By Peter Schwartz
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NFL rules prohibit teams from giving back wins because they are less than stellar. So, having said that, Monday’s 24-6 victory over the Dolphins will stand despite a week full of criticism for another slow start and inconsistent play.
After three straight losses, a win is a win is a win and the Jets now have a chance to be over .500 going into the bye with a victory Sunday against the Chargers at MetLife Stadium.
“Absolutely, we have to win this one against an excellent football team,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “In fact, I think we’re underdogs at our home stadium, which seems really odd to me. But they are an excellent team. They’ve got a ton of weapons, especially on offense, so it’s going to be a great challenge.”
There are two Jets that are really looking forward to Sunday, as they will be facing their former team.
Future Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson has found a new home with the Jets since being released by the Chargers after the 2009 season.
“It’s a big game for us,” said Tomlinson. “It is my former team, but at the same time, my focus is here. We’re trying to get a win.”
Tomlinson spent the first nine seasons of his NFL career in San Diego but insists that he has no hard feelings toward the Chargers for letting him go.
“I don’t look at like I’m trying to get even,” said Tomlinson. “I’m not a guy who holds grudges or tries to prove anybody wrong. I don’t have time for that. That’s nonsense.”
Tomlinson isn’t the only former Charger itching to face San Diego on Sunday.
Before the 2009 season, the Jets acquired cornerback Antonio Cromartie from the Chargers. When this year’s schedule came out, he had this game circled on his calendar.
“It’s something that I was definitely looking forward to,” said Cromartie. “It’s against a former team, the team that gave me an opportunity to play in the NFL, so I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Cromartie admitted this week that he wanted to be traded because he was unhappy in San Diego. He grew tired of rumors that he was going to be traded and had some issues in the locker room.
Chargers safety Eric Weddle told the San Diego Tribune this week that life is better in San Diego without Cromartie.
“Me and Cro had conflicts,” said Weddle. “That’s just the way it was. (It’s) refereshing. I can’t tell you how nice it is to come to work every day and not have that in the room and just knowing everyone is on the same page, everyone is behind each other.”
The newspaper also reported that there was plenty of animosity between Chargers players and between players in coaches. Cromarie was accused of having an “aversion to contact and “allergy to correction.”
Despite all of the drama, Cromartie says there are no lingering feelings after being traded.
“No, there’s nothing,” said Cromartie. “It’s over with. It was two years ago. I’m just ready to go play football again.”
Cromartie was on the field for the Chargers the last time that these two teams played. That was when the Jets stunned the Chargers 17-14 in the divisional playoff game at San Diego in January of 2010. Since a team usually has to do more homework against the non-divisional team, the Jets have spent plenty of time this week looking back at the film of that game.
“I think you always look,” said Ryan. “Especially when you’re playing against the same coach and same players. Obviously, there’s going to be changes there. But, in particular (with the) the same coaching staff, you always go back and look at those tapes.”
The film will show that the Chargers have a good share of weapons on offense including quarterback Philip Rivers, wide receiver Vincent Jackson, and tight end Antonio Gates, whose status is up in the air after missing three games because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
Based on their talent, things certainly haven’t changed much since that last meeting, but the Jets are dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s on their preparation.
“(It is) just certain tendencies,” said safety Jim Leonhard. “They do a lot of similar things. They have a lot of the same people. I think you take more of that, you have a little bit more of a comfort level just knowing that you haven’t played them in a couple of years, but it’s the same guys.”
Defensively, the Chargers bring the NFL’s 4th ranked defense into Sunday’s contest. The Bolts are giving up just over 293 yards a game and they are ranked second in passing at just under 180 yards per contest.
Coming off of their bye week, the Chargers have had two weeks to prepare for the Jets.
“They’re a tough group,” said quarterback Mark Sanchez. “They were number one in defense last year. We know we have a great opponent coming to our place. They’ve had a week off, they’re going to be fresh and ready to play, but they’re always a good team.”
Getting off to a fast start is something that the Jets hope they can do on Sunday. It’s not something that has been common for them, especially in Monday’s win over the Dolphins, but it has been a focal point for them as they try to get things back on track.
“Whatever it takes,” said Sanchez. “Just think fast. Think fast. We know our plays. Prepare fast. Don’t take time to warm up, just go. That’s kind of been my mentality. The big thing about starting fast is sustaining drives, and we’ve got to convert on those third downs early.”
Sanchez will try to improve on his chemistry with wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who had just one catch against Miami. While some feel that the duo should have been on the same page by now, Burress doesn’t seem to be fazed by his lack of production.
“I’m just going to keep working,” said Burress. “All I can do is really control the things that I can control. That’s catching the football. I take full responsibility and accountability for everything that’s going on, the things that I can control. I’m going to continue to do that, work hard and like I say, when the ball comes my way, I’m just going to try to make the best of the opportunities that I get.”
Sanchez and Burress have spent some extra time working together as they try to turn their on the field relationship from a work in progress into a fine tuned machine.
“It’s one of those things where that kind of stuff doesn’t happen overnight,” said Sanchez. “You see quarterbacks and receivers that really click, they’ve been together for a while. They’ve missed a lot more throws than they’ve hit and then they start to equal those numbers up. It’s a process. He’s had a great attitude about it. He’s bailed me out. I’ve given him a good ball here and there, and pretty soon we’ll be right on the same page, so that’s good.”
And when that happens, perhaps Ryan’s prediction of a ten catch game for Burress will become reality.
As ugly as it way, the Jets put the brakes on the losing streak by beating a terrible Dolphins team. On Sunday, they step up in class against the Chargers. A win moves them to 4-3 heading into the bye.
Walking off the field in New England a couple of weeks ago, Ryan would have signed for that on the dotted line.
REX RINGS UP NORV
Ryan created yet another firestorm this week when he was asked by San Diego reporters on Wednesday what would have happened if he had been hired as Chargers coach in 2007 instead of Norv Turner.
“Well I think I would have had a couple of rings,” said Ryan. “I’m telling you those teams were loaded.”
Ryan quickly realized that he had insulted Turner and gave the Chargers head coach a call to tell him that the dig was unintentional. But that didn’t stop Turner from firing a salvo back at Ryan.
“I was wondering if he had those rings with the ones he’s guaranteed the last couple years,” said Turner.
A large media contingent gathered at the Jets complex on Thursday to hear Rex reiterate his apology.
“Its all on me,” said Ryan. “I’m guilty. I did call Norv but it was unintentional. I wish this would have never happened.”
Rex said everything was fine with Turner after the phone conversation and I believe that to be the case. I honestly don’t believe that Ryan went out of his way to insult Turner. I think it was just Rex being Rex.
But one of these days, Rex will have to learn to think before he speaks or the time will come when he really puts his foot in his mouth.
THE JETS/CHARGERS SERIES
The Chargers lead the all-time regular season series against the Jets 19-11-1. However, the Jets have taken both postseason meetings with the Bolts including a 17-14 win in the AFC Divisional Playoff game in San Diego on 1/17/10.
The last regular season contest between the former AFL teams was a 48-29 Chargers victory in San Diego on 9/22/08.
The Jets have made 20 trips out west to face the Chargers both in Los Angeles and San Diego, while the Chargers have come East 12 times.
These are not the Dolphins coming into MetLife Stadium. The Jets can’t afford to make many mistakes against the Chargers, but based on their track record this season, you have to expect that to happen. The Chargers offensive weapons will be a tough match-up for the Jets.
Who is going to cover Gates if he plays?
The Jets will have plenty of soul searching to do during the bye week.
Chargers 31, Jets 17
That’s all for now. Check back after the game for more. Make sure that you follow me on Twitter @pschwartzwfan.