By Peter Schwartz
“There’s no place like home!”
It’s been a while since the Jets enjoyed the same experience as Dorothy clicking her heels to return to Kansas in “The Wizard Of Oz”. On Monday night, the Jets finally landed at a stadium that they could call their own. They played the Giants in the first game at New Meadowlands Stadium, falling to Big Blue 31-16.
The first team offense moved the ball well. Mark Sanchez completed 13 of 17 passes for 119 yards and a 4-yard touchdown pass to Brad Smith. However, on the Jets’ second offensive play of the game, Sanchez fired a pass that was intended for LaDainian Tomlinson, but it deflected into the hands of Giants safety Antrelle Rolle. The former Cardinal ran the interception back 59 yards to the Jets one. That set up Brandon Jacobs’ one-yard touchdown run.
In his Jets debut, LaDainian Tomlinson had 8 carries for 17 yards but had a 14-yard touchdown run negated by a Robert Turner holding penalty. Turner was starting at center Nick Mangold who was suffering from a headache. He suffered a blow to the temple during Wednesday’s practice.
Tomlinson also had one catch for 14 yards.
Santonio Holmes had 4 caches for 55 yards.
Matt Slauson was the starter at left guard over rookie Vladimir Ducasse. Slauson clearly has the edge over the 2nd round pick. I discussed that subject and more after the game during a chat with Pro Bowl left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Here’s the interview…
Defensively, CB Dwight Lowery was beaten by Giants rookie free agent wide receiver and Patterson, NJ native Victor Cruz on a 64-yard touchdown pass from Jim Sorgi. Cruz made a great one-handed catch.
CB Antonio Cromartie dropped two interceptions and drew some good- natured ribbing from head coach Rex Ryan.
“I kidded with Cromartie that we’re not getting our money’s worth,” said Ryan. “But he played great.”
PK Nick Folk converted on 3 out of 4 field goal attempts. He missed from 46 yards away.
QB Kevin O’Connell’s bid for a roster spot took a hit when D.J. Johnson picked him off in the 4th quarter.
The Jets played their starters for the entire first half after head coach Rex Ryan said during the week that they would play until early in the second quarter.
“I played the hell out of them,” said Ryan at halftime.
As for playing in the new stadium, the Jets players were pretty excited about the team’s new digs.
“Amazing,” said Sanchez. “In this place the fans are right on you. It was great to see the whole place lit up in green.”
“I think it’s really going to be a good home field advantage once the season rolls around,” said linebacker Calvin Pace.
“It was really a blast,” said Tomlinson. “The fans were great. It was exciting. I look forward to many more games in this stadium.”
The next one will come during week three of the pre-season on Friday August 27th when the Jets host the Washington Redskins.
As part of the inaugural game festivities, the cast of “The Jersey Boys” performed the National Anthem.
Some other news and notes from the evening….
PLENTY OF SEATS STILL AVAILABLE
The Jets announced that 67,511 tickets were distributed for the game. That is well short of the new stadium’s seating capacity of 82,500. Jets Executive VP Matt Higgins told reporters before the game that the Jets will be sold out by the regular season opener on Monday September 13th against Baltimore but there will be some club seats left unsold. Club seats do not count towards a television blackout lifting sellout. That means if the Jets sell all non-club seats, home games will be shown on local television.
JETS INDUCT SIX INTO RING OF HONOR
At halftime, the Jets inducted the first class into their new Ring of Honor. The six inductees were QB Joe Namath, WR Don Maynard, T Winston Hill, Super Bowl III winning head coach Weeb Ewbank, DL Joe Klecko and RB Curtis Martin. They were all given green jackets for the ceremony and took their place along the bottom of the upper deck with three names in one end zone and three in the other.
Before the game, all of the inductees met with the media. That’s where I caught up with the man who guaranteed the Jets victory over the Colts in Super Bowl III. Here’s my interview with “Broadway” Joe Namath…
Namath (12), Maynard (13), and Klecko (73) previously all had their numbers retired by the Jets. Ewbank also had his coach’s jacket displayed along the wall at Giants Stadium over the years.
Who are candidates to be part of the next class of Ring of Honor inductees?
Some of my choices would be tight end Mickey Shuler, wide receiver’s Wayne Chrebet, Al Toon, and Wesley Walker, along with running backs Freeman McNeil, Matt Snell, and Emerson Boozer.
I also think DL Dennis Byrd deserves consideration. Nobody has worn #90 since his career came to an end in 1992 with a neck injury. I would guess that, despite all of the off the field stuff, that the Jets will honor DL Mark Gastineau at some point.
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE NEW PLACE
About two hours before the game, Jets Executive VP of Business Operations Matt Higgins and Executive VP of Finance and Stadium Development Thad Sheely led members of the media on a guided tour of the New Meadowlands Stadium.
Up first, we were taken into the spacious team store. Just like the rest of the stadium, the store is high tech. It will be lit up in green for Jets games and blue for Giants games. Also, there are racks of items that can be easily flipped from Jets merchandise to Giants merchandise. For kids, the highlight of the store is a virtual football game on the floor where you “kick the ball” along the playing field.
We then went through the many concourses, restaurants, and club areas before the tour ended at the Coaches Club area. This is where fans can watch the game from the inside restaurant area or they can venture out to the field and stand right before the home team bench. They can also watch the post-game interviews from the restaurant. The interview area is in a glass-enclosed section and the sound is pumped into the restaurant area.
After the tour was over, I caught up with Jets Executive VP Matt Higgins. Here’s the interview…
WE’RE EXPERIENCING TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES…PLEASE STAND BY!!!!
To be honest, I kind of expected it.
Although there had already been a handful of events at the New Meadowlands Stadium, this was the first football game. So while it was the pre-season opener for both teams, it was also pre-season for the new stadium.
That meant some technical glitches throughout the night.
*There was an errant recorded report in the press box saying that we had to evacuate because there was a fire in the building. Oops!!
*Cell phone reception in the place was iffy at best.
*During the Ring of Honor ceremony at halftime, the microphone didn’t work as Winston Hill began his speech.
*Not that fans care, but the press box announcer’s microphone went in and out.
That’s it for now. The Jets are traveled back to Cortland on Tuesday. They will practice at SUNY Cortland on Wednesday and Thursday. Then, on Friday, they head to Carolina where they will meet the Panthers on Saturday.