September 20, 2009
Last week, people were very worried about the Houston Texans' offense. A group that was supposed to keep their ability to gain yards and improve on the actual points scored was completely decimated by the Jets, now led by former Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. The Texans failed to score an offensive touchdown - only a fourth-quarter fumble recovery touchdown by safety Dominique Barber(notes) kept Houston from the shutout. Quarterback Matt Schaub(notes) struggled to complete just over half his passes, going 18 of 33 for 166 yards and an interception, and running back Steve Slaton(notes) managed inly 17 yards on nine carries.
On Sunday, the Texans faced the Tennessee Titans, possessors of a fine defense in their own right. Schaub threw 25 completions in 39 attempts for 357 yards and four touchdowns (no picks!), and receiver Andre Johnson(notes) caught 10 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns as the Texans won, 34-31.
Last Monday night, the Patriots put it together offensively after a slow start in Tom Brady's(notes) return, and beat the Bills, 25-24, as Brady threw for almost 400 yards. Sunday against the Jets, Brady completed less than 50 percent of his passes (23 of 47) for 216 yards and a pick. The Patriots lost, 16-9, and they were held without a touchdown for the first time since 2006.
At some point, we have to assume that the real story in the AFC East so far this season is the Jets' defense. Not only did Ryan bring his "46" pressure concepts to New York's formerly passive 3-4, he also added former Ravens buddies Bart Scott(notes) and Jim Leonhard(notes) to the mix. Scott has been a terror along with the underrated David Harris(notes) - the two inside linebackers will run all kinds of blitzes, either off the edge, or stunts and twists up the middle. On one play against the Texans, Scott and Harris blitzed the A-gaps, while 360-pound nose tackle Kris Jenkins(notes) moved back to a tight "MIKE" (middle) location and blitzed behind the two 'backers. Ryan will overload one side or another with different combinations - what does a quarterback do when he sees three defensive backs ready to strike from the defensive left edge, as Schaub did last week? Answer: He throws up a goatball of an incompletion.
The pressure has helped the DBs in coverage as well, especially cornerback Darrelle Revis(notes), who played Randy Moss(notes) about as well as it's possible to. The Jets are coming after the NFL's elite with everything they've got, in this game and in the future, and everyone who plays this team had better watch the heck out.
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