Jets-Chargers: Old School Rex strikes again

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 17, 2010



San Diego certainly lived down to the brilliant movie billing we gave it before the playoffs: like tortured musician Eddie, the front man of the Cruisers, the Chargers always seem afraid of success. The 2009 campaign proved no different.
 
After a brilliant season recording studio hits from September through December, the Chargers quietly slipped into anonymity in the playoffs, with yet another dud postseason effort. New York's 17-14 victory Sunday was the third one-and-done playoff appearance produced by favored Chargers teams at home since 2004.
 
Here are our 10 scintillating theses on the game:
 
1. Rex Ryan needs a good nickname
We roll our eyes every time somebody fawns over "old school" football as a key to success. "Old school" football rarely wins in this day and age. In fact, it probably hasn't won a Super Bowl since the 1982 Redskins, the Last Old School Team.
 
"Old School" is a cliché .. and, as the old editor's joke goes, we avoid clichés like the plague.
 
But Ryan is certainly riding the Old School style as far as it will take the Jets: tough defense, sober, tightly controlled passing attack and an almost religious commitment to the run game not seen this side of John Riggins or the Naval Academy.
 
Of course, the greatest symbol of capital Old School chops is an Old-School nickname, like "Pop" Warner or "Bronko" Nagurski or "Blood" McNally or "the Golden Boy" or "the Diesel."
 
So Rex Ryan needs an Old School nickname before he's elevated into the pigskin pantheon of Old School greatness (a Super Bowl win using this style would help even more ... but let's just stick to nicknames here).
 
We're kicking it around: something like King Ryan might work – Rex means "king" of course" – but that's really just a starting point more than anything. Plus, the King is kinda already taken by a certain singer from Mississippi. We'll work on it. In the meantime, send your suggestions for Rex Ryan's Old School nickname here.
 
2. Another star is born!
Like Minnesota's Sidney Rice, another star has been born this postseason: Jets rookie ball carrier Shonn Greene.
 
Greene has been New York's playoff workhorse, and on Sunday he carried the ball just as many times (23) as rookie QB Mark Sanchez passed it.
 
The highlight was Greene's 53-yard TD romp in the fourth quarter that cracked open a 17-7 lead. It looked quite a bit like his 39-yard for New York's first TD against the Bengals in the wildcard round: the first was a counter around left end; this one was a dart through the heart of the San Diego defense.
 
But both ended the same way: with Greene outracing a collection of fleet-footed DBs down near the left sideline and into the end zone.
 
3. The Jets have displayed stunning Old School consistency
Add in 14 attempts by Thomas Jones and one by receiver Jerricho Cotchery, and the Jets ran the ball 38 times Sunday for 170 yards and 4.47 YPA.

It's remarkable consistency out of the Jets offense:
  • New York ball carriers ran 38 times for 173 yards  and 4.55 YPA against the Bengals last week
  • New York ball carriers averaged 38 attempts per game, 172.2 YPG and 4.54 YPA during the regular season
Note to Colts: the Jets will run the ball 38 times for about 170 yards next Sunday.
 
4. We have another victory for Trent Dilfer
A meager Trent Dilfer-esque 100-yard passing day for Mark Sanchez? No problemo amigo. As we noted last week, it's OK to be Dilfer.
 
The rookie had a rookie-type effort, completing 12 of 23 passes for 100 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. He's been picked off just once on 38 postseason attempts (2.6%).
 
It was enough on a day when Philip Rivers threw two picks and could never quite get the engine revving on the San Diego offense.
 
Rivers fared pretty well, all things considered. The Chargers topped the league with an average of 7.96 Passing Yards Per Attempt this year (using our adjusted formula that includes sacks). Rivers, meanwhile, easily led the league with a personal average of 8.75 YPA, a career-making number.
 
Against the Jets, the Chargers averaged 6.74 Passing Yards Per Attempt using our adjusted formula; and 7.45 personal yards per attempt – well above the 5.4 yards per attempt the average quarterback gained against the Jets this year. Not a good trend for the Jets heading into their game against Peyton Manning.
 
5. It's over, it's over, it o-o-ver for L.T.
Great career. Future Hall of Famer. LaDainian Tomlinson has produced not one, but two of the greatest single seasons in history – 1,645 rushing yards and 100 receptions in 2003; 2,323 yards from scrimmage and a record 31 TDs in 2006.
 
But as Shaun Alexander proved, careers often ends whip-lash suddenly for even the greatest ball carriers. And the head on LT's career is snapping back right now: he rushed 223 times for 730 yards this year – a dreadful 3.3 YPA (and averaged just 3.8 YPA in 2008).
 
He was a total non-factor Sunday, running 12 times for 24 yards. We can picture the Asian kid as Howard Cosell in Better Off Dead: "The once great contender ... "
 
It's part of what will go down as a very, very underwhelming postseason career for the author of the Electric Glide. Tomlinson has appeared in seven playoff games. He had just one 100-yard game, and even that was a major disappointment: his 23-carry, 123-yard day went for naught as the No. 1-seed, 14-2 Chargers were upset by the 12-4 Patriots in San Diego in the 2006 playoffs.
 
Here are the career playoff totals for one of the great regular-season ball carriers of all time: 96 for 327, 3.41 YPA, 4 TD, 19 catches, 157 yards.
 
LT's recent efforts remind us, natch, of a 1980s classic:
 
show video here
 
 
6. The NFL is better than pinkos and commies
America's pro football league, a symbol of all that is great about capitalism, wealth, power, American culture and competition, donated $2.5 million to Haitian relief. Venezuela's entire socialist government, which swallows private businesses faster than we swallow draft beers during happy hour, donated a helicopter. China, a nation of 1.3 billion people with a booming economy, sent $1 million and a rescue team. You do the math. Next time somebody tries to lecture the U.S. about global responsibility, greed and all the other blathering idiocy of socialism, we're going to send Roger Goodell in there to kick some serious commie ass ... or the U.S. Marine Corps. But definitely Goodell.
 
7. Nick Kaeding is the new Mike Vanderjagt
 
Vanderjagt, of course, was the former Colts kicker known for the most accurate leg in NFL history. He converted 230 of 266 field goals in his career (86.47%). Yet he couldn't put a ball between the uprights in the playoffs with a 30-aught-6 and a scope.
 
Despite his regular-season accuracy, Vanderjagt was canned by the Colts after missing a game-tying kick in the final seconds of their 21-18 loss to the Steelers in the 2005 playoffs. The fact that he was a major-league douche didn't help his cause. (She "Shanks for the memories.")
 
Kaeding, however, is the new Vanderjagt, and likely to join him in the unemployment line today. The San Diego kicker had a career year in 2009 and along the way surpassed Vanderjagt as the most accurate kicker in league history.
 
The Chargers kicker has been remarkably consistent:
  • He missed three field goals in all of 2005 (21 of 24)
  • He missed three field goals in all of 2006 (26 of 29)
  • He missed three field goals in all of 2007 (24 of 27)
  • He missed three field goals in all of 2009 (32 of 35)
  • And then he missed three field goals on Sunday against the Jets (0 for 3).
We're not rocket scientists, but three missed field goals in a three-point loss seem kind of important to us. The 57-yarder at the end of the first half is understandable. But he pushed a 36-yard attempt, a gimme in the NFL, wide left in the first quarter. And then he pushed a 40-yard attempt wide right in the fourth quarter -- that last one was a kick that money players are paid to make. And Kaeding didn't make it.
Kaedking has converted 150 of 172 regular-season field goals (87.2%) in his career. He's converted 8 of 15 field goals (53.3%) in his postseason career.
 
He missed a critical field goal in San Diego's 20-17 loss to the Jets in the 2004 playoffs; he missed a critical field goal in San Diego's 24-21 loss to the Patriots in the 2006 playoffs; and how he missed three field goals in San Diego's 17-14 loss to the Jets here in the 2009 playoffs.
 
Not since Florida State and "wide right" has a team's kicking game so resembled Groundhog Day.
 
8. Darrelle Revis doesn't kill people; INTs kill people
Beyond the Kaeding debacle, the problem for Rivers and the Chargers could be summed up in two plays: the two critical picks he threw, one grabbed by Revis and the other by Jim Leonhard.  
 
Teams that throw more picks are now 0-8 in the 2009 postseason. As noted earlier today, we'll have our awe-inspiring Interception Ladder out later this week, highlighting in raw, steely-jawed insight the incredible crushing impact of each postseason pick.
 
9. Road dogs continue to be our favorite pet
We've absolutely nailed outright road victories by underdogs all year (we'll calculate the numbers this week). But none was more spectacular than calling for the Jets, 7.5-point dogs, to win by three on the road against a team on an 11-game win streak.
 
It marked a return to competency for our real and spectacular picks: we went 4-0 this week and 2-2 against the spread; we're now 5-3 overall and 3-5 ATS this year. We still have time to salvage a winning postseason with three games to play.
 
10. With four dimensions, the Chargers might have had a hippy pop hit
The big problem for the Chargers heading into this game, as we saw it, was that San Diego fielded the most one-dimensional offense in football and that this single dimension played right into the hands of the Jets defense.
 
San Diego was the best passing team in football (7.96 YPA), but the worst running team (3.33 YPA). The Chargers could not run the ball against even ordinary competition, let alone against the team that topped the league in every major defensive indicator in 2009.
 
So as we noted in our real and spectacular picks, this game set up very nicely for the Jets in many ways. It's one of the few games this postseason that played out exactly as we had anticipated.
 
It also sets up a very similar match-up next week: the Colts were nearly as one-dimensional as the Chargers this year and, again, it plays into the strengths of the Jets. Will it yield the same results? Check back here later this week ... same Troll time, same Troll channel.

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