Both the Bears and Jets have at least one playoff game to look forward to this season. If they hope to make it more than that, they’ll need a better defensive effort than they got on Sunday.
In a game that everyone expected to be a defensive slugfest, the two offenses exploded for 715 combined yards in a game that turned on some strange third quarter decision making by Rex Ryan. The Jets coach kept Mark Sanchez in the game as the upback in a punt formation on the team’s first possession of the third quarter. The ball was snapped to Sanchez and he made a good throw to Brad Smith, but Smith dropped the ball and the Bears got the ball on the Jets’ 40. Jay Cutler hit Johnny Knox for a touchdown on the next play to tie the game at 24.
Things got even stranger when the Jets decided to let Devin Hester get a chance at returns on a punt and kickoff later in the quarter. He returned the punt 38 yards into Jets territory to set up his own 25-yard touchdown catch. Then, following a Santonio Holmes score, Hester took a kickoff back 40 yards to put the Bears on the right side of the 50 for the third straight drive. And, for the third straight drive, Cutler capitalized by throwing a touchdown pass. It was Knox on the receiving end again this time and the Bears led 38-31.
The two defenses played better in the fourth quarter, but they both need to return to form quickly to make good on the promise they’ve shown this season. The game ultimately came down to a Jets drive with a minute left and no timeouts available. Mark Sanchez, who played his best cold weather game ever, was intercepted by Chris Harris as he tried to take his team to another last second victory, but the pain of the loss was lessened by the fact that the Jets made the playoffs anyway when the Redskins knocked off the Jaguars.
This victory means that the Bears control their own fate when it comes to the first round bye. A win next week means that they’ll have a week off before opening the playoffs at home while the Packers will possibly be fighting for their own playoff lives and/or a first round rematch with the Bears. It will be interesting to see how the Bears weigh that situation against the desire to be fresh come the playoffs.