There were several reasons New York Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan was looking forward to Sunday night’s showdown against his old defense on Sunday night.
First, it was Ryan’s first visit back to the place where he made a name for himself as a coordinator while building one of the NFL’s most feared defenses.
Second, Ryan wanted to pay back his former team for locking down his new team during the Baltimore Ravens’ 10-9 victory over the Jets’ in the teams’ season opener at the Meadowlands last year.
And, finally, after starting this season with a pair of home victories before losing in Oakland last week, and with a divisional showdown looming with New England next week, the Jets simply needed a win.
But, in an unconventional, record-setting game, Ryan’s offense couldn’t do much against his old team for a second straight year, during a 34-17 loss at M& T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
While the Jets got two returns for touchdowns and held the Ravens’ offense to just 13 points, 16 first downs, and only 267 total yards, New York’s offense was even more anemic in a game that featured seven turnovers and an NFL record five touchdown returns.
Last year, the Ravens (3-1) held the Jets (2-2) to just six first downs and 176 total yards.
This year, Baltimore was only slightly more generous in allowing eight first downs, but the Ravens were even stingier than a year ago when it came to yardage allowed, giving up just 150 total yards.
Baltimore came after New York quarterback Mark Sanchez (11-35, 119 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks) early and often.
On the Jets’ first play from scrimmage, Sanchez was hit by veteran pro bowl safety Ed Reed and fumbled. Linebacker Jameel McClain returned the loose ball six yards to give Baltimore a 7-0 lead 3:02 into the game.
Kick returner Joe McKinght however, took the ensuing kickoff back 107 yards to tie the game, 7-7.
The Ravens responded on their next possession, going 70 yards on nine plays for a 38-yard field goal by kicker Billy Cundiff, to take a 10-7 lead with 6:27 left in the opening quarter.
A Jets’ three-and-out on New York’s next drive, led to an eight-play, 59-yard drive that ended with a three-yard touchdown run by running back Ray Rice (25 carries, 66 yards, 1 TD; 2 catches, 64 yards), to give Baltimore a 17-7 lead with 1:14 left in the period.
In a game that saw over 50 points being scored, that was surprisingly the only touchdown scored from scrimmage.
Sanchez fumbled in New York territory on the Jets’ next possession, leading to another 38-yard field goal by Cundiff, which pushed Baltimore’s lead to 20-7 with 13:19 left in the first half.
The teams then traded punts before Sanchez fumbled again after another hit, as defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (a 2006 first-round pick by the Ravens) sacked the Jets’ battered quarterback, allowing linebacker Jarrett Johnson to race 26 yards with a fumble return that extended Baltimore lead to 27-7, with 8:11 left in the half.
While the Jets’ offense couldn’t score, their defense decided to put some points on the board instead.
Three plays after another New York three-and-out, Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco (10-31, 163 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks) was intercepted by linebacker David Harris, who returned the ball 35 yards for his first career score to trim Baltimore’s advantage to 27-14, with 6:17 remaining before halftime.
The Jets then forced a Ravens’ three-and-out before New York finally mounted its first scoring drive, going 25 yards on seven plays for a 40-yard field goal by kicker Nick Folk that drew the Jets to within 27-17, with 2:14 left in the half.
Neither team could move the ball much in the second half, as the only scoring of the half came on a 73-yard interception return by cornerback Lardarius Webb off of a Sanchez pass, with 8:49 left in the third quarter.
New York is in the midst of its first three-game road swing since 1982. Although they’ve had a lot of road playoff success each of the past two years, judging by the way the past two weeks have gone, if the Jets don’t turn things around at New England (3-1) next Sunday at 4:15 pm ET, they might hope for at least another 29 years before having to play three straight regular season road games again.
Once the current road stretch is done, the Jets will finally return to play at home (against Miami and San Diego) for two straight weeks before their bye week.