Reviewing these games in great detail often produces a sense of déjà vu. Watching the Browns consistently out-execute the Jets up and down the field only to continually flounder as soon as they had a chance to score was very familiar. This is something we've seen at times from the Jets since the very beginning of the Rex Ryan era.
For once, it was the Jets who made all the key plays at the right moments. The Browns' plight highlights the perils of a tank-for-a-high-pick approach because it was evident that they are a team with a lot of talent but without much of a clue how to actually win games.
The Jets apparently have a better idea of how to do that. Be opportunistic, step it up at key moments and put enough good moments together to get the job done even as you're struggling.
Although they went 3-and-out on their first possession, the Browns would then do a good job of sustaining drives with all but one of their next seven drives lasting for at least seven plays. By contrast, entering the fourth quarter, the Jets had just one drive that lasted seven plays and that stalled before midfield.
They had only crossed the halfway line once; in the final seconds of the first half as they set up Chandler Catanzaro's long field goal to give them an improbable 3-0 lead at the break.
Their defense and a few missed field goals kept them in the game and an opportunistic interception set them up to take a 10-7 lead, but once they stuffed the Browns to turn the ball over on downs early in the fourth quarter, it was at last time to put together a drive.
The Jets - who only gained 115 yards in the whole rest of the game - put together a 97-yard drive to give themselves a 17-7 lead and effectively put the game to rest.
Let's look at some of the nice creativity displayed by the Jets on this drive, after they had been predictable and executed inconsistently up to that point.
The drive got going on a 3rd-and-2 completion to Eric Tomlinson, who took it all the way out near midfield:
The design here is excellent. Tomlinson starts off on the edge of the line on the right side as one of two tight ends. The Browns have watched their film. They know Tomlinson is a blocker and that the Jets will look to run behind him. The fullback leads the way in that direction and the quarterback goes to hand it off, but it's a play-action fake.
The back stays in to block, while the fullback leaks into the flat. The Browns know they have to cover this because they saw Lawrence Thomas leak out into the flat against Miami for a catch that almost went for a touchdown.
They also know to cover Austin-Seferian-Jenkins, who runs an out-breaking route, as he has made a couple of catches on similar plays in the last two games (and in this one), so he's picked up at the line of scrimmage.
Jermaine Kearse, a favorite target of McCown's on third down, runs a drag route from left to right, so the Browns are all over that.
McCown looks at Thomas, then Seferian-Jenkins and then Kearse and just has time to go to the final option as Tomlinson fired off the line like he was going to make a block, but then broke to the inside and ran a crosser with his man getting caught up in the wash as Seferian-Jenkins and Kearse ran their routes on the other side. It's likely McCown sensed Tomlinson was going to come open and delayed looking in that direction until the last moment to try and prevent anyone else from anticipating the route.
Tomlinson makes a strong run after the catch because McCown hits him in stride and the defensive back doesn't have the size to bring him down in the open field until help arrives.
Shortly after, the Jets were faced with a third down and again dialled up a nice play with McCown finding Jeremy Kerley:
The announcers praised the excellent pass protection here, but the Jets left an extra blocker in so that they had six to block four rushers. Elijah McGuire also lingered in the pocket for a beat just in case he needed to chip or stay in.
Even with a 6-on-4 advantage, the blockers still need to execute especially on a route that takes a while to develop like this one. After all, the Jets' only sack of the day saw them rush 3-on-7 and end up with a coverage sack.
Once again, the Browns knew what to expect here - a quick pass, probably on a slant or out pattern. However, the Jets crossed them up by having a longer-developing play. The Browns are all over the slant and out, with a zone coverage designed with players dropping into the passing lanes to prevent those looks specifically. The protection allows Kerley to find an open spot in the zone coverage and McCown finds him nicely.
Had Kerley not come open, McCown could probably have shovelled it to McGuire who might have had a chance to get to the marker.
By now, the Jets were into a nice rhythm and looked set to go to another staple of their offense - the wide receiver screen. The Browns have seen enough film now to know that once Kearse comes across in motion, the Jets will look to toss it to Robby Anderson in the flat and he'll have two blockers ahead of him and a chance to get some positive yards.
The defensive backs anticipate this and try to ensure they get upfield before they are caught up on the blocks. Unfortunately, those blocks never come as both blockers run straight past the players expecting to be blocked by them and run downfield.
A McCown pump-fake completes the deception and Seferian-Jenkins route occupies the safety so that a wide-open Kearse can score easily:
During the Brian Schottenheimer era, there was plenty of talk of developing tendencies and breaking them later on, but in practice those teams executed so sloppily that the offense never lived up to its potential. On a day when they really struggled to move the ball, the Jets opted to break some tendencies with good success today, picking their moments well and executing perfectly.
Once again, there were a lot of negatives to today's performance, which we'll get into over the next few days. However, the team found a way to win for the third week in a row, which is indicative of good coaching.
Of course, they'll need to play with a lot more consistency to compete now that their opponents will start to be stronger. Let's hope they kept some of these types of play in reserve.
Tomorrow morning, I'll focus on a key aspect of the defensive gameplan and we'll be providing game analysis throughout the day.