NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Mark Sanchez and Mark Brunell took playful jabs at each other. There was laughter in a few areas of the Jets’ locker room at MetLife Stadium. Lots of relieved smiles, too.
The bickering, frustration and increasing threat of the season slipping away were pushed aside by the Jets with a 24-6 victory over the winless Miami Dolphins on Monday night.
“The season’s far from over,” coach Rex Ryan said Tuesday. “We really responded the way I thought we would.”
Was it pretty? Nope. Convincing? Not that either. But they rebounded from a tension-filled week by defeating a team it needed to beat. For a night, at least, everything was back to being OK for Ryan’s feuding Jets.
The Jets (3-3) ended a three-game skid against a much-lesser opponent and were able to put the ugliness of the previous week behind them. But Sanchez and the offense again struggled for a good chunk of the game, and the Jets face a major test against San Diego (4-1) at home Sunday.
As of Wednesday morning, the Chargers were favored to win by two points.
“I think we’re underdogs at our home stadium, which seems odd to me,” said Ryan
So now Ryan and his players know one thing: Vegas thinks the Jets have work to do before they can truly say they’ve turned their season around.
“This is a critical game for us,” he added, “and we’re approaching it that way.”
That’s because New York will head into its bye-week break after the game, and doing it on a two-game winning streak would certainly help keep up the Jets’ morale and their momentum. A loss, and the whispers of frustration could turn into full-blown public gripes all over again.
Worse, the unhappy Jets would have two weeks to let their feelings simmer before they get a chance to take the field again.
“This is a resilient team,” Ryan said. “Obviously, our expectations are set extremely high and we’ve been disappointed by the three-game losing streak, but the season’s far from over.”
No doubt, but things were starting to turn ugly for the Jets last week, when they traded wide receiver Derrick Mason to Houston for what the team said was a lack of production. And then came wide receiver Santonio Holmes calling out the offensive line for the second time this season for failing to give Sanchez enough time to throw the ball deep. A few days later, an agitated Brandon Moore said the comments could have “a fracturing effect” and were not befitting of a team captain, which Holmes is.
“This was key for us,” said Darrelle Revis, whose 100-yard interception return in the first quarter set the tone for the Jets. “Losing, especially in this business, it’s tough.”
Ryan spoke to both players a few days before the game, and then made Holmes and Moore captains for the coin toss. Ryan called the move “just a coincidence” – but was kidding, of course – and both called each other “a good teammate” after the game without saying much about what happened. It was clear, though, that there’s still some tension, even if the Jets believe they’re one big happy family.
“We have a lot more pride in this team,” Sanchez said after the game. “We love this team, we love playing a lot more than that stuff, so we’re not worried about it.”
But if Ryan did solve the woes of an increasingly contentious locker room, next up on the list is trying to figure out why the Jets keep getting off to agonizingly slow starts.
New York opened with four straight three-and-outs for the second consecutive game and failed to get a first down until the first half was nearly over.
“It’s crazy,” Ryan said. “It kind of blows me away.”
Once they got that initial first down, the offense finally got going and had a few nice drives the rest of the way against Miami.
“Believe me, we search for answers, but I’m just not sure,” Ryan said, adding that he might suggest having the scoreboard operator put a “2” up under the quarter indicator when the game starts.
“We’re going to make some calls, do different things,” he said. “I’m at a loss. It just seems strange. … I don’t know, drink coffee? I don’t know what it is. We’ve got to find something.”
The Jets’ much-maligned offensive line, particularly right tackle Wayne Hunter, finally played a solid game. Struggling running back Shonn Greene had a pedestrian performance, with 74 yards rushing on 21 carries, but Ryan acknowledged he would like to see him get 25 attempts a game.
With a shortened work week, the Jets will get busy in a hurry to look to improve on what they did against the Dolphins and come up with a solid game plan against the Chargers. For the record, New York’s three wins have come against opponents with a combined three victories. Their three losses – all on the road – are against winning teams who are a combined 13-4.
“We have to win this one,” Ryan said. “We definitely need to get this win in our backyard in front of our fans.”
Notes: Ryan expects CB Antonio Cromartie (groin), C Nick Mangold (right ankle) and DB Donald Strickland (concussion) to play against the Chargers. … DT Kenrick Ellis, the team’s third-round pick, had three tackles in his NFL debut. … LB Aaron Maybin, who forced two fumbles against Miami, is tied with Detroit’s Kyle Vanden Bosch for the NFL lead with three.
Do you think the Jets should be underdogs against the Chargers at home? Sound off in the comments below…
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