Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Two Teams, two directions: Bears and Jets

The Jets and the Bears are more similar then one might think. Both teams came into the game 10-4 and both teams are in the playoffs. Both have somewhat embattled head coaches that lead proud defenses. Both quarterbacks can be brilliant at times, but battle with bouts of inconsistency. Finally, both teams got walloped by the Patriots a short while ago. With playoff implications on the line, one had to come out on top.

Both defenses played pretty bad. Chicago gave up 393 yards and could not seem to get off the field on third down. The Jets, meanwhile, gave up 38 points to an up and down
Bears attack. For all of the exotic blitzes and the constant pressure, the maligned Bears offensive line only gave up two sacks, and gave Jay Cutler enough time to beat the Jets secondary badly on some of his throws. So the defenses were bad, and the offenses showed up. What was the difference in this game, and why is one team on track for a bye while the other will be in a tough wild-card game?

The difference was in special teams, and coaching. A huge turning point in the game was Rex Ryan's bonehead call to try a fake punt on 4th and 3 in the first half. The Bears' special teams were ready, as they stopped the Jets. Mike Martz and Lovie Smith, meanwhile, stuck to the plan that has gotten the Bears this far: a balanced offensive attack, relying more on the defense and special teams. Devin Hester's impact on this game was huge. Along with two 40 yard kick runbacks, the Jets were so afraid of him that they would short-kick the ball on kickoffs, or kick the ball out of bounds on punts in order to keep the ball away from him. This resulted in excellent field position nearly the entire game.

When you add in some of the outside factors for the Jets, (foot fetish video, DUI arrest, hard knocks series, for example), and contrast this with the steadying presence of Lovie Smith, it is easy to see who had the upper hand in this game, and who has a better chance of advancing in the postseason.

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