New York Giants: MetLife Stadium Turf Raises Eyebrows Ahead Of Week 3

The New York Giants are set to take on the 49ers in week 3 to avoid an 0-3 start. However, something other than the coming game is raising eyebrows. That’s the stadium and the condition of the turf. The Niners played their most recent game at MetLife Stadium, and it seems like the team isn’t happy with the turf quality.

While it might sound like San Francisco is complaining about something for the sake of complaining, they have a big reason behind these complaints. During their game with the Jets, there were a total of five leg injuries in the first half.

Obviously, that’s not an average amount of injuries for one half. Especially when all of those injuries are leg injuries in specific. When the list of injuries includes high profile players such as Nick Bosa and Jimmy Garoppolo, people are going to take note.

Multiple players from the 49ers have come out and said something on social media about the quality of the turf, or lack thereof.

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the league is looking into the complaints. However, a source has also told Pro Football Talk that the Steelers had no complaints when they opened the season on Monday Night Football against the Giants. If there is any problem and this isn’t simply a case of bad luck causing normal injuries, it’s a recent one at that.

Whether the Niners are happy about the field or not, they’ll have to play at MetLife Stadium for two straight games thanks to their away trip against the Jets and the Giants in consecutive weeks. The Giants will look to avoid going 0-3 by winning this game, while the Niners hold a 1-1 record after dealing the Jets a second straight loss and keeping Adam Gase firmly on the hot seat.

New York Jets: The next 14 games could well decide Sam Darnold’s future

After a dismal start to the 2020 season, Sam Darnold and the New York Jets have 14 opportunities to get this era back on track.

Two weeks into the 2020 season, the New York Jets are more or less removed from playoff contention.

It’s certainly foolhardy to eliminate a team from the NFL postseason in September, especially when playoff real estate increased by a spot in each conference. But the Jets (0-2) have done nothing to suggest they belong among the league’s contenders. The latest disaster, a 31-13 loss at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, didn’t even have the added luxury of a somewhat respectable final score like the 27-17 defeat in Buffalo provided on opening weekend.

“We haven’t shown progress,” linebacker Jordan Jenkins said, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. “It’s been rinse and repeat for the last two games. It’s either we’re going to keep getting embarrassed or we’re going to respond.”

Perhaps most disappointing in the Jets’ process has been the lack of progress on offense. Even with the expanded playoff capital, it was a tall task to put the Jets in the preseason brackets. Thus, it felt like a decent year for Sam Darnold to develop into the franchise quarterback and consistent contributor the Jets envisioned when they chose him third overall in 2018.

The offensive arsenal went through a considerable downgrade over the offseason, letting Robby Anderson walk and cutting the injured Quincy Enunwa loose. Upon their departures, Darnold was left with no receivers from his rookie season depth chart. Medium-risk, high-reward receiver options were brought in via Breshad Perriman (granted a one-year deal with $6 million in guaranteed after a strong December in Tampa Bay) and second-round pick Denzel Mims.

So while question marks lined up in his receiver spots, assurances of a revamped offensive line (headlined by first-round choice Mekhi Becton) gave Darnold some reassurance. Despite little help around him, particularly on the offensive line, Darnold still managed to produce occasional flashes of brilliance. The end of his rookie season saw him earn a come-from-behind win in Buffalo and go blow-for-blow with Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers. His first game back from illness was a 338-yard, two-touchdown masterpiece in a win over Dallas last season.

2020 was on pace to be full of games like that. It served as a chance for Darnold to become a leader. It was set to be a chance to develop chemistry with new teammates that earn long-term rights in a trying campaign. It was a year where the Jets could officially become Darnold’s team, especially with Jamal Adams napalming his New York bridges on his way to Seattle.

But, so far, 2020 has only been a year of regression.

For as much as head coach Adam Gase has felt the temperature rise on his proverbial seat, a good portion of the Jets’ fanbase must learn that it’s indeed possible to hold both he and Darnold accountable for their respective flaws. In year three, Darnold is simply making plays that a third-year franchise quarterback can’t be making.

An interception against Buffalo in Week 1 saw him throw across his body. He ran out of bounds for a loss to escape the Bills pass rush. Things were a little better against the 49ers…particularly on Darnold rollouts…but that didn’t change the final result.

“No one’s yelling at each other. We understand we have to stay together,” Darnold said after the loss, per team writer Randy Lange. “It’s only our second game of the season. Obviously we didn’t envision these two games going like this. But we’ve just got to keep our heads down (and) go to work.”

Darnold’s rough pair of 2020 outings have not only had premature mock drafts pencil the Jets in at the top of the order but also attached Clemson star quarterback and consensus top choice Trevor Lawrence’s name to the hypothetical selection. Opportunities await Darnold in the coming weeks to change the minds of fans, analysts, and New York decision-makers.

Casting Darnold’s struggles in a brighter light is the fact his rookie contract is set to expire after next season. For perhaps the first time, there could doubt lingers over whether Darnold will be granted a long-term deal. Back-to-back tough showings is slowly turning a year of risks and consequence-free football into a make-or-break campaign…a theme that’s becoming all too prevalent under Gase. Ryan Tannehill escaped the nearly annual viewings under the microscope to become a solid contributor in Tennessee. If the Jets aren’t careful, Darnold could undergo a similar NFL journey.

At the same time, the Jets have to what they can to help Darnold, a quarterback who has managed to produce some memorable moments in New York green despite the ineffectiveness around him. So far, the would-be solutions of Perriman and Mims have yielded only injuries. Chris Herndon has yet to recapture the form of his rookie season. The top solution among the amatuer general managers amongst the Jets’ fanbase has been to can the current coaching staff.

But is that fair to do to Darnold? Is a third round of new coaching in what would be his fourth season something he wants?

Even Sunday’s disaster featured ever-so-brief glimpses of Darnold brilliance, primarily a would-be sack that he turned into a touchdown pass. But the sheer number of mistakes and miscalculations that have been made in his brief time in New York would take its toll on anyone. It’s fair enough to criticize Darnold’s role in the Jets’ fall, but it’s time to analyze who shoulders more of the blame. If it’s Darnold, especially with the fifth-year option conversation looming, then it’s time for he and the offense to hunker down and overcome the numerous obstacles facing them. If it’s on Gase and the coaching staff, then they have to do something, anything, to justify team CEO Christopher Johnson’s label of “brilliant”. Gase and company may have to do it sooner rather than later; coaches have been shown to be far more expendable than franchise quarterbacks.

Even at a mere 0-2, the Jets are likely too far gone from the AFC playoff picture. But these next 14 games may mean everything the team’s offensive outlook.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Giants, Jets Already in Thick of Trevor Lawrence Derby

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is already widely predicted to be the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. He is considered to be a generational talent and will lift the fortunes of any team that that selects him.

In order for that to happen, that team must land the first pick by virtue of finishing with the worst record in the NFL in 2021. The New York Jets and the New York Giants are both on their way to challenge for that pick after both opened the season with 0-2 records.

According to the official NFL standings, the Giants and Jets may be 0-2 but they are two of the best 0-2 teams in the league (how is that possible?) thanks to the NFL’s sophisticated tiebreaker rules. There are 11 teams with 0-2 records at the moment. The league is ranking the Giants 11th overall in the NFC and the Jets 12th in the AFC.

But based on what we’ve seen thus far, that will change as the year goes on. The Jets are a mess who lost their two best defenders (Jamal Adams to a trade and C.J. Mosley opted out) before the season even started and their running back (Le’Veon Bell) and wide receiver (Jamison Crowder) are injured. They got crushed by San Francisco at MetLife Stadium even with the 49ers losing some of their best players to injury during the game.

It’s hard to see the Jets winning more than 3-4 games and they may not even get there. Head coach Adam Gase is on the verge of losing the team – if he hasn’t already – and Sam Darnold, in year three, hasn’t really shown that he’s the answer at quarterback. With the supporting cast they’ve put around him, that probably won’t happen again this year.

The Giants have been more competitive but 0-2 is 0-2. Now, they face the prospect of playing out the year without their best player, running back Saquon Barkley, who went down with a possible torn ACL on Sunday. The face the 49ers this week and then head to L.A. and Dallas to play the Rams and Cowboys after that. They also have Tampa Bay, Arizona, Baltimore and Seattle on their schedule as well as Dallas again. Let’s not forget the two games against the Eagles, a team the Giants have lost 11 of their last 12 games to, including seven straight.

What would happen of one of these two ended up with the top pick next April? Would they take Lawrence? That’s a tough choice, but consider this. A trade could bring franchise-altering draft picks and players in return. Taking Lawrence could change both teams’ fortunes forever.

The Jets’ GM, Joe Douglas, was not in the role when the Jets selected Darnold with the third overall pick  in 2018. He’s not married to him. He could take Lawrence and trade Darnold and no one would blink, especially if Darnold doesn’t show any improvement.

The Giants are run by Dave Gettleman – for the moment. The Giants have won just 12 games in the three years since Gettleman took over as GM. They won’t win many again this year and the Giants’ ownership is becoming impatient. They might have a new GM come 2021 and given the choice between Lawrence and the turnover-riddled Daniel Jones, that GM may simply turn the page on Jones.

New York Jets enjoy one silver lining in awful week 2 loss

New York Jets, Quinnen Williams

When New York Jets‘ Quinnen Williams was selected with the third overall pick just a year ago, he was touted as the next superstar defensive lineman. The supposed “can’t miss talent” from Alabama (a defensive line factory) struggled in his rookie year.

With just over two sacks and only a few solid plays in his rookie season, he spent the offseason training and turning into a well-tuned machine. With his own personal lofty expectations of becoming a game wrecker, Quinnen was rather quiet in Buffalo. Until he turned it up today.

The New York Jets saw the potential of their stud interior defender: 

Quinnen took advantage of a big opportunity against a weakened 49ers offense. Since Jimmy Garoppalo lacked weaponry with star tight end and wide receivers George Kittle and DeeBoo Samuel out of Sunday’s game. When Brandon Aiyuk, Bourne, and Reed struggled to create separation, that created opportunity.

Williams took advantage of the lack of separation and bull-rushed through that offensive line multiple times. His first sack was a complete domination of LG Laken Tomlinson. His second was a bullrush through the heart of the line that forced a fumble on backup quarterback Nick Mullens.

Williams also nabbed a TFL and a few tackles. In just one game, Williams nearly replicated his 1st season sack total. Williams still needs to continue this success throughout the season, but for a guy being labeled a bust by some, his success must feel great. He’s no Aaron Donald, but the New York Jets had a dreary day, and Williams stood as a refreshing, bright spot.

49ers criticize MetLife Stadium turf after win over New York Jets

Following an injury-laden win over the New York Jets, members of the San Francisco 49ers took issue with East Rutherford’s playing surface.

Despite earning a one-sided win over the New York Jets, the San Francisco 49ers endured some tough losses in their Sunday visit to MetLife Stadium.

Four San Francisco starters left the 31-13 triumph over the Jets due to injury. Defensive stars Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas may have torn ACLs on back-to-back plays, each carted off the field in the first quarter. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo missed the second half with a high ankle sprain, as did running back Raheem Mostert.

While the missing starters didn’t seem to affect the Niners (1-1) on Sunday, long-term ailments could severely hinder their quest to return to the Super Bowl.

San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan suspected the artificial turf at MetLife Stadium as the culprit behind the injuries.

“I know our players talked about it the entire game,” Shanahan remarked, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “Just how sticky the turf was. That was the first time people played on it, I think. It was something our guys were concerned about right away. And the results definitely made that a lot stronger.”

Shanahan wasn’t the only San Francisco representative displeased with the playing surface. Defensive end Arik Armstead’s postgame tweet implored the NFL to investigate the situation.

The host Jets (0-2) were not spared from the medical carnage. Top receiver Breshad Perriman left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury and did not return.

“I don’t exactly know why (the injuries) happened,” Shanahan added, per Mehta. “But as far as the feeling that was on the sidelines, I know that’s as many knee injuries and ankle stuff and people getting caught on a turf as I’ve ever been a part of. From what I saw, the other team did too.”

The issue is particularly troubling for the 49ers, who will face the New York Giants at the same site next Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox). ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported that 49ers players “are both afraid and anxious” about making the return trip.

MetLife Stadium has used UBU Speed Series S5-M Synthetic Turf since 2016. Other stadiums that employ the surface include the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans and Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. The Niners are set visit the former on November 15.

The Jets hit the road to battle the Indianapolis Colts next Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS). Their next game in East Rutherford will be a Thursday night contest against Denver on October 1.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Four plays that shaped the New York Jets’ Sunday fate vs San Francisco

The New York Jets’ ugly loss to the defending Super Bowl finalists on Sunday was perfectly defined in four plays.

This time, even the scoreboard couldn’t mask just how ugly the start of the decade has been to New York Jets football.

The San Francisco 49ers opened the Jets’ MetLife Stadium slate with an 80-yard touchdown run from Raheem Mostert, foreshadowing the carnage to come in what became an 31-13 victory on Sunday afternoon. San Francisco rushers tallied 182 yards overall, while the Jets countered with only 277 yards, 17 first downs, and Sam Ficken field goals.

Following a 27-17 loss on opening weekend in Buffalo, one whose final score hid just how one-sided the affair truly was, the Jets (0-2) fell behind right from the literal get-go, falling to a San Francisco team that lost Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Bosa, and Raheem Mostert to injury throughout the course of the game.

ESM recalls the four plays, one from each quarter, that played the biggest factor in the Jets’ fate…

1st Quarter: Monstrous Mostert

If one was writing a script in San Francisco’s favor about Sunday’s game, one could say a touchdown from the first play from scrimmage would be too on-the-nose for horror-seeking Jets fans. Alas, terror beyond imagination came to wild, screaming life upon San Franciso’s takeover.

Before his medical departure, Mostert ripped off an 80-yard score before many watching from home took their seats. It put the Jets in a major hole early on, one the team never escaped. Most major upsets are energized by the underdog keeping pace with the favorite and forcing them into an early deficit. The Jets did the exact opposite against the defending NFC champions.

2nd Quarter: 4th and Done

The middle stages of the second quarter was somewhat fueled by green hope. New York narrowed the score to 7-3 and even Jordan Reed’s first touchdown, one that expanded it to 11 didn’t seem like a dagger at the time. After San Francisco established a two-possession lead, the Jets embarked on a methodic 11-play, 55-yard drive. It began with a 13-yard run from Frank Gore, good for one of four first downs the Jets would earn on the drive. Things stalled, however, with a one-yard fourth down at the cusp of the San Francisco red zone.

Gase should be praised for his gutsiness by going for it. A field goal, let’s face it, was going to do the Jets no good. It’s great to see Ficken converting his opportunities, but infiltrating Niner territory by that margin was no guarantee. Any opportunity, especially one as manageable as a one-yard fourth down, should be capitalized on.

But the single-back option with Josh Adams in to was highly ill-advised. Not only has Gore proven himself reliable in short-yardage situations in his advanced age, but the single-back formation with no wall in front of Adams proved costly. The days of Richie Anderson and Tony Richardson are long gone, but the Jets effectively used tight end Trevon Wesco in a role similar to a fullback at several points last season. Providing no protection to Adams allowed an immediate San Francisco invasion that more or less shifted momentum permanently.

The 49ers immediately capitalized on the error. In what became Jimmy Garoppolo’s final drive of the game, they went 80 yards in 13 plays to score on Reed’s second touchdown just before the halftime gun.

3rd Quarter: What the Fick?

A dishonroable mention should be dispensed to the Jets’ defense allowing a 3rd and 31 to end in a first down through a 55-yard run from Jerick McKinnon, one that yielded a Robbie Gould field goal. Alas, the ensuing offensive possession perhaps provided an early look at the Jets’ 2020 mindset…one of quitting.

The failed fourth down attempt in the latter stages of the second quarter perhaps ruined the Jets’ Sunday psyche from there on out. With San Francisco’s offense mire in incostincy under the watch of backup Nick Mullens, a glimmer of hope emerged for the Jets when they made another red zone trip in the middle stages of the third quarter, down 24-3. The opportunity was arranged by Pierre Desir’s first interception in green.

If a field goal was meaningless in the second quarter, it was downright unspeakable in the third quarter. Even a short conversion from Ficken would make only a cosmetic difference at most. As Bob Dylan once famously wrote, when you’ve got nothing you’ve got nothing to lose. Alas, an 18-point lead can’t be erased in two possessions…the Jets, after all, don’t compete in the XFL (which allowed for nine-point possessions).

Yet, the gutsiness Gase displayed in the first half had completely evaporated by the second. The choice to kick a field goal in a 24-3, third quarter setting was indicative of a team that had completely quit on a Sunday opportunity. Things were probably beyond saving, but to see the Jets flat out admit hopelessness was troubling.

4th Quarter: BB-Late

Last week Adams earned himself an opportunity through a garbage time score. This time, Braxton Berrios made the most of an opportunity as the recipient of a great play from Sam Darnold. The quarterback partially made up for an otherwise brutal day by escaping the relentless San Francisco rush, find Berrios on the run to complete the 30-yard score. It’s a play that will likely ultimately be forgotten in the long run, but Darnold was at least able to provide a single highlight, one that could to an expanded role if Breshad Perriman’s injury winds up being long-term.

The Jets return to action next Sunday afternoon against the Indianapolis Colts (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS)

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

3 keys for a New York Jets win against San Francisco in week 2

New York Jets, Jimmy G

The New York Jets were utterly embarrassed this Sunday in Buffalo. The team looked poorly coached, poorly prepared, and not ready to face even the worst teams in this league. Heading into today’s game, there are there key factors that will decide whether or not the team starts the season at 1-1 or 0-2.

Take Advantage of Injuries

Today’s game will be a tough one for San Francisco. With George Kittle out for the game, the 49ers will revert to Jordan Reed as their starting tight end. For those that don’t remember, when he wasn’t battling concussions, Reed was a productive tight end in Washington. Still, he is no Greg Kittle. The Jets need to take advantage of the lack of weaponry that Jimmy G has and let them rely on the run. The Bills rushing attack, outside of Josh Allen, could not get going against the Jets front 7. Quite frankly, if the Jets can keep that offense at bay, this could be a close game.

As for the other side of the football, Richard Sherman is out, and that could also be a huge help. Without Sherman, the Jets will have an opportunity to face the 49ers backup corners, which ended well for Atlanta last year. Granted, the Jets have no Julio Jones, but they can have success like the Falcons had when Julio put up over 100 yards. The Jets receivers need to create space and make Darnold’s life a little easier in order to win today.

Run Gore To The Ground

I hate to say it, but in the few reps Gore had last week, he looked like the best running back on the field. The 37-year-old back is a workhorse, and I think him complimenting a healthy LaMical Perine could be a nice rushing attack until Lev Bell is back. The issue is, this is one of the best defensive lines in the game. Nick Bosa, Javon Kinlaw, Arik Armstead, and Solomon Thomas make up that talented group, and all four can be game wreckers. If Gore can continue the momentum he had in camp today, the Jets could pick up some yards on the ground against this tough defensive line; if not, it will be a long day. 

TACKLE

The Jets’ biggest issue has fallen somewhat under the radar. The Jets could not tackle last Sunday. Consistently, the Jets were creating pressure in the backfield. Yet, they would get back there and fail to wrap up the receiver, quarterback, or rusher. This led to a long day of exploiting that poor play. The Jets need to come out with much better tackling today, or else the 49ers will run wild on this Jets team.

New York Jets: Quinnen Williams ready for unique Sunday challenge

New York Jets, Quinnen Williams

New York Jets defensive lineman Quinnen Williams has a little extra motivation to play well against San Francisco on Sunday.

Week 1’s no-show in Buffalo and the return to MetLife Stadium should be enough motivation for every member of the New York Jets going into this Sunday’s tilt against the San Francisco 49ers (1 p.m. ET, Fox). But defensive lineman Quinnen Williams has an extra personal layer of incentive, one to show just exactly what San Francisco’s missing.

Two of the top three picks from the 2019 NFL Draft will square off on Sunday. Williams went third to the Jets during the selection proceedings in Nashville, minutes after Nick Bosa was chosen by the 49ers. The instant gratification nature of the draft, accompanied by its obsession with the question of what might’ve been, ensured that Williams and Bosa would be forever connected for the rest of their careers, even if matchups between the Jets and Niners only come as often as the Summer Olympics.

San Francisco general manager John Lynch strongly hinted that the decision at No. 2 came down to one of the defensive linemen. The final decision of Bosa didn’t stop Lynch from singing Williams’ praises prior to the fateful day.

“The season he had may have been as good of a college football season that I’ve ever seen,” Lynch said, per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area after Williams tallied 19.5 tackles for a loss and eight sacks in his redshirt sophomore season at Alabama. “He was just dominant. What a season he had. He’s a spectacular player.”

By now, it’s clear that Bosa more than justified Lynch’s decision. He earned 13 sacks, including four in San Francisco’s run to Super Bowl LIV, en route to the Associated Press Rookie of the Year honors. Williams struggled in his debut season with the Jets (0-1), a year plagued with injuries and inconsistency. His final ledger consisted of 28 tackles, including 2.5 sacks.

2020 got off to a somewhat better start. He was arrested in March after attempting to bring a firearm on an airplane, but he made positive headlines in organizing charitable endeavors in both the metropolitan area and in his native Birmingham in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Williams knows that, on the field, his Jets career hasn’t exactly gone as envisioned yet. While he was one of the few Jets to earn praise from the 27-17 disaster in Buffalo…defensive coordinator Gregg Williams offered praise of collapsing Josh Allen’s pocket…the defender knows he’s capable of much more.

“I got to do much more. I have to go out there and give it my all, every single play, every single down,” Quinnen Williams said this week, per Zach Braziller of the New York Post. “That’s what I expect from myself. My standards are super high for myself, so I feel like I haven’t (done) what I can do and I should be doing.”

Williams can certainly make a statement on Sunday, as the Jets seek their first win of the season against the defending NFC champions. A New York defense missing several key components through trades (Jamal Adams), opt-outs (C.J. Mosley), or injuries (Blake Cashman, possibly Avery Williamson) will need someone to step up to stop a San Franciso offense that ranked second in NFL offense last season.

The connection between Williams and San Francisco (0-1) wasn’t much of a talking point in Florham Park this week, but some Niners appear to be aware of the bond he and Bosa indirectly share.

“Obviously, hindsight is 20-20 but Nick at number two is a no-brainer. And Quinnen was a no brainer,” blocker Trent Williams said in a report from Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee. “At that point, it was just kind of what you prefer as a team, as a coaching staff and as an organization. Obviously, I don’t think you could have gone wrong with either player. I do feel Nick has turned into one of the best at his position. Quinnen has that same ability. So we expect him to be disruptive on Sunday and we expect to try to contain him. Both of those guys are saturated with talent and I don’t think you could have went wrong either way.”

Bosa himself commented on the connection in the same report.

“I’m just really happy that I ended up (in San Francisco) and I’m glad they felt confident enough to pick me,” Bosa said. “I’m sure (Williams) is going to get the hang of it here pretty soon, because he’s super talented. He’s got everything he needs. I mean, (we’re) two good players, and I’m happy I got picked one above him.”

There’s still time for pick no. 3 to fulfill that potential and make the Jets equally satisfied. Williams’ next big opportunity comes against the team that passed on him, one that went with Bosa to anchor their defensive line.

While his stats and play may not meet anyone standards, not even his own, the most famous examples of a Jets-Crimson Tide crossover is a believer in his fellow former Tuscaloosa dweller.

“Quinnen is a great athlete, a terrific athlete,” Namath told Kristian Dyer of Sports Illustrated. “He’s going to be around. I like his personality, he’s a nice man but he’s still a hell of a defensive lineman – you don’t have to be one of those guys who is raging in the locker room.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets RB Frank Gore ready for one more San Francisco memory

Frank Gore’s first chance in an expanded role with the New York Jets comes against original employers from the Bay Area.

September has been a delightful throwback to the late 2000s/early 2010s for Miami sports fans. The Heat are taking on the Boston Celtics in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals. The Marlins are aiming for their first winning season since 2009. On Sunday, Hurricanes legend Frank Gore will partake in an NFL football game involving the San Francisco 49ers.

Gore isn’t donning San Francisco’s red and gold this time around, rather the green and white of the New York Jets (1 p.m. ET, Fox). The Jets’ 2020 MetLife Stadium debut comes against the team that hosted Gore’s heyday. After three seasons in Coral Gables, the Magic City native Gore entered the league as the 65th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. He has gone from third-round pick to third all-time in rushing in the ensuing 15 seasons, standing at 15,371 yards entering Sunday. Only Emmitt Smith (18,355) and Walter Payton (16,726) remain ahead of him.

The first 11,073 of Gore’s yards came with the 49ers, while the most recent 24 came with the Jets (0-1) in their Week 1 loss to Buffalo. New York is the fourth stop Gore has made on his football tour since departing San Francisco after the 2014 campaign. This will be the second time that Gore faces the team that gave him NFL life, earning 86 yards as a member of the Colts in an October 2017 win.

If these truly are the final NFL days for the 37-year-old Gore, his career may be coming full circle in an undesirable fashion. Gore was a rare silver lining of consistency during the 49ers’ mid-2000s rebuild kickstarted by the departures of Terrell Owens, Garrison Hearst, and Jeff Garcia after the 2003 campaign. A streak of eight consecutive non-winning seasons went by a little faster thanks to Gore’s prowess. One such occasion was a 214-yard single-game output in just his second season, earned during a 20-14 win over Seattle in 2006.

San Francisco eventually got it together in 2011, upon the hiring of Jim Harbaugh. Three consecutive playoff trips followed, all of which ended no earlier than the NFC title game. Nowadays, Gore has eschewed ring chasing for latching on to budding football projects. He previously worked with the late rebuild projects in Miami and Buffalo, making a playoff appearance in the latter. Now he’s working with a Jets squad that’s eager to make a trying season of transition move a little more smoothly.

So far, it appears the transition is going well.

“Everything that comes out of his mouth is kind of like wisdom,” fellow Jets rusher Le’Veon Bell said in training camp report from ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “”The fact that he’s been playing so long is because of his training and the things he does in the offseason.” He tells me, ‘You have the same trainer I have and you’re doing the same things I am, so you can do it, Le’Veon.’ That’s why I feel like I’m going in the right direction, and I feel like I’m doing the right things correctly because I’m hearing it from guys who have done it already.”

Gore was likely added for depth and inspiration, but the San Francisco reunion coincides with Gore taking on increased duties in the Jets’ offense. With Bell on short-term injured reserve (hamstring) with other offensive weapons and depth relatively short behind him (Josh Adams, newcomer Kalen Ballege, injured rookie La’Mical Perine), Gore will be likely be heavily relied upon when the Jets welcome in the defending NFC champions. San Francisco (0-1) allowed 180 yards on the ground in their narrow opening weekend loss to Arizona.

True to form, it’s a challenge Gore is ready to take. He was familiarity with Adam Gase’s offense during the 2018 season with Miami’s other football squad, the Dolphins. Gase and Gore also collaborated in 2008, when the former was an offensive assistant in the Bay Area.

“I know that’s a big load, Le’Veon not playing this week and being out for a couple weeks,” Gore said to team reporter Randy Lange. “But even when Le’Veon was here, I was always preparing like I was the guy just because you never know what happens. That’s why every day I go out on the practice field and prepare like I do.”

“He looks the same as he did 12 years ago,” Gase said in Cimini’s report. “I can’t explain it. It’s unbelievable how, when I watch him, I flash back to 2008. He looks the same. I don’t know how. It doesn’t make sense, but Frank has been one who refuses to listen to what anybody else says. He goes out there and he’s an old-school football player. He looks good. His burst looks good. His vision is never going to change. It’s going to be like that when he’s 60. Frank is special. There’s a reason why he’s third all-time in rushing yards.”

Having never earned more than 1,000 yards with the Hurricanes, it might be a little shocking to some to see Gore rank among the most illustrious rushers in NFL history. But Gore knows to cherish every moment, every play he has left….because he knows how it nearly never happened.

Gore partook in Miami’s legendary championship trek as a true freshman in 2001, backing up fellow future NFL back Clinton Portis en route to their Rose Bowl blowout over Nebraska. But prior to his sophomore campaign, a torn ACL ended affairs before they ever truly began.

After watching Miami return to the national title game (their controversial Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State) and his successor Willis McGahee break Coral Gables records left and right, Gore returned to the backfield in 2003…ironically sharing duties with the late Walter Payton’s son Jarrett (who made a name for himself in NFL Europe). Gore began his season with three straight triple-digit games in yardage (including 127 yards and the finishing touchdown in a 23-point comeback win over Florida). But another torn ACL ended his year early, along with, some felt, his football career entirely.

Instead, Gore returned to play a full 12-game season, featuring a collegiate-career-best 191 yards in an upset win over Virginia. San Francisco took him in the third-round that spring.

“Me going through all the injuries, and then when I get to the league just hearing all the negative stuff, I set my goals and said I’ll never let a man judge me,” Gore said of his injuries to Jim Trotter of NFL.com back in May. “The only man I’ll let judge me is that man up above. But I was determined to be the best in my class.”

Irony continues to reign in the fact that Gore’s new duties coincide with the 49ers’ visit. His former stomping grounds of Candlestick Park having been torn down, time will tell if Gore is able to visit Levi’s Stadium as a player, where fans of the ovaled SF can pay give him a proper send-off.

If such a reunion doesn’t come to pass, Gore has nonetheless ensured his career will end where it began. The rusher confirmed to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area that he and the team have an agreement in place that will allow him to retire as a member of the 49ers. His No. 21, one he currently bears with the Jets, will likely be retired alongside the San Francisco greats like Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, and Ronnie Lott. Despite the Niners’ illustrious history, no rusher has earned red and gold immortality since High McElhenny and Joe Perry were invited in 1971.

“That’s the team that gave me the opportunity to do something I always wanted to do when I was a kid, play NFL ball,” Gore said in Maiocco’s report. “I was there for 10 great years. Been on bad teams and been on great teams. I love it out there.”

For now, though, the 49ers are only a challenger in Gore’s path. He may not be ring chasing from a traditional standpoint, but that doesn’t mean he’s not looking to earn a few wins on his potential way out.

“”I want to win, especially coming off a loss last week,” Gore said, per Lange. “I want us to look a lot better as an offensive team, and that’s doing whatever it takes to win.

“It could be the 49ers, it could be Seattle, whoever. I just want to get a win.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets Game Preview Week 2: San Francisco 49ers

New York Jets, Jimmy G

The September road gets no easier for the New York Jets, who welcome in the defending NFC champions on Sunday afternoon.

What: San Francisco 49ers at New York Jets
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Watch: Fox

Whoever formed the 2020 NFL schedule was probably not a New York Jets fan.

A week after opening their season with a tilt against an up-and-coming divisional foe, the Jets open their 2020 MetLife Stadium slate against the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m. ET, Fox). Each is looking to avenge opening week losses against familiar competition.

The Jets (0-1) experienced the worst kind of deja vu last weekend, opening their season with a loss to the Buffalo Bills for the second straight year. In their 27-17 defeat, the Jets allowed 404 yards of offense, 369 coming from the arms and legs of Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen. It allowed the Bills to build a 21-0 lead before the Jets earned second half touchdowns from Jamison Crowder and Josh Adams. Defensively, safety Marcus Maye impressed on the statsheet with a game-best 10 tackles and two sacks while also forcing an Allen fumble.

“It was about as bad of a start offensively as we could have had,” head coach Adam Gase said of the loss, per transcripts from the Jets. “We didn’t do anything when the defense did a good job getting a turnover. Complimentary football was non-existent throughout most of the game. We just really did not play well. The disappointing aspect is just watching the guys work all week and the excitement level coming into this game. We have a lot to work on and a lot of things to get fixed.”

San Francisco’s follow-up to their Super Bowl LIV appearance didn’t go as intended, as they fell 24-20 to the Arizona Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium. Raheem Mostert tallied 151 total yards of offense and a receiving touchdown in defeat.

The Series

This will be the 14th all-time meeting between the Jets and 49ers, with the latter leading the all-time series 10-3. With the scheduling formula, the teams meet only once every four years. The Jets took home the last meeting in overtime by a 23-17 final in 2016. It was a career day for Bilal Powell, who had a career-best 145 yards and the game-winning score in the extra period. San Francisco dominated the most recent meeting at MetLife Stadium, a 34-0 shellacking in 2012.

History Happens: 1983

Historically, the Jets and 49ers have been at the opposite end of the football success spectrum. The Jets had their share of success in the 1980s, but it was nothing compared to San Francisco’s quartet of Super Bowls. New York, however, was on the right side of things in a 1983 matchup at Candlestick Park. In a victorious 27-13 final, Jerry Holmes stifled the potential tying drive by taking a Joe Montana interception back 43 yards for the sealing score. Richard Todd threw for 201 yards and a score, while Scott Dierking added a rushing touchdown.

They Said It

“He has a short memory no matter what goes on good or bad. He’s always positive no matter what the situation is. On both sides of the ball, we look up to him. We look for him to get everybody going on that side. He’s the leader on that side of the ball and on this team. We will all rally behind him and I’m sure the offense will too. He always finds a way to bounce back,” Maye said. “I don’t expect him to come out with any doubt at all. He’s a great competitor and he knows how to get those guys going. I’m excited to see them come out fast, come out hot this week and he’ll be alright.”Jets safety Marcus Maye on Sam Darnold, per Eric Allen

“Obviously, hindsight is 20-20 but Nick at number two is a no-brainer. And Quinnen was a no brainer. At that point, it was just kind of what you prefer as a team, as a coaching staff, and as an organization. Obviously, I don’t think you could have gone wrong with either player. I do feel Nick has turned into one of the best at his position. Quinnen has that same ability. So we expect him to be disruptive on Sunday and we expect to try to contain him. Both of those guys are saturated with talent and I don’t think you could have went wrong either way.”-49ers tackle Trent Williams comparing Quinnen Williams and Nick Bosa, per Chris Biderman

Matchup To Watch

T Mekhi Becton vs. DE Nick Bosa

Becton has been thrown into the NFL fire in his professional debut. He dealt with the likes of Jerry Hughes last week that powered San Francisco into the most recent Big Game. Bosa exploded onto the NFL scene in his rookie year and, as evidenced by Williams’ comments, he might have a little extra something to prove as the 49ers battle Quinnen Williams, who went one pick later in the 2019 draft at third overall.

The Jets’ blocking was one of the rare consistent silver linings of Sunday’s opener. Becton’s performance was particularly inspiring, turning in a performance good enough for Pro Football Focus’ top-rated offensive rookie in Week 1 games. The second presents on opportunity or reckoning for the offensive line. If they truly want to show the NFL that their offensive line has taken a step in the right direction…and perhaps provide a stronger sense of security for Sam Darnold…pacifying the 49ers’ relentless rush would be an inspiring step in the right direction on both a local and national level.

The Jets Will Win If…

Sam Darnold responds to perhaps the biggest challenge his NFL career has faced yet.

A good portion of the Jets’ fanbase has to realize that criticism can be levied toward Adam Gase while also holding Darnold accountable. Opening weekend was not a strong showing for Darnold, who put himself in situations and issues that third-year franchise quarterbacks frankly shouldn’t be facing in their third year at the helm. In today’s world of instant gratification and response through hot football takes, that can be deadly for a quarterback’s social status in this league. Some mock drafts have gone as far as to pencil Trevor Lawrence into the Jets’ 2021 draft slot. A good game would do a lot to stifle those concerns.

The window of opportunity opens even wider upon the injury-induced absence of starting cornerback Jason Verrett. Darnold has risen to the occasion before when the odds are stacked against him…remember his return from illness against the Cowboys last season? He might need another one to create some peace of mind.

The 49ers Will Win If…

They take care of business. Until further notice, the Jets are prime trap game fodder, that possibility only increasing with each opponent’s prestige.

San Francisco is going to a popular pick in knockout pools over the next two weeks, as they return to the metropolitan area next Sunday to take on the Giants. The trap game case is only increased with their constant travel to the other side of the country. But the 49ers can not get caught looking ahead. The Week 1 scores, ones that left San Francisco as the only fruitless squad in their group, proved that the NFC West is going to be one of the most, if not the most, division in football season. Arizona’s road win in Santa Clara shows they may be ahead of schedule. The already dangerous Seahawks looked to be on another level with Jamal Adams in tow. In Los Angeles, the Rams christened both SoFi Stadium and their redemption tour with a nationally televised win over Dallas. Simply put, the 49ers can’t afford to go 0-2. Desperation only rises with both Verrett and star tight end George Kittle out due to injury.

The Super Bowl runner-up has missed the ensuing postseason in three of the past six seasons. San Francisco must take care of business to avoid that same fate.

Prediction

Even with the time zones on their side, it was already enough of a tall task to ask the Jets to take down the defending Super Bowl finalists. The fact they’ll be missing several major contributors (Jamison Crowder, Le’Veon Bell, Denzel Mims) and the idea that San Francisco will still be stewing from the misstep against Arizona only makes the task even more daunting. Thus, it’s probably not wise to expect any miracles on the New York end.

Moral victories will be the name of the game for the Jets in the foreseeable future. If they play well against an elite team, they can hang their heads high. Victories on the scoreboard, simply put, may still be at a premium.

49ers 27, Jets 14

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags