Teams in all sports talk about familiarity of the opposition. It could be sibling rivalries among the players or coaches. It could be the history of franchises. Who has the advantage when they face each other? It's a high stake game of poker when the match ups occur. That's exactly what took place Sunday at MetLife Stadium, when the New York Jets hosted the New Orleans Saints on a crisp and windy afternoon. Jets head coach Rex Ryan going against the high flying offense of Sean Payton. The Saints defense orchestrated by Rob Ryan, brother of Rex. You know there was a lot of trash talking (and a big bet) between the two prior to kick-off.
After some confusion as to who won the coin toss (Saints had to correct the ref), the Jets elected to give New Orleans the first possession. New York did everything to help the Saints get on the scoreboard first. They committed 2 penalties and gave up a 25-yard Drew Brees pass play getting them within field goal range. Fortunately for the Jets, Saints kicker Garrett Hartley missed the 43-yard attempt. After going three and out on their first possession, the Jets came up with the first turnover of the game. Brees, looking for tight end Jimmy Graham didn't see safety Dawan Landry blanketing him. Landry tips the pass and linebacker Demario Davis dives for the interception before the ball hits the turf. Running back Chris Ivory breaks a run for 27 yards leading to a Nick (AutomatNick) Folk 39 yard field goal.
The Jets next chance to get their second interception failed and it cost them in a big way. Saints Wide receiver Robert Meachem has a Brees pass bounce off his chest. Davis has the ball tip off his hands as Meacham has the concentration and presence of mind to haul in the ball. Four plays later, Brees strikes with 51-yard touchdown pass to Graham and a 7-3 lead. New York could not get anything going in the first quarter and began the second deep on its own 4-yard line.
Jets rookie QB Geno (Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde) Smith missed on 7 of his first 9 pass attempts but his running back Chris Ivory (18 rushes for 139 against his old team) picked up the offensive slack. His 52 yard run resulted in Folk's second field goal from 21 yards out. Brees extended the lead to 14-6 by picking on veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie who first trips over Meacham's foot as he hauls in a 60 yard pass. Graham comes up with his second touchdown outreaching the shorter Cromartie for a 10 yard touchdown. Cromartie would get a little redemption as he picked off Brees right before the half. This time Smith lets his legs do the talking. After connecting on passes of 13 and 21 yards getting them down to the 3-yard line, Smith fakes the handoff and runs it in for the 20-14 lead.
RB Chris Ivory destroyed his former team on Sunday. Photo Credit: Mike Henringuez
Said Smith of the play, "we had an opportunity to score right before the half. It really elevated us. Not only did we get points, it gave us some momentum."
Both teams lost key players to injuries. The Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (elbow) and Saints running back Darren Sproles (concussion) would not return.
Smith's hot hand continued (8-19, 115 yards) as they got the ball to begin the third. He hooked up with wide receiver Greg Salas for a 44-yard completion as Folk nailed a 47-yard field goal extending the lead to 23-14. The onus now fell on the defense as Brees lit them up for 230 and 2 touchdowns in the first half. Although the Saints dominated the time of possession, they could only come up with 3 points after a 9-minute drive resulted in a booming 55 yard field goal by Hartley getting within 6 at 23-17. Folk added to the lead with yet another field goal, this time 47 yards to begin the final quarter. The Saints answered after Hartley's field goal (43 yards) but needed 11 plays to get on the board as the defense held for the 26-20 win.
After getting their doors blown out last week against the Bengals, the Jets in their up and down, win one lose one year won't have to worry about losing next week as they have a bye.
"I beat my brother again," kidded Rex at the start of his postgame press conference.
The defense did give up 366 yards in the air but Ryan was still impressed to holding the Saints high powered offense to only 20 points.
"It's a great sign for us. Looking at this game, we knew it was going to be tough. I've got a team that believes and will fight to the end."
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