, though at the rate he’s coming along, he soon will be. (Put it this way — he’s certainly developing a lot faster than Eli Manning did.)
What was great about the Jets, for the second straight week, was their defense, which absolutely stifled any hope of a New England rushing game and relentlessly rushed Tom Brady into 24 incompletions in 47 throws, forcing one interception and at least a dozen other passes he would ordinarily never thrown. (The Jets defense “hurried’ him 17 times and knocked him down seven times.) Rex Ryan’s revamped defense may not have blitzed on every play, but it sure looked like it, and they blitzed from such unlikely angles — on at least five plays the linebackers showed blitz on the inside then held back while the safeties blitzed from the outside — that Belichick and his quarterback never figured out who was coming or from where. Though they didn’t sack Brady once, the manner in which the Jets harassed and confused him looked very much like the way the Giants treated Brady in the 2008 Super Bowl.
In the defensive backfield, the blitzing often left the Jets DBs with one-on-one coverage against the Patriots’ wideouts, and Darrelle Revis got an opportunity to shine in front of a national audience. Often matched against Randy Moss, he rendered perhaps the most dangerous receiver in the league to just another uniform. Moss caught just four passes for 24 yards, nothing longer than nine. The Jets didn’t embarrass the Patriots, but Revis embarrassed Moss.
A bed sheet sign caught on camera at the end of the game may have told the story for New England: “Bye-Bye, Brady Bunch.” While the Patriots may not be washed up, they are far from the intimidating team that swaggered through several NFL seasons and humiliated nearly everyone in the league by running up the score just two years ago. In particular, Tom Brady is rapidly discovering that space in the gossip columns and hosting Saturday Night Live doesn’t help you win football games. Brady was always a very good quarterback on a great team, and now that the team has slipped into the range of mediocre, that’s the level at which he’s playing. His 2007 season, in which he threw for 50 TDs and averaged 8.3 yards a throw, has distorted everyone’s view of his career effectiveness.
Last season, Matt Cassel, filling in for the injured Brady, threw for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdowns, averaging 7.2 yards per throw. The Patriots promptly dealt Cassel away, even though his numbers were better than Brady’s in most of his seven full seasons. (In four seasons Brady averaged less than 7.2 yards a throw.) And Cassel is five years younger than Brady.
Again, it’s too soon to say that the Patriots are history, but when you get shut down by a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback in just their second game, it’s time for some sober reflection.