Snap Judgments: Sanchez, Jets' 'D' earn limelight, Packers exposed
Mark Sanchez has proven he's ready for the NFL despite Pete Carroll's prediction
The Jets defense has turned into a dominating unit under new coach Rex Ryan
The Packers Achilles Heel is protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as I find myself darn near hypnotized by the super-sized video boards that Jerry Jones has erected at the spanking new Cowboys Stadium, a.k.a. Jerry's World ...
I'm really starting to understand why Pete Carroll (selfishly) didn't want Mark Sanchez to leave USC a year early. The kid is pretty good.
And I'm definitely starting to understand why Rex Ryan talks such a good game. His Jets, especially on defense, are pretty good.
In a Week 2 that was fairly well chock full of surprise outcomes, the Jets knocking off the vaunted Patriots 16-9 at the Meadowlands -- their first homefield win over New England since 2000, Bill Belichick's first season in town -- was the biggest of the shockers.
And brace yourself, football fans. If you thought the hype surrounding the Jets rookie quarterback and their bold-talking head coach was already at a fevered pitch, you ain't seen nothing yet. Prepare yourself for full-blown media saturation on those two fronts. Starting now.
Like Bill Parcells likes to remind us about any rookie who excels, you can't put Sanchez in Canton after just two weeks and two wins. But what you can say with some sense of certainty is that the NFL game is not too big for the former Trojans quarterback, even if Carroll tried to make the case last winter that Sanchez would benefit greatly from playing his senior season at Southern Cal.
Nice try, Pete.
Sanchez was ready all right. All you had to watch Sunday was the second half of the Jets impressive throttling of the Patriots. After facing the first real adversity of his nascent NFL career -- a 3-for-5, 15-yard passing performance in his first 30 minutes -- Sanchez proved that he can take a punch and keep fighting.
In the second half against a New England defense that used to know how to close the deal, Sanchez was a sterling 11 of 17 for 148 yards, with one touchdown and an 111.9 passer rating. That was a 47.3 point jump in terms of his second-half quarterback rating, and served to show the Patriots that he won't rattle or go to pieces at the first sign of mid-game struggles.
That "it factor" that everyone keeps referencing in regards to Sanchez is really another way of saying he has the cool to keep his head when the rest of the world is losing theirs. And the best quarterbacks always have it. On Sunday, Sanchez had it more than his celebrated opponent, Tom Brady, who finished a shaky 23 of 47 for 216 yards, with an interception and no touchdowns.
But to fixate solely on Sanchez and his 2009 impersonation of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco is to give short shrift to the Jets defense, which actually had much more to do with New York's win in Week 2 than even Sanchez.
I actually thought Ryan would do pretty good things with the Jets defense this year, and for mainly that reason I picked New York to go 10-6 and earn an AFC wild card berth. But I never imagined Ryan could transform his defense into this dominant of an unit this soon. Through two weeks, the Jets have yet to give up a touchdown, and New York's defense is now allowing just 4.5 points per game (the Texans only score last week came on defense).
That'll get it done.
Before Sunday, New England hadn't been held without a touchdown since Dec. 10, 2006 at Miami, which happened to be the last time Brady lost a regular-season game. To me, the most impressive feat the Jets defense accomplished was to keep Brady off balance with constant pass pressure off blitzes -- no sacks, but a world of heat being brought -- and to limit New England to a paltry 5 of 16 on third and fourth downs (albeit with Wes Welker sidelined for this one). The image of a coolly efficient offensive machine is something we haven't seen of the Patriots yet, at least outside of those final five minutes against Buffalo on Monday night.
What all that pressure did in some cases was make New England beat itself. The Patriots committed a very un-Patriot-like 11 penalties for 89 yards, and somehow it seemed like there were even more miscues than that for New England's offense.
So hang on, folks. Here's comes a wave of Jets-centric coverage, but that's the way this thing works in the NFL. To the winners go the spoils, and the overkill. You can't say that Sanchez and Ryan don't deserve it. They've done it on the field so far, just as they said they would. I don't know that they quite managed to "embarrass" the Patriots, as Jets safety Kerry Rhodes cited as a goal, but I know this: I can't wait for the Nov. 22 rematch in Foxboro. The AFC East title might just be on the line by then.
My Patriots-Packers Super Bowl pick took a beating Sunday, eh? And speaking of beatings, Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom sacked Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers an astounding five times at Lambeau Field, giving him an NFL-leading seven sacks after just two weeks. All told, the Bengals dropped Rodgers six times in their 31-24 upset of Green Bay, giving the Packers 10 sacks allowed on the season.
It's early, but Green Bay's Achilles heel has quickly emerged: It can't protect Rodgers. The Packers offensive line has been a sieve against the Bears and Bengals, and Rodgers is never going to last physically at this rate. I would expect Green Bay to be in full panic mode this week in regards to the offensive line, with GM Ted Thompson maybe picking up the phone and getting ex-Packers offensive tackle Mark Tauscher back onto his roster. Especially since left tackle Chad Clifton left Sunday with a second-half ankle injury.
There's a certain desperation that all 0-1 teams feel in Week 2, but none more so than the teams that lost their openers at home and then have to hit the road for game two. Seven teams entered Week 2 facing such a scenario, and four of them -- so far -- used that sense of urgency to post their first victories of the season.
Of those, the most eye-opening outcomes were Houston upsetting the Titans in Nashville 34-31 behind a huge day from quarterback Matt Schaub, and the Bengals going into Lambeau and living to tell. But Arizona won at Jacksonville to avoid the big, ugly 0-2 start, and Oakland escaped the same fate by squeaking one out at Kansas City. In the early games Sunday, the only road-bound 0-1 to not even its record up was Carolina, which is now winless and officially behind the eight ball after falling 28-20 to division rival Atlanta.
Tampa Bay and Cleveland took their 0-1 records into Buffalo and Denver, respectively, in the late games, but weren't successful at finding the .500 mark. Both teams look poised to never see it at any point in 2009.
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