Losers of their last three no more, the Jets came out of St. Louis on Sunday with a much needed 27-13 win over the Rams. They were effective on offense and stingy on defense, the same principles they used in 2009 and 2010 during Rex Ryan’s first two years when they made consecutive AFC Championship game appearances.
At 4-6, they had better carry this momentum as they have a quick turnaround, hosting the Patriots on Thanksgiving evening.
What we learned ...
1. Where was this Mark Sanchez?
Cool, calm and composed, the much-scrutinized Jets starting quarterback was more than solid on Sunday. After a rocky first quarter where he was harried and pressured, Sanchez settled into the game nicely. He managed the offense and limited mistakes. In short, he was the Sanchez who Jets fans knew and loved his first two years in the league. He finished the game 15-of-20 for 178 yards and a touchdown and for at least one week he quieted the quarterback controversy surrounding him. By comparison, the Jets only utilized Tim Tebow twice on offense in the game, perhaps a bit of a slap in the face to a player who endured a hellish week of questions about his teammates turning on him and handled it with class.
2. An emerging star
For the second straight week, there is further proof of the maturation of Muhammad Wilkerson at defensive end. Last week, Wilkerson scooped up a fumble in Seattle for the Jets’ only touchdown. Against St. Louis he created a fumble that linebacker Bart Scott recovered to give the Jets the ball on the Rams’ 31-yard line. It was a turning point in the game, as two plays later Sanchez found Chaz Schilens for a 28-yard touchdown pass and a 10-7 lead for the Jets. During the offseason, head coach Rex Ryan singled out Wilkerson as a player to watch on the defensive side of the ball and it showed on Sunday. In addition to his forced fumble, Wilkerson added four tackles and a sack. It went unnoticed, but after Kenrick Ellis left the game in the first half, Wilkerson stepped into the nose tackle role in some snaps and disruptive from the center of the line. An emerging star like Wilkerson can only be a good thing on a defense that is aging fast.
3. Rebounding from a poor start
It all started so poorly for the Jets, who gave up an opening-drive touchdown. But to their credit, they bounced back well. The Rams showed good balance with lots of short routes, including a 1-yard touchdown pass from Sam Bradford to Brandon Gibson on a gutsy fourth-and-goal call. With Bradford completing six of his eight passes and Steven Jackson rushing five times for 26 yards, the Rams looked dynamic and fluid in spreading the Jets defense vertically to open up plays down the field — then it all stopped. An opening statement from Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who held the same position with the Jets last year, instead became a fast downward spiral. The Jets gave up just seven points and 195 yards of total offense for the rest of the game after that opening score.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.