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Jets, Falcons pull off rare feat

Is a left-arm-only Geno better than Sanchez?

Next on First Take: Is a left arm only Geno better than Sanchez?

Under Mark Sanchez, the Jets were never very good at completing passes, because of, well, Mark Sanchez. The Jets ranked 29th, 30th, 24th, and 30th from 2009 to 2012 in completion percentage. Over that four year period, no team completed fewer passes (1,080) or had a lower completion percentage (55.2%) than the Jets. But as bad as the Jets offense has been at completing passes, the defense was even more extreme at preventing completions. Over the last four full years, the top two single seasons in completion percentage allowed were recorded by the ’09 and ’10 Jets. The 2011 Jets ranked 4th in completion percentage allowed, while last year’s team ranked second. From 2009 to 2012, no team allowed fewer completions (1,069) or at a lower rate (52.6%) than the Jets. In fact, the 2nd best team at completion percentage allowed over that period, the Packers at 56.9%, were closer to the 18th best team in opponent’s completion percentage than they were to the Jets.

If you average the completion percentages of the Jets and their opponents over that four year period, you get an average completion percentage in Jets games of 53.8%, easily the lowest rate in the league (Arizona, Kansas City, and Oakland are next at 57.6, 57.7, and 57.7%).

Under Geno Smith and without Darrelle Revis, things hadn’t changed much.  Through four weeks, the Jets defense ranked — you guessed it, 1st in completion percentage allowed at 51.4%, while the Jets offense ranked 26th in completion percentage.

Switching gears for a second, only three games in NFL history had ever seen both teams complete 80% of their passes in a single game. What were the odds, then, that the 2013 Jets would be involved in the fourth such game? I have no idea, but I know they were really, really, really low. Yet on Monday Night against the Falcons, that’s exactly what happened.

Matt Ryan completed 36 of 45 passes in defeat, while Geno Smith connected on 16 of his 20 passes.1 The Jets pulled off this feat without Santonio Holmes, leaving Jeremy Kerley, Jeff Cumberland, a concussed Stephen Hill, and newly-signed David Nelson as Smith’s main targets. On the other side, Tony Gonzalez caught 10 passes for the Falcons (although it felt more like 100) on 14 targets, while Julio Jones had 8 grabs on 11 targets. Ryan checked down quite a bit (8.9 yards per completion), but completing 36 of 45 passes is impressive under any circumstances, let alone against the Jets defense. And having both teams completed 80% of their passes is extremely rare.

The first time this happened was in December 1988 in Miami, when the Colts defeated the Dolphins, 31-28. For Indianapolis, Eric Dickerson was the star, rushing 31 times for 169 yards and a score. Rookie Chris Chandler threw just 15 passes, completing 12, with Bill Brooks (3 receptions) and Clarence Verdin (28 yards) the leaders in the passing game. The other two Indianapolis touchdowns came in the face of conventional wisdom.

Ricky Turner doesn’t have the Q Rating of Tim Tebow, but he was a running quarterback at Washington State, and the Colts signed him to incorporate some wishbone elements into their offense, particularly at the goal line. Sure enough, Turner scored two one-yard touchdown runs against the Dolphins, but Twitter was not yet around to explode. Miami operated more conventionally: Dan Marino completed 26 of 32 passes for 304 yards, as the Dolphins running game (17 carries for 58 yards) struggled.

1990s Magazines were awesome

1990s magazines were awesome.

The second instance involved a pair of Run-and-Shoot teams on Thanksgiving Day, 1994. The Bills and Lions entered the game 6-6 and with a pair of star Oklahoma State (hi Doug!) running backs. Neither was that effective: Thurman Thomas rushed 17 times for 58 yards, while Barry Sanders was held to 45 yards on 19 carries. That didn’t matter too much, though, as Dave Krieg completed 20 of 25 passes for 351 yards and 3 touchdowns for the Lions, including a 51-yarder to Herman Moore.

Jim Kelly had a more uneven day. He completed 29 of 35 passes and threw two touchdowns (and ran 15 yards for a score), but he picked up “only” 275 yards and threw two interceptions. Trailing 28-21 in the fourth quarter, Kelly threw a pick six to Willie Clay, clinching the game for Detroit.

Jason Hanson was limited to just five extra points that day, but he was more involved in the third such game thirteen years later. The Lions defeated the Bucs 23-16 in Detroit, as Jon Kitna (16-20, 147 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT) led the charge for Detroit. Kevin Jones outshined Calvin Johnson for Detroit, as Jones ran 15 times for 76 yards and a score and caught 6 passes for 34 yards (a rookie Megatron did run for a 32-yard touchdown).

In Tampa Bay, Jeff Garcia and Earnest Graham were the stars. Tampa Bay trailed all day, so Garcia threw 45 passes, completing 37 for 316 yards and two scores. Graham was the fantasy star, rushing for 92 yards on 19 carries and gaining 99 receiving yards on 13 receptions! The Lions blocked a punt and won the turnover margin 2-0, which allowed them to play a conservative offensive game plan and hold on for the win.

In conclusion, I have no idea how the Jets played a game where both teams completed 80% of their passes. Prior to Monday Night, only once in the 74 games under Rex Ryan had either the Jets or the Jets opponent completed 80% of their passes in a single game: New York’s playoff win in Cincinnati.

  1. Although one could argue that he was “aided” by taking a sack on 20% of his dropbacks []
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