Four plays that shaped the New York Jets’ Week 1 fate

ESM looks back on the New York Jets’ Week 1 defeat, finding a play from each quarter that’s shaping their past, present, and future.

When taking a look at exactly where it went wrong for the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon, one well could argue that things went awry from the opening kickoff.

The Jets (0-1) opened their 2020 campaign with a 27-17 defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Week 1’s final score shielded just how ugly the game, particularly the first 30 minutes, truly was, as a 21-point onslaught buried the Jets before they could truly get going. Fleeting positives were able to emerge in the second half, but the former segment’s shortcomings cast a considerable pall over any progress the Jets were trying to make or showcase in their season opener.



“There is so much for us to clean up,” head coach Adam Gase said in defeat. “It was a rough game. We didn’t play well enough. We have to get a lot of things fixed in a short period of time.”

ESM looks back on opening weekend, looking back on a big play from each quarter, one that will affect the team’s past, present, and future…

1st Quarter: Pierre Desir’s penalty 

Maybe it’s just the “2020” effect, but Sunday’s first quarter already feels like an eternity ago. The early stages of the frame actually granted brief hope to the Jets in the form of Marcus Maye forcing the ball from a running Josh Allen, putting the ball right into the hands of Bradley McDougald. Maye and the rest of the unit, however, were barely granted a two-minute break to compose themselves. An offensive three-and-out lasted just two minutes, forcing the defense to return to service almost immediately.

Buffalo took advantage of the Jets’ gassed defense, working their way to New York’s five-yard-line. The potential of holding Buffalo to a field goal seemed realistic and rookie kicker Tyler Bass was anything but fully reliable (2-of-4, though one miss appeared to be ruled incorrectly). If the Jets emerged from the ordeal with a 3-0 deficit, good vibes could’ve emerged from a dangerous quarter.

Alas, a Desir penalty, a defensive holding infraction to be precise, gave Buffalo a fresh set of downs as Allen’s would-be touchdown pass to John Brown fell incomplete. Allen and the Bills capitalized immediately in the form of his first of three touchdowns on the afternoon, this one being a two-yard rush. It began a streak of three consecutive touchdown drives and buried the Jets before they even knew what hit them. Desir had a tough debut in cover Brown and touted Buffalo newcomer Stefon Diggs. He was eventually benched for Nate Hairston in the second half.

Penalties continue to be an issue in the Gase era. The Jets were 10th in the final penalty rankings last season (115) and the nine yellows they drew on Sunday were tied for the most with Tampa Bay and Arizona.

2nd Quarter: Sam Darnold’s Interception

It’s possible to hold both Gase and Darnold accountable when analyzing Sunday’s disastrous results. One particularly garish play was something that simply should come from a third-year franchise quarterback. Darnold’s first interception of 2020 was an across-the-body toss that more or less served as the premature dagger for the Jets’ Sunday chances.

The defense managed to hold Buffalo scoreless on the drive that came from the Matt Milano interception, taking advantage of another Allen fumble. But still wasn’t an encouraging sing the Jets wanted to see from their franchise savior.

“The interception was just a bad play to try to fit a ball in there that I shouldn’t have,” Darnold said in his postgame comments. “It’s a bad play, it’s inexcusable, there are no excuses for it. I’ve just got to be better.”

Criticism against Gase is widespread these days…early Vegas odds have him ranked as the coach most likely to be fired midseason…but one can rip on his situations and playcalling while also acknowledging that Darnold has more to learn. The offensive line actually performed rather well in Sunday’s showing, but Darnold worked his way into coverage sacks that stalled drives. He’s got a lot to work on with a relentless rush from San Francisco visiting East Rutherford on Sunday.

3rd Quarter: Marcus Maye Forces a Field Goal

A rare Sunday silver lining of consistency was Maye. Thrust into the defensive spotlight after Jamal Adams napalmed his New York bridges, the safety got his contract year off to a good start with the tune of a game-high 10 tackles to go along with the forced fumble and a pair of sacks and pass breakups each.

Each of Maye’s sacks came on third downs in the third quarter, the first capping off a three-and-out on Buffalo’s opening trek. The latter, a three-yard loss at the cusp of the red zone, kept the Jets’ hopes temporarily alive. His takedown led to an unsuccessful 38-yard try from the rookie Bass, three plays before Darnold united with Jamison Crowder for the Jets’ most electrifying play (a 69-yard scoring hookup and the team’s first 2020 touchdown).

Maye admitted that the Jets’ biggest Sunday sin was failing to contain Allen, who made up for his turnovers with 369 yards of offense, a career-best.

“(We failed at) containing the quarterback,” Maye explained. “(Pass interference penalties) in the first half hurt us and letting (Allen) extend plays. Other than that, in the second half we got off the field like we needed to once we settled in. It wasn’t really anything that they necessarily did, it was all us I feel like.”

To Maye’s point, the Jets allowed only two field goals in the second half and allowed less than 200 yards. Maye knows that a better start against San Francisco and beyond could work wonders.

“You have to come out hot. You have to come out fast. You can’t wait until things get tough to get going. From the first play you have to come out.” Maye remarked. “We just have to execute and be disciplined in our rush lanes. When the ball is in the air, just be composed and be smart.”

4th Quarter: Josh Adams Gets a Workout

Le’Veon Bell missed a majority of the second half with a hamstring injury, one that will keep him off the field for the foreseeable future. It opens up a new opportunity for Adams, who made a name for himself as an undrafted rookie, discovered by Joe Douglas in Philadelphia. Adams finished in the top ten in rookie rushing with 511 yards and joined the Jets’ practice squad last season. He was in the same spot at the start of September but was promoted when it was clear La’Mical Perine wouldn’t be ready for Week 1.

Adams took full advantage of spelling Frank Gore in the dying stages of Sunday’s loss, earning 22 of the Jets’ final 65 yards on their last drive. The last two allowed him to score his first NFL touchdown since December 2018.

The Notre Dame alum was placed on the practice squad earlier this week, but with Bell on short-term injured reserve and extended moves on and off the squad allowed in this trying season, it stands to reason that Adams will be called upon to fill the void while Bell heals. If Sunday’s final drive is any indication, he can certainly help stem the New York bleeding.

The Jets return to action on Sunday afternoon against the San Francisco 49ers (1 p.m. ET, Fox)

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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