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Jets, Chargers give Simms plenty to talk about

It was creeping toward midnight Wednesday in Matt Simms' bedroom in northern New Jersey, which his father had appropriated to do his own homework while Matt is off at college.

Yet Phil Simms seemed willing to go on for another 31/2 hours studying tapes of the Chargers and Jets with his director at CBS, Mike Arnold, in advance of today's divisional-round playoff game. It is the sort of thing he has done since he became a pro three decades ago, and it has earned him the reputation of being one of TV's most prepared analysts.

As he repeatedly rewound plays from the Jan. 9 Jets-Bengals game and the Dec. 25 Chargers-Titans game, he shared impressions aloud, in part to practice what he might say on the air. Some highlights:

Let's start with the Jets' defense, which in stark contrast with their pure vanilla offense is a rocky road for opponents.

Simms marveled at Jets running hither and yon and said, "Man, you just walk yourself into trouble as a quarterback. You can't even look at defenders. You just have to watch receivers.

"It's hard for me. I can't show you [live] on TV. With the replay I can show you all this, but I have to see it once first.''

Simms noted a play on which the Jets began with three down linemen. Calvin Pace then dropped off, leaving only Bryan Thomas and Shaun Ellis. Two backs then charged at Carson Palmer.

Such pressure can mask holes in coverage. And even when an opponent does complete a pass, the Jets close fast. "Man, the troops rally,'' Simms said, "and you're getting hit from everywhere.''

A key question for the Jets will be how often to blitz Philip Rivers, a quarterback whom Simms called "not good but great'' at throwing with people around him. "He is as good as there is,'' Simms said.

Simms noted Rex Ryan's use of his father Buddy's old "46'' defense, which the Giants called "Bear'' during Ryan's years coaching the Eagles in the late 1980s.

What must Rivers do if he sees that? "Get back there as fast as you can and throw it,'' he said. "When you see 'Bear,' you can almost guarantee it is single coverage outside, so it's pretty easy to read.''

Rivers has several talented targets, and thus has the luxury of ignoring Vincent Jackson if Darrelle Revis blankets him. But Simms said the Chargers tend not to fret about matchups and simply run their offense.

"I think this will be Revis' greatest challenge,'' Simms said. "Jackson is T.O. and Chad Ochocinco mixed together - a good route-runner who's big.''

Simms reveled in nuances of the Chargers' passing attack, such as the way two receivers will run near each other, subtly confusing the defense before parting ways, but without using an illegal pick.

On offense, the Jets' approach against Cincinnati was so basic that Simms likened it to that of an eighth-grade team. He expects them to open up a bit against the Chargers, but not much. Why bother with a line that mauled the Bengals, even as Cincinnati made an extreme commitment to run defense?

Simms was particularly impressed with D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, the center who easily tossed around Bengals tackle Domata Peko.

How good is the Jets' O-line? "I quote him all the time,'' Simms said, "but as Bill Parcells would say, 'I can only go by what I see.' And their running offense is unbelievable.''

The Chargers likely will play a much more balanced defense than did the Bengals. "They survive with their defense by not giving up big plays,'' Simms said.

Simms mostly was positive in discussing Mark Sanchez but noted a rushed hitch he at times displays after pumping his arm. More experienced passers fully re-gather themselves before delivering.

"He plays really fast,'' Simms said. "He's not calm.''

The coaches made life simple for Sanchez last week, giving him safe passes that exploited the Bengals' run focus. Not that there's anything wrong with that, Simms said, even as Sanchez matures.

"Another lesson from Bill Parcells: 'You can't be all in one,' '' he said. " 'What are you going to be? Are you going to be Barnum and Bailey's 20 greatest plays every week? Or are you going to line up and smack 'em in the mouth? You have to pick up what you want to be.' ''

As the tape revealed, it is evident what the Jets have chosen to be for now. They illustrated the benefits with the misdirection play that resulted in Shonn Greene's long touchdown run last week.

"You can't react [on defense],'' Simms said, "when you're worried about getting run over.''

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