EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Let’s say this for the New York Jets: They haven’t quit on Adam Gase.
With pressure building on the embattled coach, the Jets responded Sunday with a gutty, if not artistic, 34-27 victory against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. The so-called Battle of New York turned into a pillow fight, but the Jets prevailed because their two most important players — quarterback Sam Darnold and safety Jamal Adams — made enough big plays to save Gase from another week of intense scrutiny.
The fact that the Jets (2-7) beat an equally bad team doesn’t make everything right — heavens knows, they still did plenty of Jets-ian things — but they showed some character after blowing a 14-0 lead, then rallying from a 27-21 deficit. They finished off the Giants (2-8), as Darnold — cold in the second and third quarters — sparked the offense to 13 unanswered points.
This was big for Gase because of three specific developments:
His team scored a season-high 34 points.
Darnold (19-for-30, 230 yards) snapped out of his three-game slump and didn’t throw an interception for the first time since Week 1. It was only his seventh interception-free game in 19 career starts. Darnold’s development is paramount for Gase, who hasn’t been much of a quarterback whisperer.
Another positive was how the Jets showed late offense, a change from the usual deep freeze after the opening drive. The recent trend shined a light on Gase’s inability to make in-game adjustments, but this time they figured out a way against the NFL’s 28th-ranked defense. Before Sunday, they were outscored in the fourth quarter 50-27.
Buying Adams stock: The Jets’ top player made their defensive play of the year, swiping the ball out of the hands of quarterback Daniel Jones — literally — and returning it 25 yards for a touchdown. It was best on best, as Adams defeated a block by running back Saquon Barkley. It went in the books as a strip sack for Adams, who dominated the day with eight tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble. The front office might want to think twice before trading him in the offseason.
Eye-popping stat: The Jets held Barkley to 1 yard in 13 carries — not a misprint. In case you’re wondering, that’s 0.08 yards per carry. Wow. They also recorded six sacks — not bad, considering their best defensive lineman, Leonard Williams, plays for the Giants.
Troubling trend: The Jets controlled Barkley, but they couldn’t contain Jones, who toyed with their replacement cornerbacks (four touchdown passes, 308 yards). Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said he’d try to confuse Jones with some new wrinkles, but it didn’t look that way. At times, it was the Jets who were confused. Up next is another rookie quarterback, the Washington Redskins’ Dwayne Haskins.
Troubling trend, Part II: This was another frustrating game for running back Le’Veon Bell, who was held to 34 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown. The Jets’ inability to create daylight is mind-boggling. Week after week, Bell gets stoned by marshmallow-soft run defenses. They tweaked their scheme, using more double-team blocks in the middle, but that didn’t work. Bell’s talent is going to waste.
Selling Nate Hairston: The Jets traded a 2020 sixth-round pick to the Indianapolis Colts for Hairston, thinking he’d provide a veteran presence in the secondary. They needed him to step up Sunday, especially with Darryl Roberts (calf) and Trumaine Johnson (injured reserve) out of the lineup, but he was benched in the second quarter after surrendering a long touchdown and committing two costly penalties. He was replaced by rookie Bless Austin, who made his NFL debut.
Biggest hole in the game plan: Wide receiver Jamison Crowder had four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter. The Giants couldn’t cover him. After that, Crowder disappeared. Inexplicably, they stopped going to him, save for one completion in the third quarter.