Jets stymie Saints
AP-The New Orleans Saints knew exactly what to do against the New York Jets.
The plan was simple: Shut down the running game and force rookie quarterback Geno Smith into mistakes.
The Saints failed at both.
Chris Ivory ran for 139 yards and a touchdown against his former team, New York had seven plays of at least 19 yards, and Rex Ryan’s defense held Drew Brees and the high-scoring Saints to six points in the second half in a 26-20 upset Sunday.
“You try to make them play left-handed,” linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. “We didn’t do that today.”
Smith didn’t turn the ball over for only the second time this season, finishing 8 of 19 for 115 yards and also running for a touchdown. Nick Folk remained perfect this year by kicking four field goals as the Jets (5-4) continued their trend of alternating wins and losses. They tied the 2005 New England Patriots for the longest such string to begin a season, according to STATS.
“I don’t want to take away from the Jets,” said Vilma, who made his debut against his former team after starting the season on injured reserve following knee surgery in August. “They did a very good job and deserved to win the game.”
Interceptions by Demario Davis and Antonio Cromartie highlighted New York’s solid defensive performance, as the Jets pressured Brees throughout and held the Saints to 3 of 11 on third downs.
“The penalties hurt, we had nine of them,” Brees said. “I felt like they came at inopportune times when the offense was trying to get something going. You look to the start of the game, (we) used timeouts, had the delay of game. A lack of tempo and rhythm and it took a little while. ... But all credit to them, they played well on both sides of the ball.”
New Orleans (6-2) got two touchdown catches from Jimmy Graham, giving him 10 this season, but did little in the second half while the Jets maintained their lead.
Brees was 30 of 51 for 382 yards with two TDs and two picks — each of which the Jets turned into points. Graham finished with 116 yards on nine receptions.
“We hit on some good plays and put together some good drives (early on), but overall, there were times we shot ourselves in the foot,” Brees said. “They would get good pressure or get us off rhythm.”
The Jets’ offense was opportunistic after getting two takeaways by the D. The second was not Brees’ fault: Nick Toon, son of former Jets star receiver Al Toon, had the ball pop off his hands late in the first half and high in the air, where Cromartie snagged it.
But a key play came with the Saints trailing 26-17 midway through the fourth quarter and facing a fourth-and-1 from the Jets 36. Sean Payton went for it, but his playcalling was a bit curious. The Saints tried a reverse to tight end Josh Hill, who was immediately crushed in the backfield by Quinton Coples for an 8-yard loss and change of possession.
“We practiced it during the week, but they just didn’t do what we expected,” Hill said. “The guy (Coples) was right there. That’s the situation you want to use it in and it didn’t go like we wanted.”
Brees, who lost one of his favorite targets when versatile running back Darren Sproles left early with a concussion, shook off a first-quarter interception by Davis with a 51-yard throw to Graham. The powerful tight end beat Jaiquawn Jarrett down the right sideline and dragged the safety the final 5 yards to the goal line.
Often, though, the Saints were out of sync, including using all three first-half timeouts on offense in the opening quarter. That cost them when they couldn’t challenge Cromartie’s interception, which led to Smith’s 3-yard touchdown run.
Davis’ interception came on a ball tipped by teammate Dawan Landry, and led to Folk’s 39-yard field goal. Ivory gave New York’s offense its biggest boost with first-half runs of 27 and 52 yards. The second burst came from the Jets 2 and sparked a 93-yard drive to Folk’s second field goal, from 21 yards to make it 7-6.
Ivory added a 3-yard TD run in the second quarter, and Folk hit his 22nd straight field goal without a miss, a 47-yarder, to start the second half.
Garrett Hartley, who missed earlier from 43, made a career-best 55-yarder, drawing the Saints within 23-17. Folk nailed another one, from 45 yards, in the fourth period, and Hartley countered with a 43-yarder.
Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan also lost to his twin brother again — with their father Buddy watching at MetLife Stadium — falling to 3-7 against him and 0-3 since Rex took over as coach of the Jets.
“Yeah, there’s a little extra, but at the end of the day, now you realize that your bro just took a loss, so that’s the tough thing,” Rex Ryan said. “I pull for them every single week except one.”