ReFo: Cardinals @ Jets, Week 13
While hardly a game for the ages, this clash still generated a number of talking points. Ben Stockwell gets to the bottom of the most important.
ReFo: Cardinals @ Jets, Week 13
It would have been the height of irony if a matchup between the two team’s arguably in the deepest funk league-wide had put forth a spectacular game at MetLife Stadium. Clearly the football gods were not in a particularly sarcastic mood and instead we were given a matchup that was startling in its ineptitude, particularly at the quarterback position.
In spite of what was at times a depressingly poorly played game, there was still plenty to talk about from this one, not least of which was the Jets finally getting out the shepherd’s crook to yank the much maligned Mark Sanchez from the game. His departure brought in Greg McElroy who orchestrated the two best drives of the game as the Jets wound off five minutes for the game’s only touchdown and then the game’s final 7:55 to close out the victory. Prior to this efficiency the Jets and Cardinals had traded failed third-down conversion, after interception, after three-and-out. An advert for the quality of the NFL this certainly was not.
This loss now drops the hapless Cardinals to their eighth straight defeat as their 4-0 start drifts further and further into distant memory, even the fine play of Kerry Rhodes on his return to New York could not spark the Cardinals to shrug off their now two-month long slump.
Arizona – Three Performances of Note
Rhodes Does Everything He Can
There are few greater motivators for playing well as a sportsman than looking to prove a point against a team or coach that gave up on you. That was the situation Rhodes (+6.9) found himself in this week, and he came up with an exceptional performance that in any other week and with any other offense would surely have been a game-winning performance. Rhodes collected a pair of interceptions to take advantage of some abysmal passing early in the game from Sanchez, and created another turnover from Kahlil Bell in the fourth quarter. In spite of setting the Cardinals up in Jets’ territory with each of these turnovers, the offense could only come up with precisely three points from those drives. You can’t ask a safety to do any more than Rhodes did in this game to give his offense every chance to win.
Improvement at Tackle
They was very little to get excited about for the Arizona offense yesterday, and even the excitement of improved play at the offensive tackle spot this week still has to be tempered somewhat. You cannot fault the performances of Nate Potter (+1.3) and Bobby Massie (+3.3) who between them allowed only one hit (by Potter), but you do have to consider the pass rush they were keeping out. Once again the Jets were utterly inept as pass rushers, pressuring Ryan Lindley on only seven of his 33 drop-backs, which only serves to highlight just how bad Lindley was in this game. In spite of the pass rush this is still noteworthy, as Massie’s improvement continues with his fifth straight positively graded game in pass protection and his second ‘perfect’ game of pass protection. His first came in the Cardinals’ Week 2 win over the Patriots, so maybe the Cardinals should play on the east coast more often.
Playing His Part in the Story of the Game
The story of this game was the abysmal play by both starting quarterbacks, and much as Mark Sanchez will be thrown under the microscope his counterpart for Arizona was as bad, if not worse. With yet another abysmal performance blighted by inaccuracy, misreads and poor decision-making, Lindley now has a scarcely believable passing grade of -17.0 after his first three games as an NFL quarterback. Even for a raw rookie that is just not even remotely good enough and this is the prime example of why ‘blooding’ rookies was never a universal practice in the past. Clearly the Cardinals see some talent in Lindley — why draft him otherwise — but you can see the anguish in every miss he makes and the frustration building in the offense as even the simplest passes in the playbook go awry. With the defense they have the Cardinals simply need to survive this season and get some belief back into the team. Without Kevin Kolb they do not have a quarterback on the roster capable of bringing anything positive to the team this season, and throwing Lindley to the wolves is unlikely to do him, or the team, any benefit at this point. Getting in a veteran free agent to do a passable job and give some direction to a young quarterback like Lindley, who is quite clearly a deer in the headlights, would surely be a beneficial short-term move?
New York – Three Performances of Note
Move Over Sanchez — Time for Broadway Greg?
Prior to this Sunday’s game-winning performance, Greg McElroy was most notable as a New York Jet for “telling it how it is” and slating the Jets’ locker room at the conclusion of last season. Now he is the game-winning quarterback who rescued Mark Sanchez’ (-3.1 passing) mess against the hapless Cardinals and led the Jets on two crucial drives. Once again Sanchez showed his trademark inaccuracy and poor decision-making to debilitate the New York offense early in the game, as he welcomed home former Jet Rhodes with a pair of interceptions in the first quarter. He sprinkled into his performance some of the throws that should have made him the savior of the Jets’ franchise, but for a team set up to capitalize on mistake-free football his big mistakes and inability to get points on the board for three quarters finally broke Rex Ryan’s patience. Is this the end for Sanchez, or will he be given one last reprieve? At this point the Jets have nothing to lose but some potential stability, efficiency and an unwillingness to make mistakes from McElroy in an audition for next season — it may be too good an opportunity for the Jets to pass up.
Back to Form on Defense
After their humiliation at the hands of the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving, you had to believe that this once proud Jets defense was hurting and eager to make amends. Well, against the Cardinals’ rudderless offense they did just that, holding them out of the end zone and allowing only field goals off short fields and a ballsy fake field goal in the final two minutes of the first half. On the defensive line Muhammad Wilkerson (+3.7) was back to form with three stops in the running game and his third sack of the season. Meanwhile at linebacker, returned to the lineup against a team without even the remotest threat of burning him for a touchdown in coverage, Bart Scott (+3.3) impressed in run defense, as we have seen so many times before, and he even collected his first multiple sack game in the past five years. However, as you have to temper the performance of the Cardinals’ tackle for the lack of edge rush the Jets bring, you also have to temper the excitement at this strong Jets defensive display against an offense as bad the Cardinals bring to the field at present.
Grinding Out the Win
The one unit involved here that entered this game was some sort of credit was the Cardinals’ defense that, with a moderately capable offense, may have had Arizona in contention for that playoff spot they seemed destined for after a 4-0 start. Their strength, however, has been their pass defense this season and the Jets took advantage of their relative weakness against the running game to, eventually, do just enough to walk away with the win off the back of their ground game. Without the penetrating force of Calais Campbell at RE the Cardinals were short of a presence up front, outside of the early impact of Dan Williams (+1.4 run defense) who had a really good battle with Nick Mangold, with the nose tackle edging it. This was not a pretty performance by the Jets, this was not a textbook, clinical opening up of an attacking defense, but it was enough and the hard work of their tackles and guards saw them through. With the space to build up a head of steam, Shonn Greene (+2.3 rushing) ran hard and his smart decision to get down at the 1-yard line ensured the Jets’ victory.
– The three missed tackles forced on the ground in this game by Beanie Wells were his first since the Cardinals’ Week 15 win over the Browns last season.
– Deep passing was not at its best in this game. On passes aimed more than 20 yards downfield the three quarterbacks on show combined to go 0 of 10, with three interceptions.
– Including the six targets yesterday, Arizona QBs have completed only 56 of the 115 (48.7%) passes they have targeted to Larry Fitzgerald this season.
PFF Game Ball
His performance was fitting of a victory against a team that gave him away for a pair of picks just two years ago, but Kerry Rhodes will just have to settle for our game ball instead.
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Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.