The Jets lost yesterday and Mark Sanchez looked pretty bad. Mark Sanchez is an NFL quarterback and NFL quarterbacks tend to bear the bulk of the blame when their teams lose, so the going sentiment this morning seems to be that the Jets lost yesterday because Mark Sanchez looked pretty bad. But I’m not certain that’s the case.
For one thing, most of the Jets offense looked pretty bad. Sanchez’s much-maligned run of incomplete passes wasn’t helped by some lousy play from his receivers, including a couple of notable drops and miscommunication with Jeff Cumberland.
And mostly, focusing on Sanchez’s struggles in the game overlooks what was likely a bigger factor in their loss: The absence of their best player — and arguably one of the very best football players in the world — cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Check this out: The Daily News’ feature off the game focuses on the Jets’ problems with the Pittsburgh secondary. Its notes article highlights Tim Tebow’s reception in Pittsburgh, LaRon Landry’s costly penalties, and the tight ends the Jets used to replace Dustin Keller, a column from Hank Gola insists the Jets’ offense needs to be better, and in a column under two pretty photos of Tim Tebow, Bob Raissman argues that CBS shows too much of Tim Tebow. In five articles about the Jets’ loss to the Steelers in the Daily News, Revis’ absence is mentioned once, in the 11th paragraph of the recap, after a bunch of stuff about Sanchez.
The Post, to that paper’s credit, mentions Ben Roethlisberger’s dominance of the Revis-less Jets’ secondary in two news stories off the game. It also featured a sidebar on Tebow’s absence and one on Landry’s penalties. One column mentions Roethlisberger’s shredding of the Jet D but ultimately blames Sanchez anyway, and the other is about how anybody can lose to anybody in football and how the Jets always seem to lose in Pennsylvania — both of which are true.
The Times mentions Revis’ absence in the 14th paragraph of its recap but not in its blog post about why the Jets lost. There are two other recent Jets stories in the Times. Neither of them appear to have anything to do with Revis, but I can’t read them as I’m past my article limit for the month.
So of 15 articles in the three New York City papers about yesterday’s Jets game, only a third even mention the absence of the team’s best player, and really only one — from the Post — focuses on how poorly the Jets’ secondary played against the Steelers’ passing attack. Does anyone anywhere think Roethlisberger even attempts that 3rd-and-16 touchdown pass to Mike Wallace if Revis is covering him? And if by some chance Roethlisberger does, is there any way Wallace is able to make that catch if the best cornerback in football is hanging all over him? C’mon.
That’s a game-changer right there. But tack on the way the Jets could have schemed for the Steelers with Revis in the game versus the way they had to without him and figure his presence means a couple more sacks, a few less third-down conversions, a narrower gap in time-of-possession, less pressure on the Jets’ offense to force the ball downfield late in the game and thus more opportunities for Tim Tebow and the Wildcat crew — all those things you wanted out of the Jets’ offense, courtesy one awesome man on the Jets’ defense. Guy’s really good.
It’s not the Jets’ fault that Revis missed the game, of course. It’s nobody’s fault but circumstance, and that doesn’t make for very good headlines. But putting this one on Sanchez and the Jets’ offense, no matter how bad they looked, is undercutting the contributions Revis makes to the defense every week he’s healthy. They could not stop Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ passing attack. That’s the story here.