Commentary

Schotty comes through in the clutch

With his back to the wall, Jets OC pulls out all the stops to stay ahead of Steelers

Updated: December 20, 2010, 11:32 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

PITTSBURGH -- It happened in the fourth quarter, a third-and-6 from the Pittsburgh Steelers' 47-yard line. Mark Sanchez was in the shotgun on an obvious passing down, but -- look at this -- the snap went directly to LaDainian Tomlinson. Sanchez sold the fake, pretending the snap went over his head with one of those Tom Brady-esque acting jobs. Tomlinson went around left end for 10 yards against the league's top-rated run defense. As the Jets gathered for the next play, Jerricho Cotchery looked at Brandon Moore. Moore looked at Cotchery. Together, they marveled at the creativity and timeliness of the play call by Brian Schottenheimer.

"It was like, 'Wow,'" Cotchery said after the Jets' 22-17 win at Heinz Field. "Schotty was in the zone."

[+] EnlargeBrian Schottenheimer
AP Photo/Robert E. KleinSince the Jets' 45-3 loss in Foxborough, Mass., life hasn't been easy for OC Brian Schottenheimer.

The zone is better than the hot seat, which is where Schottenheimer spent the previous week. After his unit failed to score a touchdown in the previous two games, the Jets' offensive coordinator started to have the dreaded "E" word appear before his name -- embattled.

After beating the Steelers, the players were buzzing about Schottenheimer's game plan and how he was able to change his tendencies and capitalize on the Steelers' aggressiveness.

"He called as close to a perfect game as you can get," tight end Dustin Keller said.

The Jets did something that is hard to do against the Steelers. They converted on third and fourth down by rushing the ball. The biggest play was Mark Sanchez's 7-yard bootleg for a touchdown, a terrific call on a fourth-and-1 in the third quarter.

They came out with three tight ends and two backs. More often than not, the Jets run their patented "blast" play in that situation, an inside run. Sanchez faked a handoff to Shonn Greene, and the Steelers collapsed the middle of the line. Boy, were they fooled. Sanchez rolled to his left and strolled into the end zone.

"It was a gutsy call and great execution," Sanchez said.

It was the Jets' first offensive touchdown in 12 quarters, an embarrassing streak of futility that seemed like it was never going to end.

"Great call by Schotty," said Rex Ryan, whose daring decision made it a tie game at 17. "He thought we could get them to sell the farm, and they did."

Earlier in the same drive, the Jets used the same personnel grouping -- three tight ends -- and Sanchez threw a play-action pass to Keller for 11 yards. Fooled 'em again. Then came the direct snap to Tomlinson. It didn't result in any points, but it resulted in key field position.

The Jets managed one touchdown and 276 total yards, but it came against one of the league's top defenses. For a change, the offense was cohesive and balanced, with receivers Braylon Edwards (eight catches for 100 yards) and Santonio Holmes (six for 40) contributing as a tandem.

They changed up their personnel groupings. They used hard play fakes to draw the aggressive Steelers out of position. They used a backup lineman, Rob Turner, as an extra tight end on 22 snaps. Moore put it best: "[The Steelers] were off balance. They couldn't get a feel for us."

This was a tough week for Schottenheimer, who admitted he heard fans chanting, "Schotty Must Go!" after last week's loss to the Miami Dolphins. Thursday, Schottenheimer became slightly defensive with reporters, declaring, "I know I'm a damn good football coach."

Schottenheimer was ultra-intense during the week, according to players, capping it with an emotional speech to the offense Saturday night. Reminding them that most outsiders didn't give them a chance to beat the Steelers, he told the players, "Think about people who believe in you," according to Moore.

"That was his big message," Moore said. "Coming off the field, that was one of the first thoughts I had. We were the only ones who believed we were going to win this game."

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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