Stillers 20, Jets 3 ��. Oct 8, 2000 Game #5
Stillers-Jets Post Game Analysis & Grades:
It wasn't a pretty ballgame, but the Stillers will more than gladly take the end result of this 20-3 whipping of the formerly unbeaten Jets. The Stillers put together two grinding 13-play TD marches, plus a 12-play march that netted a late FG, which proved to be too much for the Jets, who lost starting QB Vinny Testaverde on their 1st play from scrimmage. Backup Ray Lucas never got in synch, and the Jet offense sputtered and looked all too much like the Stillers '99 offense. An opportunistic Stiller defense intercepted 2 passes, and recovered two fumbles, both of which were jarred loose by Stiller defenders.
1. DeWayne snares an errant Lucas throw, and returns the INT to the Jets 18, setting up our 1st FG.
2. Gildon gets hand on FG try in 2nd qtr, negating a tying FG by the Jets.
3. After looking for an open receiver for about 6 seconds, Stewart takes off around left end in the 2nd quarter and scrambles for 20 yards, keying the drive to score the 1st TD.
4. Lee Flowers blasts Martin, and forces a fumble that the Stillers recover at 7:02 of the 3rd quarter.
5. Stewart hits Shaw on 2nd & goal from the 10, for the team's 1st TD pass of the season.
6. Joey Porter sacks & strips Lucas with an adroit chop, causing a Jet turnover that doused any chance of a 4th quarter comeback.
QB: The Western Union Man had a solid game, completing 17-26 for his usual 140 yards. He took off and ran when he needed to, as well as ran well on designed running plays. He nearly threw one INT late in the 1st half on a telegraphed out pass, but otherwise stayed from trouble. His TD pass to Shaw was a gem, as Shaw was the secondary receiver, and Stewart was able to spot him after looking at a covered primary receiver. Two passes were a bit sour: One was the early, deepish crosser to Plex, which was catchable but very low -- about 15 inches off the ground. While catchable, a throw like this allows no RAC whatsoever by a sliding receiver. This play, if thrown where it could be caught in stride, could have netted 40 yards, or more, with some running after the catch. The other was the fade to Burress, which was woefully inaccurate and well out of bounds. This throw never had a chance to be completed, unless the receiver was 9 feet tall. All in all, a steady, solid day by Stewart, though he had the luxury of playing with a lead the entire day. B.
RB: Bettis continued his rumbling, with a quality 107-yard effort today versus a stout Jet defense. Bettis had a sterling 12-yard TD run, in which he bulled and carried 3 Jet defenders while lunging to the goal line. This was a classic case of a RB smelling the goal line and refusing to be denied. Fu chipped in nicely, with 35 yards on only 7 rushes, as well as 2 grabs for 23 yards. The one sore point for Fu, was the 3rd quarter 3rd & 3 play, in which Abraham hit Stewart has he threw, and the ball flopped incomplete. Fu, as the lone back, made a poor read on the pass rush and should have picked up Abraham on this simple 3-step QB drop. Huntley never entered the game at RB. A.
FB: Witman blocked ok�.not nearly as well as the Pittsburgh newspapers claim he's blocking, but he did ok. He also carried the ball twice, for no apparent reason, other than to waste time and energy on the 3 total yards that he gained. He caught 2 passes for 11 yards, one of which was a critical 5-yard reception on 3rd and 3 early in the 4th quarter, which was followed up 2 plays later by the Shaw TD. B.
WR: This was a pretty god showing for the entire receiving crew. Troy led the way with 4 grabs, including a nice catch in double coverage. Troy also ran well after the catch. Plex had 3 grabs, and Shaw & Ward had 2 apiece. Shaw had the TD grab, plus a clutch 10-yard grab on 3rd & 1, which kept that long 87-yard scoring drive alive. Ward dropped 2 balls, though one short out was tipped at the LOS, and the other, a deep slant that was Stewart's longest throw of the day, was a smidge off and a very tough catch. Plex also dropped a deepish crosser, though the ball was low but certainly catchable. In all, a good day for these 4 men and a day that should serve as a building block for more productivity. B+.
TE: Breuner was thrown his obligatory one pass, a low one at that. To his credit, he knelt down and got it, and then got up and rumbled for a key first down. Geason also had 1 grab for 8 yards. The blocking was solid, as the Stillers ran the ball up tackle and around tackle with good results. Breuner spent time performing new chores, as he was often lined up as a wingback in the 1-back set, and from that look he at times set up as a pass blocker; once was used as a trap blocker; and sometimes sent out in the pattern. A-.
OL: The line continued its crude but effective production, providing good blocking against a stout Jet front-7. Making this even more remarkable, was the loss of RT Shar Pourdanesh at 1:08 of the 1st quarter, due to what appears to be a knee sprain. Veteran Larry Tharpe, with rolls of blubber visibly jiggling under his white jersey, stepped in and gave the team three quarters of steady, acceptable blocking. Not once was he abused for a sack or heavy harassment, and the Stillers ran the ball up right tackle at least a dozen times, mostly with good success. Faneca threw a nice block on the Bettis TD run, and the whole OL gave both the QB time to throw and the RBs good surge & creases to run through. Stewart was sacked only once, and harassed only about 3 times, all of which were due to heavy blitzes. Gandy, Faneca, Dirt, Tylski, and Shar/Tharpe all deserve kudos for a job well done. A.
DL: They won't show up too much on today's stat sheet, but this D-line turned in a gritty, more-than-acceptable performance. The Jets O-line very rarely was able to get much push, nor were they able to dominate the LOS. Smith, Henry, and Kimo fought hard, and best of all they minimized any cutback room for Curtis Martin. Kimo wasn't even credited with a stop, but facing Pro Bowler Mawae, Kimo acquitted himself well and helped plug the middle of the line. And even on the game's 1st play, it was Kimo who drew two blockers, which allowed Gildon to stunt in freely and put the hit on Vinny. A.
LB: The LB crew fed off the tenacity of the D-line, and turned in a stellar game, which probably was their best of the 2000 season thus far. Kirk led the way with 8 solos and 4 assists, and nearly had an INT on a well-read pass coverage. Holmes added 5 solos and 3 assists. Together, these two ILBs really stepped up in sealing off any cutback lanes for Martin. Porter had only one solo, but it was a biggie, as he bolted around the LT and stripped Lucas with a Derrick Thomas-kind-of chop, which gave the Stillers a key 4th quarter turnover. Gildon actually is starting to resemble someone who stands, not squats, while urinating, as he turned in a solid 5-tackle effort. Gildon got the freebie shot at Vinny on the game's first play, and while it was a softee hit, somehow it put Vinny on the sideline the rest of the day. Gildon helped string out a couple Martin sweeps, too. Of course, it was Gildon who was totally duped on the 17-yard fake reverse-Lucas keeper around Lucas's right end. The LB crew should be proud of a pretty good effort. A.
DB: After allowing a mandatory 2 or 3 big plays each game, the secondary came on after smothering Jax's vaunted passing game with another good smothering of the Jets passing offense. Sure, they benefited from Lucas having to step in after Vinny's injury and play virtually the entire game. But they minimized botched assignments, they minimized allowing receivers to roam freely downfield, and they frequently had a man close to the receiver to either hit the receiver as the ball arrived, or make the sure tackle to minimize RAC. DeWayne had a huge INT, though he also had a bonehead illegal hands penalty that gave the Jets life after a 3rd down incompletion, which allowed them to march for their only score of the day. Chad and Townsend provided good coverage all day, though Townsend got away with a blatant hold of Chrebet's wrist-band (worn on Chrebet's elbow) on a 3rd & 3 in the 3rd quarter. Flowers caused the key fumble by Martin, but allowed one INT to go right through his hula-hooped hands, and a few plays later a wounded quail of a pass softly fluttered to him, but Lee fought it off as though he were shielding himself from a medicine ball thrown out of an overhead helicopter, and consequently dropped the damn thing. Fortunately enough, Sheilds never, or only rarely, saw the field on defense the entire day. This was a good day for the DB corps, but because Lucas came in cold and was out of synch, this grade has to be adjusted accordingly. B+.
Spec Teams: The house of horrors continues for the special teams. Kris actually booted 2 KO's past the goal line. He also kicked one OOB (for the 2nd week in a row) and kicked one low liner that had zero hang time. The KO coverage was again spotty, and Troy Edwards saved a TD with a stop of a 40-yard return. Josh's pooch punting was pretty weak. One rolled into the EZ, and a couple other were fair caught at the 12 & 14, which is ok but not extremely good. Kris did boot two FGs, and Gildon blocked a Jet FG, which has to be the first Stiller blocked FG in years. C-.
Off Coord: Aside from scoring those two TDs, Kevin Gilbride had to have been pretty pleased with how the offense operated today. The Dink & Dump was flawlessly executed today. No pass of further than 24 yards downfield was attempted the entire day, which really had to make Gilbride beam with joy. Gaypride does deserve some credit for integrating some brand new plays into this game. From bringing wingback Breuner down the line for a trap, to some well-conceived keeper runs by Stewart, to again using the 1-back 2-TE, 2 WR set that worked nicely against Tenn. but wasn't used at all in Jax last week, there was some rare modicum of thought put into this week's gameplan. Of course, make no mistake -- the sole objective of this offense is still to play turtle and play fiddle faddle. On two 1st quarter drives, the Stillers began with golden field positin, yet came away with a total of 3 points. The 1st of these, began at the NY 48, and it was a 3 & punt. On 3rd and 1, Gaypride sent the slowfooted, large-bellied Bettis wide on a run, which was easily engulfed. The 2nd drive began on the Jet 18, and produced another 3 & out for a FG try. The 3rd & 5 resulted in an int. grounding after a heavy Jet rush. While it was nice to eventually score two TDs, this game could have been sewn up in the first half, but the lame, "let's keep it close" offense squandered golden field position and came away with a meager 3 points. Gilbride also ordered his ever-popular WR Screen on 3rd and 6, which was easily stopped for only 3 yards. Even on the team's 1st play from scrimmage, which is always well rehearsed ahead of time, the offense ran this elaborate play-action rollout, which consumed all kind of planning, energy, and work, just to complete a whopping 4-yard out-pass to Geason. (The Jets were flagged for a hold on this play, so the Stillers took the 5-yard auto-first down penalty.) The play that really enraged me, was the 1st play after Porter strip of Lucas. We took over at our 35, with 10:09 left in the 4th, protecting a 17-3 lead. What does Gaypride call on the 1st play? A short, 4-yard out to Plex, which Stewart wisely threw away after seeing tight coverage. You want to throw the ball on that 1st play, rather than chewing clock with the consistent 4-yards-per-carry that the running game was producing? Ok, fine --- throw the damn ball DEEP. Throwing a dinky 4-yard out, which easily could have been INT'd & returned for a TD, serves no purpose & makes absolutely no sense in the world. If caught, the clock most likely would have stopped anyway, which is the last thing you want to do on a 1st down while trying to grind out a 14-point lead. The Dink & Dump eked out just enough to move the sticks and garner 2 TDs, but this offense, like the beginning of both the '98 and '99 seasons, is fooling itself if it thinks it can do this each week and get away with it. B.
Def Coord: Tim Lewis seems to be catching on. He seems to now understand the NFL rulebook, which allows a defense to send more than 3 defenders after the passer. He is catching on that Joey Porter does one thing exceptionally well --- rushing the QB. It's pleasing to see the formerly continual "player miscommunications" come to some kind of halt. B.
Head Coach: Little Billy had to be ecstatic with this game. It was precisely the kind of football that Cowher loves -- play not to lose, "keep it close", don�t take any chances kind of football. With Vinny injured on the Jet's first play, and Lucas struggling while the Stillers cobbled a 10-0 lead, this ended up working out acceptably. The team appeared to be playing with good vigor after last week's big win and Jax, and Cowher should accept applause for having his boys ready and raring to go. B.
After opening the season with 3 losses that showed a glaring dearth of preparation, the team has responded with two wins over solid AFC rivals. The defense, which had been severely gashed in those defeats, is now playing at a very high level of effectiveness, albeit against 2 injury-depleted offenses. The offense has managed to muster just enough yardage and just enough key first downs, to compile a couple 23 & 20-point efforts. However, in no way can this team afford any kind of letdown next week versus Cinci. We've not beaten Cinci the past 2 seasons, and we're nowhere good enough where we can "turn it on" after a sloppy, sluggish start. It appears Graham will be named the starter for next week's game. The key, will be if he can re-invigorate the Dink & Dump Offense to a level he attained against Tennessee, in which he brought the team back from 10-3 & 13-6 deficits with some decent downfield passing. The Dink & Dump created 2-0 records the past two seasons, and gave most everyone a false sense of hope. As we saw, in both seasons the house of cards that the Dink & Dump is built upon came crashing down soon after midseason. Let's hope the team doesn't make the same mistake three years in row.
The Still Mill