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The Good, Bad and Ugly of New York's Football Weekend

The Giants and Jets are moving in different directions

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Oct 3, 2011  |  Updated 10:41 AM EDT
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Looking Back: New York Jets 2011-12 Season

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When the Jets came back to beat the Cowboys in Week One, the game was hailed as a continuation of last year's affinity for comebacks and last-second wins.

It really was a canary in the coal mine. The three quarters of the game when the Jets looked awful were the real story, one that we didn't begin to appreciate until the Raiders ran all over the Jets in Week Three.

Now it is inescapable and the coal mine is caving in around the Jets. The Giants avoided their own cave-in with the help of the referees and Eli Manning's taste for a certain end zone in Glendale, Ariz. 

After two straight second-half comebacks, now it is the Giants that have the look of a team that can find a way to win no matter how poorly they play for three quarters.

With three straight home games coming up, that qualifies as a good thing, but it isn't the only one as we look at the good, bad and ugly from Week Four.

GOOD: Manning still has moments where he looks like he's never seen any of the offensive players around him before, but he is figuring out his surroundings at the right time. Manning's play down the stretch was flawless and he's finally starting to look like a quarterback capable of leading his team to big things after last year's parade of mistakes.

BAD: The Jets players were terrible on Sunday night, but it doesn't look like their coaches are giving them all that much to work with. The Jets hit the field like a team unaware that the Ravens were going to try to beat them, which is exactly what happened in Oakland, and there was no adjustment made to get the team heading in the right direction.

UGLY: You can't win if you don't control the line of scrimmage and the Jets are totally overmatched on both sides of the ball. The degradation of the offensive line from last season is shocking and the Jets' inability to impose their will up front on defense makes you wonder what kind of talent evaluations are going on in the front office.

GOOD: Joe McKnight probably needs a bigger role. His 107-yard kickoff return was the highlight of the night and he also made plays in kick coverage and as a pass rusher on defense. The one place McKnight didn't appear was on offense, but with Shonn Greene accomplishing nothing you have to wonder why McKnight doesn't get a look there as well.

BAD: The Giants weren't much better at the line of scrimmage than the Jets. Beanie Wells ran all over them and the Giants never established any kind of a running game of their own. Manning's heroics were swell, but they were only necessary because the Giants got pushed around for the majority of the game.

UGLY: Mark Sanchez's night was as hideously ugly as anything that you've ever seen from a quarterback. The line was awful and the coaching was nearly as bad, but Sanchez still needs to find a way to avoid handing 21 points to the opposition.

GOOD: Hakeem Nicks isn't Larry Fitzgerald -- Fitz's jumping catch between two Giants showed he's still the best in the biz -- but he's getting closer every day. Nicks ate the Cardinals secondary alive and he's given Manning the Plax-type target who can go up and get a pass even if it is poorly thrown.

BAD: You could go on and on with a list of Jets who earned a spot in this category, but we'll just paint them all with a broad brush and say that this team looks slow in every phase of the game. That's death in a league where speed is paramount and it is hard to see what the Jets can do to rev things up in the weeks to come.

UGLY: We won't rehash the whole Victor Cruz debate, except to say that the NFL should be doing as much as possible to take the game out of the hands of the refs instead of going out of their way to make the refs look into the hearts of players.

By the letter of the rule governing players going to the ground intentionally to give themselves up, the call on Sunday was correct. The problem is that every official is going to see a player diving forward and losing the ball before being touched by a defensive player differently.

There's a well established standard in the NFL that a player giving himself up takes a knee or slides feet first. We saw that when Manning blew a game in Philly last year by sliding head first and losing a fumble that gave the Eagles the game.

Cruz himself said that he gave up the ball because he thought he had been touched, not because he dove to the ground. That's just common sense because that's how every other NFL play comes to an end.

If you want to say that a player has given himself up, there should be some kind of timeframe that a player has to stay down to establish that was what he intended to do. 

Cruz dove, dropped the ball and popped back up, which means that the refs could only divine his intent by the fact that he walked back to the huddle and not by the dive itself which, again, we see all the time without whistles being blown before defenders touch the downed player.

Like the Tuck Rule and the utterly inscrutable rules about making a catch in the end zone, this is the NFL being too clever by half as they try to do something other than just let common sense dictate what is being called on the field. Let the game be played by the players instead of in the mind of referees.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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