Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Follow The Turnovers

Even casual NFL fans recognize what a crucial role turnovers play week in, week out, and thus citing the turnover battle as the key to a game is a common occurrence among analysts. However, a game in which the progression of turnovers has such an acute impact on the ebb and flow of a back and forth game, as it did in Sunday's game between the Tennessee Titans and the New York Jets, is not as prevalent.

Take notice: Already up 7-0 early in the 1st quarter, the Jets forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and cashed in for another TD to exert early control of the game. The Jets' defense fed off this momentum and forced back-to-back 3-and-out's on the Titans first two possessions and the Jets closed out the 1st quarter up 14-0 and looked like they were about to deliver a potential knockout punch as they were driving in Titans' territory. However, on the 2nd play of the 2nd quarter, the Jets made a mistake of their own, as Mark Sanchez coughed up a wet ball that the Titans recovered. Ten plays later, Lendale White was gliding into the endzone to cut the lead to 14-7. Suddenly, we had a game.

The Jets' offense went into stall and their defense started letting up and allowed the Titans to start moving the ball. The Titans had taken over control of the game. (Their one hiccup during this stretch and thus the lone exception to the turnover flow of the game was a Kerry Collins interception - courtesy of Eric Smith - late in the 2nd quarter that the Jets failed to convert into points.) They notched a late FG to cut the Jets lead to 14-10.

Another Jets' miscue, as Jay Feely kicked the ball off out of bounds, got the Titans started in the 2nd half. The Titans proceeded to go 60 yards on 7 plays in just over 3 minutes to take a 17-14 lead. The Jets had blown a 14-0 lead, their defense, which had held the Pats and Texans without a TD in the first 2 games had just given up 2 in the last 13 minutes and hadn't even put up much of a fight. Maybe I was wrong last week; these were the same 'ol Jets.

The Jets continued to look flat on their next two drives and the game seemed to be slipping away, until Ryan Mouton muffed a punt, the Jets recovered it, converted it into 7, and retook the lead 21-17 lead with 5 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter. The Jets added a FG early in the 4th quarter to extend their lead to 7. Driving in Titans' territory with 7 minutes to go, they appeared on their way to icing the game, but a high Mark Sanchez pass sailed off the fingertips of Chansi Stuckey and into the arms of safety Chris Hope to give the Titans new life. However, 5 plays later, Collins returned the favor and threw a pass that was picked off by David Harris to end the Titans' last legitimate scoring threat. They got the ball one last time after that, but lost a combined 13 yards on 4 plays to end the game, sending the Jets to 3-0.

As I said earlier, there is nothing groundbreaking about an NFL game in which the story of the game was turnovers. That turnovers dictate who wins and loses is one of the sacred rules of the league. It's just that you don't often see the turnovers directly impact the ups and downs and rapid momentum swings of the game to the extent that they did in this one.

Other Game Notes:
  • This was my first game in attendance this year, made possible by the kindness of the NFL moving the game to 1:00 to accommodate Jewish fans who were observing Yom Kippur, as John Mearsheimer screamed "I told you so!"
  • Mark Sanchez became the 1st rookie QB to lead his team to a 3-0 start. Not a flawless game for him by any stretch but it was good to see him bounce back from adversity and mistakes and to be able to make big plays when he needed to. His 1st quarter TD scramble is the defining moment of his pro career so far, a play that I am sure had Rex Ryan grab him and say "great job kid, but don't ever do that again."
  • David Clowney was inactive this week because he "tweeted" something earlier in the week that angered Rex Ryan. I wish Ryan had the power to bench all twitter users from participating in life. Maybe one day...
  • It was comforting to see that even though the defense was shaky at times, they came up big when they needed to late in the game. The Titans last six drives: 1) 3 and out, 2) 3 and out, 3) one 1st down and then 3 and out, 4) 3 and out, 5) interception, 6) one first down and then 4 and out to end the game.

No comments:

Post a Comment