EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — No Le’Veon Bell. No Jamal Adams. No consistency on offense. A no-name defense. And the New York Jets still found a way to win on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, beating the Miami Dolphins 22-21.
Good for them — they showed a lot of pluck and received a huge break on a pass interference replay review — but the celebration won’t last long. In four days, this deeply flawed and injury-riddled team will face the Baltimore Ravens (11-2) on the road. On paper, it looks like one of the most lopsided games of the NFL season.
Heart can help you beat the lowly Dolphins (3-11), but it won’t stop a dynamic quarterback in Lamar Jackson. If the Jets (5-8) let Ryan Fitzpatrick rush for 65 yards, what will happen against Jackson?
The Jets have some major issues, but at least they eluded the embarrassment of being swept by the Dolphins. Coach Adam Gase avoided the indignity of becoming the first coach in NFL history to go 0-2 against the team he coached the previous season. He received two gifts — a replay reversal on defensive pass interference with 43 seconds to play, which set up Sam Ficken’s 44-yard field goal to win it as time ran out.
It was the first big kick all season by a Jets kicker, and there have been plenty. It was Ficken awesome for the Jets, who rallied in the final 1:33 and recorded their first AFC East win.
The come-from-behind win overshadowed another poor performance by the offense (Gase’s baby), which went into a deep freeze in the second half — the main reason why they blew a 16-6 lead.
QB breakdown: It was an up-and-down day for Sam Darnold, who threw a third-quarter interception, overthrew a couple of open receivers and made a couple of poor decisions on third-and-short plays. To his credit, he made some clutch throws in the final minute to pull out the win. But make no mistake: He showed a few rough edges, especially with his decision-making outside the pocket.
Instead of running when flushed from the pocket, he threw the ball into coverage — a habit his coaches are trying to break. They want Darnold to utilize his legs (see: Fitzpatrick) whenever possible. Sometimes it worked (his 26-yard touchdown pass to Robby Anderson) and sometimes it backfired. He’s young and he’s learning.
Bell who? Without Bell (illness), the Jets had one of their most productive rushing days. Bilal Powell did a commendable job, rushing for 74 yards — the Jets’ single-game high for the season. Bell didn’t play because he was sick. So is the offense, which managed only a field goal in the second half.
Buy stock in the defense: On paper, this was a bad matchup for the Jets, who faced a red-hot Fitzpatrick without three of their top five defensive backs, including Adams. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams relished the challenge, cooking up a zone-heavy scheme that kept Miami out of the end zone. Williams didn’t blitz a lot — he relied on four-man rushes — but he frustrated Fitzpatrick with coverage. That wide receiver DeVante Parker (concussion) went out in the first half was a factor.
Breakout performance: Say goodbye to the dog house, Nate Hairston. After three games as a healthy scratch, he was pressed into duty because of the injury to slot corner Brian Poole and responded with an interception (which set up a field goal) and a quarterback hit on a slot blitz. Hairston — acquired in a preseason trade — got on Williams’ bad side after a brutal game against the New York Giants. Give him credit for not going in the tank.
Troubling trend: The Jets aren’t a disciplined team. A week ago, they were undermined by offensive penalties. This week, it was the defense. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, linebacker James Burgess (two), cornerback Blessuan Austin and defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd were guilty of costly penalties in key situations. That’s the sign of a bad team.
Troubling trend, Part II: The injuries just keep coming. Tight end Ryan Griffin, one of the few players who survived the first 12 games without getting hurt, left in the first quarter with an ankle injury. He had been a security blanket for Darnold, who had to rely on his wideouts more than usual. Another injury to watch: Williams, having a disappointing rookie season, left in the third quarter with a neck burner.