‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
Ernie is the author of “Lombardi and Landry.” He’ll be covering football throughout the season.
Give him this. Tim Tebow knows how to take over a game.
Not that the Jets didn’t try to stop him and his Gators, er, uh, Broncos college-style offense in Thursday night‘s 17-13 loss. The defense actually did a pretty good job against him until Tebow got the ball at his own 5 for his final possession.
And then, the Jets fell apart, and maybe took their entire season down with them.
Now, there’s still plenty of football left for this 5-5 team. But they’ll have to start winning quickly and often to make any headway in a wild card race in which they sit a game and a half behind Baltimore and Cincinnati, not to mention a half-game behind Buffalo and Tennessee.
And it’s all because at the key moment, ahead 13-10, they couldn’t stop Urban Meyer’s, uh, John Fox’s option offense.
Tebow, whether because of help from his offensive line or the higher power to whom he appears to have a direct line, was simply unstoppable in a 12-play, 95-yard drive. The kid may throw like garbage, but he sure can read and run.
The Jets knew he was coming, yet they couldn’t put him in a do-or-die passing situation as he ran six times for 54 yards and that final touchdown, the Broncos’ only offensive touchdown of the night. The maddening Mark Sanchez provided Denver with its only other touchdown, as Andre Goodman ran an ill-begotten throw back 26 yards for Sanchez’ third Pick-Six of the season.
If the offense wasn’t so culpable in its lack of production, this loss would almost be a shame. The defense had done a good job until the very end. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine decided to load up the front with big bodies, and folks like Mike DeVito and Sione Pouha had done a good job clogging up the middle as the linebackers crashed in on Willis McGahee, Lance Ball, and Spencer Larsen.
But when it came crunch time, they were unprepared for what Tebow had to offer. He completed exactly one pass of any consequence in the drive, an 18-yarder on second-and-10. Other than that, it was all him. And when it appeared that the defense had it all set up on third-and-4 for a Matt Prater field goal and overtime, they brought the whole front-seven in on a blitz.
Tebow smelled it, and took off for the open left side. Only Eric Smith had a shot at him at the 4, and he missed the tackle.
Sanchez, who was his streaky self in a 24-of-40, 252-yard, no-touchdown night, had a last chance. But there was no magic. The Jets never did get close enough to present a threat. About the best they could have hoped for was a pass interference call on the Hail Mary to Plaxico Burress, as it appeared Champ Bailey came in from behind a bit too early.
But the flags never came out.
Game over. Maybe season over. Perhaps that’s why Rex Ryan was seen shaking his head on the sideline right after the score, because in that moment he saw it all going down the drain.
Now the Jets will have more than a week to think about back-to-back losses — this close one that easily could have been avoided, and last week’s trouncing from the Pats. They’ll have more than a week to think about fixing an offense — admittedly without top rusher Shonn Greene for three quarters — that scored one touchdown, and that only because Matt Slauson, a guard from the home of the Fumble-rooski, Nebraska, jumped on Bilal Powell’s loose ball in the end zone.
Week 12 holds Buffalo, a payback moment for the Bills after losing up at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Week 9.
It’s not looking any easier or prettier for Ryan’s bunch.
The 10-day rest can only do them good.
Do you purely blame the Jets for this one — or tip your cap to Tebow? Be heard in the comments below…