New York Jets: La’Mical Perine backs Sam Darnold as QB

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

Perine, poised to be the New York Jets’ top rushing option, expressed his support for the incumbent quarterback on NFL Network.

New York Jets running back La’Mical Perine appears to have a future in the organization. He hopes the guy who handed him his first NFL carries has one as well.

With calls for Sam Darnold’s departure reaching a bit of a fever pitch with both Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson potentially seeking new homes, Perine put his support behind the incumbent starter when it comes to the team’s future during an appearance on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football.

“No disrespect to any of the quarterbacks within the draft, but I actually had a chance to play with Sam and was able to be in a backfield with him. I know what he brings to a team,” Perine said in a response to co-host Nate Burleson. “He’s a great leader…We’ve just got to put good weapons around him, and he can very well succeed and be one of the top quarterbacks in this league.”

“He’s a great vocal leader, a great guy to be around, competitive and I’m ready to look forward to him,” Perine said. “I hope he’s on our team this year…being my starting quarterback.”

Perine joined the team as a fourth-round pick out of Florida last season, shortly after earning MVP honors in the Gators’ Orange Bowl victory over Virginia. Injuries and a late bout with COVID-19 limited Perine to 10 games, during which he tallied 232 yards on 64 carries, two of which went for a touchdown. With Le’Veon Bell already gone and Frank Gore and Ty Johnson up for free agency, Perine is set to be the Jets’ top returning rusher.

The 120th overall pick of April’s draft praised his chemistry and training with Gore, saying he hopes the fellow Florida collegiate legend dons a reflective green chrome helmet as well.

“Coming into the NFL, you just try to find that routine. A guy who’s played 16 years, he has his routine,” Perine responded to Kim Jones. “I just tried to learn everything I can, whether it’s watching film, watching his routine, seeing how he’s such a great player. Honestly, I can tell why he’s played 16 years in this league, just by the way he takes care of his body, how he moves in day in and day out. I’m hoping he can be on the Jets as well.”

Set to enter his second season, Perine is likewise excited to welcome in head coach Robert Saleh and his new gang of assistants. He addressed the new regime in an opening question from Peter Schrager, recalling their Week 2 showdown with Saleh’s 49ers back in September.

“They had a ton of energy,” Perine recalled. “I feel like he can bring that energy toward the Jets. We need that, that great positive energy to have, to be a successful team this here.”

See the full interview here.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

WATCH: CB Taron Johnson makes history, shifts momentum to Buffalo

Johnson made NFL history with a 101-yard defensive score, giving the Buffalo Bills a two-score lead in the Divisional tilt vs. Baltimore.

The AFC Divisional playoff tilt between the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens failed to live up to its high-profile offensive billing through nearly three quarters. But the Bills defense was happy to make up for it.

Shortly after the Bills took a 10-3 lead through an 11-play, 66-yard drive that ended on a three-yard connection between Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs, Baltimore looked poised to knot things up with a long drive of their own. But on the 15th play, Bills cornerback Taron Johnson kept the momentum in the Western New York corner with NFL history. Johnson’s interception, taking a pass intended for tight end Mark Andrews wound up going coast-to-coast, a 101-yard return to glory for a pick-six that shook Orchard Park to its core. Johnson’s triple-digit runback ties the longest interception return in NFL history, uniting with George Teague of Green Bay, who accomplished the feat during the 1994 NFC Wild Card round against Detroit.

Should Buffalo hang on for the win, this would arguably be the second consecutive week where a big play from Johnson permanently put momentum on the Bills’ side. Last weekend in Indianapolis, Johnson stopped Jonathan Taylor from scoring on third-and-goal, one yard away from the Buffalo end zone. Had Taylor scored, the Colts would’ve had 17-6 lead late in the first half. The big stop led to a turnover-on-downs on the next play, with Buffalo taking the game by a 27-24 final. Johnson is in the midst of his third season with the Bills, chosen in the fourth round of the 2018 draft.

Buffalo continues to hold a 17-3 lead on the Ravens in the fourth quarter. The winner of Saturday’s game will battle the winner of Sunday’s tilt between Kansas City and Cleveland (3:05 p.m. ET, CBS) in the AFC title game.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

VIDEO: Josh Allen, Dawson Knox end Buffalo Bills’ playoff TD drought

For the first time since December 1996, someone from the Buffalo Bills visited Orchard Park’s end zones during a playoff game.

It wasn’t pretty by conventional means. But when you’ve gone just over 24 years without experiencing the glory of a playoff touchdown, you’ll take them however you can get.

Josh Allen and Dawson Knox collaborated to end yet another dubious streak of futility in Buffalo Bills history, as the quarterback found his third-year tight end for a three-yard score that gave the Bills a 7-3 lead over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Wild Card matchup at Bills Stadium. It was the first playoff touchdown scored in Orchard Park since Jacksonville’s Jimmy Smith scored on a two-yard pass from Mark Brunell during the Wild Card round in December 1996. As for Bills representation, it’s the first postseason score at home by the home team since Jeff Burris took back a Brunell interception 38 yards and the first offensive tally since Thurman Thomas scored in the same game, a 30-27 Jacksonville victory.

After the Bills went three-and-out on their first drive by keeping Allen in the pocket, the MVP candidate was able to break free on his second attempt with the ball. Situated at his own 15 after the Colts took a 3-0 lead, Allen accounted for all but six yards on the ensuing 85-yard trek to the end zone. He got things started with his legs on a 12-yard tally on the second play before getting into Indianapolis territory with a 36-yard strike to Stefon Diggs. The score itself wasn’t pretty…Allen appeared to attempt to run it in himself before he got it off at the last minute with the pocket collapsing…but Knox was wide for a catch worth six points not matter its attractiveness. Tyler Bass would later boot the extra point to make to create a 7-3 Buffalo lead.

Allen also earned first downs through passes to Devin Singletary and Gabriel Davis. Each of Allen’s first six completion went to a different receiver, with Zack Moss and Cole Beasley also earning catches in the opening frame.

Buffalo continues to lead Indianapolis 7-3 in the early stages of the second quarter.

Geof Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

VIDEO: Buffalo Bills battle in the snow after Winter Storm Gail

A snowy civil war erupted in Buffalo Bills circles on Thursday, as defenders engaged in a snowball fight, captured by Terry Pegula.

Rumors of in-fighting amongst the Buffalo Bills are all too true, proven by none other than one of the team’s owners on their official social media channels.

There’s no cause for concern in Orchard Park, however, as their civil war is one of the snowy variety.

Much to the presumed chagrin of their upcoming opponents, Winter Storm Gail did little to stop business as usual at ADPRO Sports Training House. As the Bills prepare for a Saturday tilt against the Denver Broncos (4:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network), their defenders ended their Thursday proceedings with a snowball fight. Video of the ensuing battle was posted on the official Bills accounts, with filming credited to co-owner Terry Pegula.

Cornerback Tre’Davious White is perhaps the strongest force in the video, guarding the top of a large snow pile near the entrance to the fieldhouse. White apparently came prepared, tossing several premade snowballs at his jovial teammates. An assault from some offensive players, led by practice squad running back Christian Wade, forces White to abandon his mount. Several other defenders attempt to claim the pill of themselves through swooping snow all over their teammates, with Ed Oliver and Josh Norman holding out the longest. The entire exchange is bravely captured by Pegula, who co-owns the team with his wife Kim.

The Buffalo area is, of course, no stranger to snow and freezing temperatures. It has played host to several snowy showdowns at Bills Stadium, such as the memorable get-together against Indianapolis in December 2017. The Binghamton area received 40 inches of snow from Gail on Wednesday afternoon into evening, with two additional inches falling on Thursday. It made for some picturesque settings at Bills Stadium, which will next host Buffalo’s regular-season finale on January 3 against Miami.

In either case, the Bills (10-3) should be well-prepared for what should be a chilly visit to the Rocky Mountains. The sun will set shortly after kickoff on Saturday, with temperatures expected to drop into the high 20s. Precipitation is not expected, thoughts are expected to reach 11 miles per hour.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen chides NFC East as division race looms

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen earned another win against the NFC East, taking a not-so-subtle jab at the division’s dismal 2020 output.

Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen knows a thing or two about beating the NFC, having gone 3-1 against the division’s quartet last season. He earned another win against the tragic foursome during an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show this weekend.

Speaking with the former NFL punter, Allen was asked about the Bills’ ongoing question to clinch their first AFC East title since 1995. Buffalo sits at 8-3 heading into their Monday night showdown against San Francisco in Glendale, Arizona (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC), one game ahead of the Miami Dolphins (7-4).

McAfee discussed the current state of the division, noting that the New England Patriots (5-6), winners of all but three division titles in the new century couldn’t be counted out despite their dismal record and that the dismal New York Jets (0-11) were simply “whatever”. He asked Allen if there was a sense of “why not us” in Buffalo’s journey. That’s when Allen revealed his roast.

“Exactly, why not us?” Allen rhetorically asked. “But again, we’re sitting at 8-3. And eight wins doesn’t win you the division unless you’re…” he paused before somewhat sheepishly adding “in the NFC East” with a smile.

The comment sent McAfee and his off-screen co-hosts into hysterics, one of whom cheers in support. McAfee tells Allen “that was awesome” before Allen gets the interview back to serious matters.

“In all seriousness, coach (Sean) McDermott preaches playoff caliber. Our goal is to get into the playoffs. Once you get into the playoffs, anybody’s got a chance to win it. The easiest way to get into the playoffs is to win your division. So that’s been our goal and mindset ever since we’ve stepped foot back here in August or whatever month that we got back here.”

Allen also further praises McDermott, saying that he has “been doing a great job with us”. The full interview can be found here.

If anyone knows of the former glory of the NFC East, it’s the Bills, whose four consecutive Super Bowl defeats came at the hands of three teams from the division (the New York Giants, Washington Football Team, and the Dallas Cowboys, the latter beating them twice). But the modern NFC East has become a cesspool for disappointing, sloppy football, as every team in the division is at least three games under .500 as December football opens. The Giants are the current leaders with a 4-7 record, owners of a head-to-head tiebreaker with Washington. Behind them, the Philadelphia Eagles sit a 3-7-1, while the Cowboys are 3-8. The winner of the division will likely have the lowest win percentage of any NFL playoff team in the modern era, topping the 2010-11 Seattle Seahawks, who won the NFC West with a 7-9 record.

Despite the division’s ineptitude, its teams routinely appear in high-profile television slots. For example, Dallas will make up a date on Fox and NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football package on Tuesday against the Baltimore Ravens (8:05 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills, Cole Beasley talk about Sunday trickery

Beasley’s touchdown toss against Los Angeles is the Buffalo Bills’ second scoring pass from a non-QB this season.

Kelly, Kemp, Ferguson, Flutie, Bledsoe…Beasley??? 

It’s not likely that Cole Beasley will go down amongst the great passers in Buffalo Bills history, even if his official passer rating sticks at 158.3. Beasley joined fellow non-quarterbacks John Brown and Preston Ridlehuber as the only players in Bills history to earn a perfect mark in the category on Sunday. Buffalo trickery led to the receiver tossing a 20-yard touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis during a tilt against the Los Angeles Chargers at Bills Stadium en route to a 27-17 victory. It was similar antics that allowed the rusher Ridlehuber and the receiver Brown to likewise earn passing scores in 1969 and 2019 respectively (Beasley’s current teammate Brown also had a scoring throw in last year’s playoff cameo in Houston). 

The Bills (8-3) were able to pass the play off as a bubble screen, with Beasley taking a pass behind the line of scrimmage from regular quarterback Josh Allen. Davis faked a block before heading downfield, drawing the Chargers’ attention to Beasley. With the ruse in full swing, Beasley lobbed the ball to a wide open Davis, helping the rookie catcher earn his fourth touchdown pass of the season and to give Buffalo a 14-6 lead in the second quarter.

According to Davis, the gridiron sorcery was several weeks in the making, giving him full confidence that the deception would work. 

“I knew it was going to work,” Davis said, per Jourdan LaBarbour of BuffaloBills.com. “We run a lot of those bubble screens, so as soon as I saw (Chargers cornerback Chris Harris) shoot, I just knew the ball was coming to me and Cole was able to, you know, put a dart. He said he threw it kind of hard to get it in there but…it was a softball. It was an easy catch and I’m glad we could make that connection.”

Mandatory Credit: Jamie Germano-USA TODAY NETWORK

Beasley became the second Bills receiver to flip the narrative of a touchdown pass this season, joining Isaiah McKenzie. The latter threw a four-yard pass to Allen in the infamous loss to Arizona earlier this month. Alas for McKenzie, the passer rating formula left him just short of a perfect mark at 156.2. Since 2018, Buffalo is tied with division rival Miami for the most touchdown passes thrown by a non-quarterback (4, including postseason). 

“My feet weren’t set right, it was really ugly, but it got there. I’ll take it,” Beasley analyzed in LaBarbour’s report. “I was trying to get them to come up and think it was a bubble screen. I just had to have eyes on the safety, make sure he’s not coming over back there. The guys were guarding the guys going deep, so I had a chance to throw it.”

If anyone on the Bills was ready for aerial duplicity, it was likely going to be Beasley. The 31-year-old previously served as an option quarterback at Little Elm (TX) High School, earning 5,071 yards and 40 touchdowns through the air and on the ground combined over two varsity seasons. He did not attempt any passes during his college years at Southern Methodist but got two chances during his seven-year tenure with the Dallas Cowboys, both falling incomplete. 

In addition to his self-deprecation, Beasley was happy to chalk the highlight up to a team effort, complimenting both his blockers and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

“(The blockers) sell it more than I do,” Beasley said, per Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News. “They sell it with the blocks. They give like a three count and then they go. I was trying to get them to come up and thinking it was a bubble screen. I just had to have eyes on the safety, make sure he’s not coming over back there.”

“(Daboll) has done a good job of mixing it up,” he continued in another report from David De Cristofaro of Bills Wire. “He does a good job of keeping them off-balanced and that was one of those times right there.”

Before anyone tells Beasley to stick to his day job, they should be advised that he’s been posting strong numbers on the receiving ledgers as well. He’s currently on pace to set career-highs in nearly every major statistical category, standing at 667 yards on 57 receptions, three of which have gone for touchdowns. 

Allen has praised Beasley for stepping up in recent weeks, particularly with Brown forced out due to an ankle sprain. 

“Cole is very instinctive. He’s a very smart player,” Allen said prior to the Chargers’ visit, per AJ Feldman of RochesterFirst.com. “He knows what windows to kind of throttle down into and get out of and it’s just something we’ve talked about an extreme amount. We’ve watched a lot of film together.”

“I trust him implicitly whenever he breaks in or breaks out. I trust that he did his due diligence of peaking where the defense was. The majority of the time he’s 100 percent correct.”

Beasley and the Bills return to action on Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers in a game moved to State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

Buffalo Bills: The best moments in the throwback uniforms

The Buffalo Bills’ beloved throwback uniforms returned on Sunday against Los Angeles. ESM looks back on their finest hours.

With championship dreams approaching this winter, the Buffalo Bills and their fans are ready to party like it’s 1965…the last year the team won an official league championship.

It turns out, the Bills are happy to dress for the occasion as well.

For their Week 12 home tilt against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Bills opted to break out their classic throwback uniforms, an aesthetic more or less defined by the simplified buffalo logo on their helmets. This blast from the past is meant to replicate the team’s look worn from 1962 through 1973, when the “streaking” buffalo was introduced. The Bills’ modern full-time uniforms strongly resemble their throwbacks, but Buffalo completed the look on Sunday with the adjusted helmets.

The gambit paid off. Josh Allen scored through both the air and ground, while Cole Beasley trickery led to a touchdown toss to Gabriel Davis. Buffalo (8-3) took the game by a 27-17 final, allowing them to keep a one-game lead over Miami for the AFC East division lead.

In honor of the Bills’ trip down memory lane, ESM looks to do the same, looking back on when relics from the past previously led to good times in the present…

9/11/05: Carr Wreck

The Bills broke out the throwbacks for the first during the 2005 season opener against the Houston Texans. In a performance that would make Tom Sestak, Mike Stratton, Booker Edgerson, and Georga Saimes proud, the Buffalo defense dominated the day, allowing only 120 yards and earning five sacks and turnovers each. Troy Vincent intercepted Texas quarterback David Carr twice, while Aaron Schobel had two sacks. Chris Kelsay and Takeo Spikes each forced a fumble in the effort as well. On the scoreboard, Rian Lindell booted five field goals to slowly break the Texans’ will, while the lone Buffalo touchdown of the afternoon came on J.P. Losman’s one-yard pass to a then-second-year blocker Jason Peters. The Bills earned a 22-7 victory to kick off the second year of the Mike Mularkey era.

Buffalo wore the throwbacks on the road a week later in Tampa Bay, but the good vibes didn’t come with them in a 19-3 defeat en route to a 5-11 seaso and Mularkey’s eventual resignation.

12/9/07: Royal Entrance

In the midst of a playoff push, the Bills put away notions of a trap game against the 0-12 Miami Dolphins away in the early going. A pair of Robert Royal touchdown receptions from Trent Edwards kickstarted a 24-point first quarter for the Bills, who also enjoyed a separate pair of scoring grabs from Lee Evans. The rookie Edwards completed only 11 passes on the afternoon, but his four touchdown passes were a career-high. Elsewhere, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch each reached triple digits in rushing yards (uniting for 222 on the ground) while Donte Whitner and Terrence McGee each earned interceptions in the 38-17 win.

Alas for the Bills, that would be their final win of the 2007 season, losing their final three games to drop out of the postseason race.

9/21/08: Edge of 17

The Bills got off to a 4-0 start in 2008, an opening kept alive through a gutsy effort in the throwback against the artists formerly known as the Oakland Raiders. Buffalo’s defense was mostly taking care of business, limiting Oakland to 10 first downs, but turnovers and short drives forced the Bills to face a 23-14 deficit past the halfway mark of the final frame. Through big-gain collaborations with Evans and Josh Reed, Edwards narrowed the gap with a 14-yard scoring pass to Roscoe Parrish, capping off a drive that took just over two minutes. The defense then forced a three-and-out, leading to two more big gains from Parrish and Evans. Lynch would tick off the final yards, situating Lindell from 38 yards out to boot the game winning field goal in a 24-23 triumph.

11/29/09: Defeat Occurs in Real Time

Buffalo introduced the contemporary white version of their throwback during their 50th anniversary season in 2009, coinciding with the American Football League’s 50th anniversary. Matchups with former AFL brethren were marked with special throwback schemes, though the Bills lost these matchups to New England and Tennessee. They broke out the blue version for a visit from the Dolphins, reeling after the firing of head coach Dick Jauron. Happy times briefly returned to The Ralph, however, as the Bills once again used a 24-point quarter to their advantage. Miami led 14-7 entering the final 15 minutes, but Jackson opened the closer with a three-run scoring run to tie it. Most of the tally came over the final 3:35 of game time. Lindell’s 56-yard boot, a career-long, gave Buffalo the lead for good before Drayton Florence’s interception got them the ball back. Terrell Owens cashed in on the very next play with a 51-yard scoring grab from Ryan Fitzpatrick. Another turnover, this one being a Whitner interception, allowed Jackson to add some final insurance, a seven-yard run by Jackson that gave interim head coach Perry Fewell the first of three victories.

9/15/13: He’s the Manuel

Bills fans may well be somewhat spoiled with Josh Allen in town, as some may have already forgotten the failed franchise quarterbacks that preceded his arrivals. Florida State’s EJ Manuel was one of those final attempts. For a brief moment, clad in the white throwback, it truly felt like Manuel was going to be the man to lead the franchise into the future.

Engaged in a back-and-forth thriller with the Carolina Panthers, the Bills trailed 23-17 with 98 seconds remaining. Manuel’s arm accounted for every single yard of the ensuing 80-yard drive that led to victory, capping things off with a two-yard touchdown pass to Steve Johnson…ironcially caught with two seconds remaining in the fourth quarter…that sent Western New York into hysterics over a 24-23 victory. Alas for Manuel, longevity was not to be. He suffered an LCL injury less than three weeks later during a Thursday night game and was never the same upon his return.

9/14/14: Carpe 3’em

The Bills got off to a strong start in 2014, topping the Bears in overtime before opening their Orchard Park slate with a visit from the Dolphins. It turned out to literally be a special victory, as Dan Carpenter booted five field goals and C.J. Spiller brought a kick back 102 yards. On defense, Leodis McKelvin also had an interception, while Jerry Hughes, Kyle Williams, Stefan Charles, and Mario Williams each had a sack in the 29-10 final.

9/13/15: Lucky 27

2015 was the introduction of the Bills’ trippy “Color Rush” uniforms, but the throwbacks kept their early season slot. The aesthetic allowed Buffalo to start the Rex Ryan era off on the right note, scoring the first 24 points in what became a 27-14 win over the Indianapolis Colts. Tyrod Taylor likewise enjoyed a strong debut in Western New York, tallying 195 yards through the air and 41 on the ground. His first Buffalo touchdown was a 51-yard toss to Percy Harvin on the final play of the first quarter. Karlos Williams and Anthony Dixon scored on the ground, complementing a defensive performance that saw interceptions from Ronald Darby and Aaron Williams.

12/31/17: Miami Nice

The Bills’ first playoff appearance in nearly two decades is unusual in that everyone seems to remember the finishing touch: Andy Dalton’s comeback against Baltimore that fulfilled the postseason caveat. But Dalton’s shining moment wouldn’t have meant anything if the Bills didn’t take care of business during their Week 17 visit to Miami. Each team ended the year in a time machine, with the Dolphins likewise clad in their 1970s-inspired throwbacks.

Buffalo responded in perfect fashion, building a 19-0 lead through a strong game from every side of the ball. Taylor kicked off scoring with a 26-yard touchdown toss to Nick O’Leary before allowing Steven Hauschka to take over with three field goals in the onslaught. In the interim, six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kyle Williams lined up as a fullback and scored on a one-yard push to help put Miami away. Buffalo took the game 22-16 before returning to the locker room to watch Dalton work his magic.

11/25/18: Revenge is Best Served Old

Ten months after the Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars played to a 10-3 victory for the latter in the AFC wild card playoffs, each team’s return trip was more or less canceled, the two sides saddled with losing records in late November. But Buffalo did earn a quantum of revenge in the rematch, topping the Jaguars in a 24-21 tilt in their vintage threads. It was one of the earliest displays of power from Josh Allen, as the rookie quarterback scored through both the air (Robert Foster being the lucky recipient from 75 yards out) and ground for the first time in front of a Western New York crowd. Isaiah McKenzie had the lone non-Allen touchdown, while Poyer and Matt Milano had interceptions.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

BREAKING: Sam Darnold leaves New York Jets’ Thursday night game

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

Sam Darnold left Thursday’s New York Jets game after taking a tough hit in the late stages of the first quarter. He later returned.

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold left Thursday’s game against the Denver Broncos with an apparent shoulder injury.

After accumulating all but two yards on the Jets’ opening 75-yard trek to the end zone (including the final 46 on the ground in a jaw-dropping touchdown run), Darnold got the Jets to midfield on their second drive. However, on a second down, Darnold was the victim of a Shelby Harris sack that saw the defender slam the quarterback down on his throwing shoulder.

Darnold stayed in for the next play, a handoff to Frank Gore, but immediately walked to the sidelines. Since the medical tent was already occupied, Darnold was immediately escorted to the Jets’ locker room by team trainers and doctors as the first quarter ended. Joe Flacco, active for the first time on Thursday, came into the game to finish the drive, which ended in a Braden Mann punt.

After Denver took a 10-7 lead on a Jerry Jeudy touchdown catch, Flacco began the Jets’ next drive, but Darnold came in on the Jets’ final play. He was immediately sacked, but came out for the next set of downs after the defense forced a punt.

This story will be updated pending further developments.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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

NASCAR: Kevin Harvick denies Jimmie Johnson playoff berth in historic win

Kevin Harvick wasn’t letting NASCAR nostalgics get in the way of his seventh win of the season, which made history for his manufacturer.

Kevin Harvick wasn’t going to get the feel-good potential of a Jimmie Johnson victory lap get in the way of his own personal history in the second half of the NASCAR Cup Series’ doubleheader in Delaware.

Just over 24 hours after Denny Hamlin tied him in the first segment, Harvick won his series-best seventh race of the season at the Drydene 311 at Dover International Speedway. Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford passed Johnson with 17 laps remaining, denying Johnson a chance to clinch a berth in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. The final race of the regular season comes next weekend at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday.

With the win, Harvick clinches the Cup Series’ regular-season championship, which affords him 15 bonus points. Between his seven wins and stage victories each (including two more at Dover on Sunday), Harvick has a 57-point advantage over the first cutoff line, which eliminates the 13th through 16th-place drivers after the first three races.

“It’s something that we’ve never done before, so any time you can do something for the first time is definitely fun to accomplish, and I think in this instance, it definitely pays dividends in the playoff points,” Harvick said of the regular-season title. “That’s really what you want to accomplish in the regular season is to gain as many playoff points as you can. We’ve done that by winning races.”

Harvick also moves into a ninth-place tie with fellow former champion Kyle Busch on the Cup Series’ all-time wins list with 56. Next up on the list is the late, legendary Dale Earnhardt. Harvick, the 2014 Cup Series champion, began his Cup career by taking over for Earnhardt after the latter’s death in a crash on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. It’s also the 700th victory for manufacturer Ford, second-most in series history behind Chevrolet.

“It’s an honor just to be up there on that list,” Harvick said. “I feel like it’s definitely a huge responsibility to be up there and be around those guys. Hopefully, we can keep this thing rolling and make up some ground on the next gap. But it’s been a lot of fun at Stewart-Haas Racing, and you’re only as good as the race cars that you have, and it’s been an honor to drive the race cars and be able to take those race cars and have success with them and capitalize on winning like we did today.”

Harvick began his conquest by stealing the first 75-lap stage from Ryan Blaney on the final stanza. From that point forward, Harvick went on to dominate the event, leading all but 19 of the remaining 236 circuits.

The biggest threat to his authority came with just over 20 laps to go, when his massive lead was erased by a caution flag brought out by the slow car of Corey LaJoie. All 16 lead lap cars came to pit road for service, including Harvick and Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson, the seven-time champion retiring from full-time racing at the end of the season, was running a strong race in fighting for playoff position. The No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team had a three-point advantage on teammate William Byron entering the second half at Dover, but a speeding penalty on pit road after the first stage allowed the No. 24 to retake the spot. Johnson worked his way back toward the front after Byron earned points by finishing ahead of Johnson in each of the first two stages.

But on these final stops, Johnson and crew chief Cliff Daniels opted to take only two tires, leading to a quicker stop. The move allowed the No. 48 to take the lead for the final 17-lap dash. A win for Johnson would’ve clinched his spot in the playoffs.

He’s one of the few drivers ahead of Harvick with 83, but the No. 4’s pass extended the longest drought of his career to 118. Dover had played host to 11 of those prior victories.

I knew he was at a huge deficit,” Harvick said of Johnson’s two-tire endeavor. “I think as you saw the restart there, he had a little bit of trouble getting grip, and my main goal was to just try to be beside him as we got off of turn two and he pushed up the racetrack.”

“I felt like we were still in a really good position, and obviously Jimmie has had a lot of success here, I feel like, over the last several years. If it weren’t for knocking the dang valve stems out of it, there would have been three or four more opportunities to have won races. It’s been a really good racetrack for us and felt good about the position that we were in at the end.”

Johnson and Daniels’ gutsy decision was not all for naught. Martin Truex Jr. passed him for the runner-up spot but Johnson held off Byron and another teammate, Alex Bowman, to finish third, his best finish since May’s race at Bristol. Byron holds a four-point advantage headed into the Daytona finale, the Coke Zero Sugar 400 on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, NBC).

Race Notes

  • Truex finished in the runner-up spot in each of the weekend’s  Cup Series events at Dover. The No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has finished no worse than third in eight of the past nine races (albeit with no wins).

 

  • The race endured a red flag period that lasted just over 12 minutes to repair a portion of the concrete surface.

 

  • Aric Almirola (7th), Kyle Busch (11th), and Kurt Busch (13th) each clinched playoff spots via points. Clint Bowyer (14th in points) is 57 points over the cutoff.

 

  • Matt DiBenedetto started on the pole after a 20th-place finish on Saturday with the field’s first 20 starting positions determined through an inversion of the prior running order. His No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford led the first 11 laps but a 17th-place finish leaves him only nine points ahead of Johnson in the cutoff.

 

  • Bowman’s top-five finish was his first since the series made its return from the coronavirus-induced pause at Darlington Raceway in May.

 

  • Saturday’s winner Denny Hamlin was relegated to a 19th-place finish after being forced to pit from second for a loose wheel at lap 227 of 311.

 

  • The days of Chase Elliott and Joey Gase ended in the opening laps when they got caught up in Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s spin on the sixth lap. Stenhouse was eventually able to run enough laps to finish 37th.

 

  • Austin Dillon capped off a successful return to the track in the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet with a top-ten finish (9th). Dillon missed last weekend’s event at Daytona’s road course after a self-reported positive test for COVID-19 and was replaced by Kaz Grala. The No. 3 led 46 laps on Saturday and finished 15th.

For full results, click here

For full standings, click here

Geoff Maglioccheti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags