JERSEY, HOME TO FOOTBALL'S TWO BEST TEAMS:

An Aggressive Game Plan Leads to an Improbable Win (ALLEN BARRA, November 13, 2006, NY Sun)

This victory was all about aggression. Faced with the extinction of their season, Mangini and his staff chose to do the opposite of what most teams do when facing a superior foe (and New England was much the superior team, at least coming into this game): They designed an aggressive game plan on both sides of the ball, blitzing on 40 of the Patriots’ 66 plays. More importantly, perhaps, when they weren’t blitzing they were showing blitz, something that neither Tom Brady nor Mangini’s mentor, Bill Belichick, expected.

On offense, the Jets weren’t, in truth, a great deal more effective than they were in some of their losing efforts this season, but they sure looked as if they were trying harder. On the sloppy turf, Chad Pennington couldn’t control the wet ball any better than his New England counterpart, but 17 of his 33 passes came on first or second down. (Someone in the Jets’ offensive brain trust finally got hip to the fact that you are far more likely to complete a pass, or at least not get sacked or intercepted, on first and second down than on, say, third-and-nine.) With a little less than six minutes to play, Pennington began two out of three series with first down passes, gaining seven and eight yards and setting up two key first downs. A third first down, just as significant, came on a 12-yard slash by Kevan Barlow, whose path up the middle was made clear because the Pats took out two linebackers and substituted two defensive backs in anticipation of a pass.

Actually, the Jets’ win was about aggression and execution. They drew just four flags all afternoon and fumbled the slippery ball not once. (New England fumbled twice.) Pennington was sacked only once, and, that wisely, when he refused to put the ball up for grabs. And, the Jets finally got a big play — the biggest, in fact, of the season — late in the fourth quarter when Jerricho Cotchery made the best catch I’ve seen in the NFL this year. Dropping back from the 22, Pennington could see that Cotchery, in the right corner of the end zone, was well covered by a defensive back in front and a safety from behind. He looped the ball anyway, assuming that Cotchery would catch it. And he did, with a leaping over-the-shoulder grab to the amazement of the Pats’ D-back who was waiting with his arms outstretched. The game-winning play showed aggressiveness not just on Cotchery’s part but on the part of Pennington, who normally, when seeing his man double-covered in that situation, would have thrown the bal out of the end zone and settled for the field goal try.

The Jets’ improbable victory frees them to think of next Sunday’s meeting with the Bears as a one-game season. If the Jets can suck it up again and beat the Bears at the Meadowlands, the rest of their schedule will all be sharply downhill: not a single game against a team with a winning record (though playing the Packers in Green Bay in December will be no day at the beach). They have already won more games this year than in 2005, and the key to the rest of the season will be in not being satisfied with that fact.

Upsets Place Rutgers In Striking Distance (RUSSELL LEVINE, November 13, 2006, NY Sun)

Barely 48 hours later — not even long enough for the tidal wave of Rutgers calls to New York’s sports-talk radio stations to subside — a series of upsets had the potential to turn Rutgers’ nice little moment in the spotlight into something much greater.

Even the most euphoric of Rutgers fans following their school’s stunning, come-from-behind win over Louisville Thursday night knew that even finishing the regular season undefeated probably wouldn’t be enough to get the Scarlet Knights into the national-championship game. But that was before a string of upsets decimated the ranks of the oncebeaten Saturday. By day’s end, Rutgers’s chances had improved from nearly impossible to merely improbable.

With Auburn, Cal, and Texas all picking up a second loss, the number of teams standing between Rutgers and the coveted second spot in the Bowl Championship Series standings has been thinned. And it no longer takes an abacus and vivid imagination to cook up a scenario that could see Rutgers rise that high.

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5 Responses to JERSEY, HOME TO FOOTBALL'S TWO BEST TEAMS:

  1. Matt Murphy says:

    The problem with the Rutgers scenario is that you’ve still got Arkansas and Florida as one-loss teams, not to mention Notre Dame and USC. Two of those teams will bump the others off, but if they still have one loss at the end of the year they will still be in front of Rutgers in the BCS standings. And you’ve got to deal with the possibility that the Ohio State-Michigan loser will not fall far enough to avoid a rematch.

  2. Orrin says:

    Yes, all those lesser teams will have demonstrated it by losing.

  3. Matt Murphy says:

    OJ:

    It’s certainly debatable whether a one-loss team ought to be ahead of an undefeated Big East team, but if Rutgers wins out (which is unlikely since they play West Virginia in Morgantown), they look to get shafted.

    Most likely scenario: Michigan loses to Ohio State, and Notre Dame gets into the national championship game, even though they got pounded earlier this year by…Michigan.

    College football needs at least a rudimentary playoff format — this is getting ridiculous.

  4. Orrin says:

    How does Notre Dame beat USC?

  5. Matt Murphy says:

    OJ:

    Funny you should ask — Pete Carroll said that the obsessive run-the-ball strategy that Nebraska used against them has been successfully picked up by other teams (although obviously not successfully implemented by Nebraska). The Irish have been trending in that direction lately.

    Here’s something else: A friend of my dad’s who follows UCLA spent a ton of money to go up to South Bend and watch UCLA lose in the final thirty seconds, when Brady Quinn threw a touchdown pass to a wide-open Jeff Samardjiza, even though it ought to be illegal not to doubleteam that guy.

    Notre Dame will beat USC and play for the national championship. They are the luckiest team on the planet.

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