Jets: Paradoxical Game

This was a truly illogical game. The offensive line had the best game in weeks, yet we lost, much due to the fault of the offenisive line. We lost, but we are in the playoffs.

A mix of feelings, really. What is good is that as I've been saying, this was an affordable loss that didn't change much either in divisional or in the conference standings. Win out - and the Steelers are a No. 2 seed with four full weeks for Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith to get back. Lose one (or two, for that matter) - and we're the No. 6 seed with an uphill postseason battle on the road in our beloved underdog role. This is exactly the situation in which we were following the NE loss.

As to the bad, there aren't too many things to focus on, but there is still something I pointed out during the game.

The biggest concern for the Steelers fans was Troy Polamalu's absence - we all remember last season and what happened to our defense when he was out. I thought that this impacted this game too, but not in the same way. I actually think that our secondary played  a heck of a game, and I can only remember one long play given up by our corners. Middle of the secondary patroled by Ryan Clark and Ryan Mundy was very solid.

But, surprisingly, I thought that the linebackers group had a very quiet game. They didn't entirely stop the run, an the Jets picked up a few rushing first downs (they also had 106 yards, which isn't bad against the Steelers!), they were a little shaky in pass coverage, and their pass rush wasn't nearly as good as we are used to. I do explain it with Polamalu's absence. He creates so much explosive power, he makes defense account for him when he's hovering along the line of scrimmage (even if he drops back to cover), and he is such an emotional leader there. There was nothing there last afternoon.

All this made Mark Sanchez look like a beta-version of Tom Brady - very calm, poised, and content with short and intermediate gains - exactly our weak spot.

I also thought that the Jets coaching staff called a perfect game. Power, passing, trickery - got it all. I can say almost the same about Arians - for the most part, it was a good game by him. The only major exception was a call to run from the shotgun formation from the three with three minutes to play. Broken blocking and a safety. Really, with 3 minutes to play, down 3, almost 70 yards to drive for the manageable field go, and Arians is calling a run from the shotgun from his own endzone? Wow! I don't pretend that I know much about football tactics, but that one seemed to me pretty horrible.

At the same time, I can't really say that this Steelers team has unsolvable problems. Offense is alive, defense will get better in 3-4 weeks, special teams have used up their break-down limit for the season. Special shout out to the young receivers, Emmanuel Sanders who is really becoming a reliable target, and Mike Wallace is by far exceeding my expectations. Another special shout out to Brett Keisel - he's hobby is batting down balls flying by! I was amazed how the Steelers drove down the field in the last 2 minutes, including a conversion of a 3rd and 24. I would have liked Ben rolling right, not left, on the final play, it would make it more comfortable for him to throw with an option of a mad dash to the endzone... Oh well, there were enough miracle comebacks against the New York teams that day.

Finally, I can't help but say about small but bad bounces that went the Jets' way all game. From the refs' missed calls (Clark's hit and then missed pass interference on the 5-yard line on the last drive), to the bounces on Jets' punts - small things like that sometimes define games - that's what happened this time.

Off to the postseason we go. We've done it as a 2-seed, we've done it as a 6-seed, I see no reason why we can't take No. 7 to Pittsburgh. 

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