John Lopez
Monday January 18th, 2010

Grading out the performances from the Jets' 17-14 win over the Chargers in the AFC Divisional Playoffs ...

Quarterbacks: Philip Rivers spent most of the afternoon running for his life, pivoting out of pressure or throwing off his back foot against the Jets blitz. He made good decisions early, hitting several receivers. He was rattled late, forced into a horrible game-changing interception. Grade: C.

Running backs: LaDainian Tomlinson started and the Chargers seemed intent on trying to establish him. There was one problem with that approach. Tomlinson, sadly, is done. Time and again there were seams that a younger, fresher L.T. would have exploited. Darren Sproles had only three carries. Grade: D+.

Receivers: Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson were strong weapons for Rivers early. Gates had a great one-handed catch to set up the Chargers' first touchdown. The physical Jets secondary, however, body-punched the receivers into several drops. And Jackson had a stupid unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the fourth quarter. Grade: C+.

Offensive line: Too many unforced mental errors, too many missed assignments. The Jets' blitzing scheme kept Chargers offensive linemen on their heels, literally. They couldn't protect Rivers in the second half and were out-muscled. Grade: D.

Defensive line: Tackles Antonio Garay and Ian Scott did an admirable job for the most part against a terrific Jets offensive line. Jacques Cesaire, too, made big plays, freeing up linebackers. The few breakdowns, however, were costly. Grade: B-.

Linebackers: Stephen Cooper and Shaun Phillips were getting great penetration early and helping the Chargers stuff the run throughout the first half and into the second. They wore down and ultimately buckled on a huge Shonn Greene 53-yarder. Grade: C+.

Defensive backs: Eric Weddle made huge plays throughout. Unfortunately, one of them -- the most costly one on a missed tackle on Greene -- turned the game. Quentin Jammer had one of the best playoff games of his career, but the secondary gave up crucial second-half completions. Grade: B-.

Special Teams: The best kick of the day by the Chargers was when Jackson kicked the challenge flag thrown by Rex Ryan. Nate Kaeding choked. Three times. There's no other way to put it when possibly the best kicker in the league blows three field goal attempts. Grade: F.

Coaching: Norv Turner, get ready for another long offseason of doubt and second-guessing. When it counted most, this team reflected the uncertainty of a coach whose playoff struggles are notorious. There also were too many penalties, wasted timeouts and mental blunders. Grade: D.

Quarterbacks: Mark Sanchez made one severe mistake, forcing a pass into coverage that Jammer picked. Otherwise, he was everything a rookie quarterback could be. His best moments were in the clutch, too, including hitting Braylon Edwards for a 21-yarder on one scoring drive and extending a play and improvising on the go-ahead touchdown to Dustin Keller. Grade: A.

Running backs: The Jets' vaunted power running game was snuffed early. There was not a Jets run for more than seven yards throughout the first half. But the offensive line and big backs kept pounding. Finally, Greene broke through a tackle and took a 53-yarder to the house. The last of Thomas Jones' 41 yards sealed the win on a fourth-down call. Grade: B.

Receivers: This was a classic case of quality over quantity, which is how the Jets like it. Six receivers caught balls. Not one had more than three catches. But Edwards, Keller and Jerricho Cotchery each had crucial receptions on scoring drives. Grade: B-.

Offensive line: Before the game, guard Alan Faneca said the Jets' blocking scheme was like chopping down a tree. You have to keep whacking at it. Nothing better describes what this line did on Sunday. It was a brutal game in the trenches that the Jets ultimately won. The hole that center Nick Mangold and Brandon Moore opened on the clinching fourth-down conversion was the exclamation point. Grade: A.

Defensive line: Sione Pouha won't grab a lot of headlines, but his occupying two blockers was pivotal in all the games Ryan played with rushes and coverages. Marques Douglas and Shaun Ellis kept Chargers O-linemen guessing with adjustments right before the snap. Grade: B.

Linebackers: David Harris, Bart Scott and Brian Thomas were the surest tacklers on the field, and in on everything the Chargers tried on the ground. Clearly the Chargers tried to establish a ground game, but couldn't. Harris was the leading tackler in the game. Grade: A.

Defensive backs: Jim Leonhard was all over the place, including forcing a fumble that was incorrectly overturned and picking off Rivers. Darrelle Revis was spectacular, which is getting redundant. Kerry Rhodes and Lito Sheppard were physical tacklers. This is the best secondary still playing. Grade: A+.

Special Teams: Steve Weatherford did a fine job pinning the Chargers deep in their own territory. Jay Feeley knocked down a key 46-yard field goal early in the third quarter. Cotchery had a couple of nice returns, but Rhodes gets the gold star in Monday's special teams meeting for snagging a terrific onsides attempt late. Grade: A.

Coaching: Ryan successfully uglied-up the game early and made all the right calls late. If the Chargers' reflected Turner's playoff reticence, clearly the Jets took on the personality of their big, confident, unabashed head coach. When it came to Xs and Os, Ryan was great, sticking to the ground game and defensive game plan when it wasn't working early. When it came to confidence and overall approach, every Jet played that way. Going for it on fourth down late -- and converting -- had to be how this one ended. Grade: A.

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