27 September 2010
That quote was from Jets safety Jim Leonhard following Sunday night's 31-23 victory over the Dolphins.
The undersized defender's soundbite particularly stood out to me because it reinforced what I said in Sunday afternoon's terse game preview.
It doesn't matter what happens during the week. When Sunday rolls around, it's all about winning, and as long as the Jets keep doing that there won't be a problem. Not every Super Bowl-winning team is full of saints. There are bad characters in every great team's locker room. Do you think the antics of the '76 Raiders (SB XI Champs) would fly in today's media-intense society? Not bloodly likely! If Roger Goodell's personal conduct policy was in place during the 1970's, the mystique of the Silver and Black may have never come to pass.
To further a point, the notion the Jets are the league's badboys is completely misguided. Take this stat from Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback column: Since Rex Ryan was hired as Jets head coach on Jan. 21, 2009, total arrests in the AFC East read: Miami- 6, Buffalo- 5, New England- 1, New York- 1. They may have big mouths but they're not bad dudes. There's a huge difference.
Enough of that nonsense, though. What happened in South Florida last night was beautiful. The Jets showed they can win an offensive shootout (something they couldn't do last year), proving they're not a one-dimensional team. And they did it against a team with a permanent hard-on for them, on the road, in their place. It doesn't get much sweeter than that.
So here we are, the Jets are 2-1 and sit atop the AFC East standings thanks to a pair of signature wins in the division. Perhaps most impressively, is that they accomplished the task with out their best overall player, best receiver, and best pass-rusher. I don't want to get too giddy, but things are going about as well you could imagine right now. If the Jets can take care of bidness Sunday in Buffalo, they will sit atop the AFC East with a 3-1 overall record and an unbeaten mark in the division. To boot, the loser of the Dolphins-Patriots game will essentially sit 1.5 games behind the Jets, a sweet proposition as the the team heads into the NFC North portion of its schedule (Vikings, Packers, Lions are three of four games following the Bills.)
The best part of last night's victory was of course, Mark Sanchez. Although he did have a mid-game lull and nearly threw a historically terrible interception on the botched shovel pass, Sanchez completed some truly incredible passes and made the big plays when he had to, including a penalty-negated touchdown run in the fourth quarter. It was the kind of performance you need to see from a young quarterback before you truly believe the team can do it. Sanchez has had other flashes of brilliance, but last night was different. His fourth quarter, victory-clinching drive was what you dream of seeing from a franchise quarterback. It's what you need to see.
No. 6's cajones-revealing drive provided me with some refreshingly delicious symmetry. Both football games I watched this weekend had a young quarterback lead his team on a crucial, fourth quarter drive that sealed a victory. My story for Saturday's Penn State-Temple game (no, it's not for a blog; I'm employed, haters), was how freshman quarterback Robert Bolden led the Nittany Lions on a 96-yard touchdown march with Penn State leading, 15-13, late in the fourth quarter.
After the game, offensive coordinator Jay Paterno said the coaching staff wanted to find out if they had a quarterback. When Bolden responded with a pair of huge third down completions that prolonged the drive, Paterno said, "That's when you know you have a quarterback."
The Jets had the same curiosity on Sunday night. They could have pounded the rock with LT and Shonn Greene, but instead they elected to let their quarterback win the game. He didn't disappoint.
The Jets knew they had a defense. They knew they had a running game. And now, they know they have a quarterback.
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