The Todd Bowles-coached New York Jets defense delivered as advertised, as Bowles and coordinator Kacy Rodgers weren't shy about dialing up pressure in the season-opening win over the Cleveland Browns.
Bowles arrived with a reputation for blitzing, the kind of coach who enjoys living on the edge. It's funny because the aggressive mentality belies his understated demeanor. When you think of blitz-minded coaches, the names that come to mind are Rex Ryan and his father, Buddy, guys with oversized personalities. Bowles is a quiet man who loves to create chaos.
The Jets blitzed 20 times on Sunday, just shy of Bowles' high blitz percentage last season with the Arizona Cardinals. The only teams that blitzed more often than the Jets in Week 1 were Ryan's Buffalo Bills (26) and the Green Bay Packers (23), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Overall, the Jets had their way with the Browns and their overmatched neophyte at quarterback, Johnny Manziel, but the results were mixed when they pressured Manziel. Their containment was poor at times -- Manziel rushed for a team-high 35 yards -- and they allowed a 54-yard touchdown pass on a five-man rush, with Antonio Cromartie getting torched by Travis Benjamin. Thinking Cromartie may not have been the only culprit, I asked Bowles if the veteran cornerback was expecting safety help.
He smiled and shook his head.
"He wasn't expecting help," said Bowles, making it perfectly clear Cromartie was the guilty party.
Later, in the third quarter, the Jets used an all-out blitz to create one of the game-changing moments, an interception by Marcus Williams. They rushed seven, with linebacker Demario Davis and safety Calvin Pryor coming from the edges and with linebackers David Harris and Erin Henderson rushing behind three defensive linemen. Davis applied pressure, forcing Manziel into a horrible throw.
Live by the blitz, die by the blitz. The Jets experienced both in Week 1. The Browns' passing stats when facing five or more rushers: 12-for-19, 165 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one sack, per ESPN Stats.
It's one thing to pressure Manziel and his cast of pedestrian receivers, but quite another to go after Andrew Luck. The Jets will get that opportunity Monday night at the Indianapolis Colts. The Bills attacked Luck relentlessly in Week 1 and made him look awful, so it'll be interesting to see if Bowles copy-cats the game plan.
On second thought, is it even a question?
A couple of other takeaways after reviewing the Jets-Browns film:
Ryan Fitzpatrick's 15-yard touchdown strike to Eric Decker at the end of the first half was impressive for two reasons: Fitzpatrick, often criticized for his arm strength, cut loose with a Matt Harvey-like fastball. But what made the play a success was his anticipation. Fitzpatrick released the ball a split-second before Decker cut to the inside on a skinny post. In fact, the ball came out as Decker was bracketed by nickel back K'Waun Williams and safety Tashaun Gipson. Gibson helped them by coming up too quickly, leaving Williams on Decker, but it still showed great chemistry between Fitzpatrick and Decker. They saw it before it happened.
Another note on the play: Decker was used in the slot, along with Quincy Enunwa. In training camp, Decker said he was looking forward to getting more chances in the slot, thinking they'd be able to find favorable matchups. This was a perfect example of that. Williams is the Browns' No. 4 corner, and Fitzpatrick recognized that immediately.
For months, we've been speculating that offensive coordinator Chan Gailey would run the spread system he used a few years ago with the Buffalo Bills -- and that's what he did in Week 1. In fact, they used three- and four-receiver packages on 43 of 61 snaps, per ESPN Stats. You can't argue with the results: 8.90 yards per pass attempt, 5.5 yards per rushing attempt.
The tight ends don't have much of a role in the passing attack (only one target in the opener), but we'd be remiss if we didn't point out a terrific block by Jeff Cumberland. On Chris Ivory's 10-yard touchdown run, Cumberland opened a huge hole with a "wham" block on inside linebacker Christian Kirksey. Also give credit to center Nick Mangold, who tossed aside rookie nose tackle Danny Shelton.