The New York Jets travelled to the Baltimore Ravens as the projected number six seed in the AFC. Baltimore sat just behind the Jets in the chasing pack and knew that a win against the inconsistent Geno Smth led Jets would keep their hopes very much alive.
The game itself was not a good one. The Jets now find themselves at 5-6, having been held to just 3 points by the Baltimore defense. Baltimore managed just one touchdown via a 66 yard pass from Flacco to Jacoby Jones to add to four field goals as they also advanced to 5-6 after a 19-3 victory.
So in a game that will not live long in the memory, what have we learnt about both franchises moving forward?
- The Ravens made the right call in releasing Ed Reed
Ed Reed was picked up by the Jets having been released by Houston. Here was his chance to show the Baltimore management that they had made a mistake in the summer by not offering him another contract. Unfortunately for Reed, one of his major involvements in the game was failing to prevent Jones hauling in the bomb from Flacco to record the game’s only touchdown. This was a throw that Reed in his prime would have stopped. Not the impression that he wanted to make on his Baltimore return.
- Geno Smith is not the answer at QB for the Jets
Smith has lost the confidence of his teammates and the offensive playbook is limited due to his lack of productivity. His one opportunity to throw the ball deep on a third and 17 ended in an interception. Overall Smith managed to complete just nine of 22 passes for 127 yards and with him as a signal caller, the team managed to convert only one of 12 third downs. With no touchdown passes in the last four weeks and a season quarterback rating of just 65.1 (including 10.1 and 22.3 in his last two games), the time has come for the Jets to look elsewhere. Matt Simms deserves a chance to see if he can offer the team anything going forward.
- Ray Rice’s game in Chicago was the exception, not the rule
Prior to the game in Chicago last week, Rice was averaging just 2.4 yards per carry in 2013. Against the Bears he racked up 131 yards, which suggested a return to the form that we have seen over previous seasons. In this game he managed just 30 yards on 16 carries at 1.9 yards per attempt. This is not enough to win football games for the Ravens when they come up against teams with more effective offenses. Rice must improve if the Ravens are to make a run at the postseason.
- Joe Flacco can still win games with his arm
Since signing his huge contract last summer, Flacco has failed to produce form worthy of that amount of money. A passer rating of just 75.3 so far this year is simply not good enough. Yet in difficult windy conditions he showed that he does have the arm to produce the type of plays that can win close football games. Flacco connected with Torrey Smith on a perfectly thrown 60 yard completion in the first half and then unleashed a 66 yard touchdown bomb to Jacoby Jones in the second. His 273 yards and passer rating of 95.1 is a welcome reminder of the type of player the Ravens thought they had signed to that multi-million dollar contract after leading them to a Super Bowl victory.
- Trick plays only work if they are used sparingly
The blustery conditions in Baltimore and lack of confidence in the passing game shown by the Jets led to a great deal of innovation being shown by both teams. Geno Smith often lined up wide so that Josh Cribbs could take the snaps in the wildcat formation. He actually caught a pass from Cribbs early on, but the Jets quickly adjusted to this look and limited its effectiveness when it stopped becoming a surprise. Likewise with the Ravens and their use of Tyrod Taylor in the read option offense. His first effort ended in a 17 yard gain but he was nullified on his next three rushing attempts, finishing with seven total yards on four carries. Trick plays are effective when unexpected; use them too often and the defense will be able to adapt and nullify them quickly.
With both teams now at 5-6 they are very much in the race for the final spot in the AFC playoff picture. In reality, neither of these teams have the quality to maintain a push for that spot in the postseason and are much more likely to fall away into the pack as the regular season reaches its climax.