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

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 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

New York Jets: Le’Veon Bell could miss some time

New York Jets, LeVeon Bell

An upsetting loss for the New York Jets might become even costlier, as Le’Veon Bell could miss time with hamstring woes.

Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season ends on Monday, but the New York Jets are already taking on multiple losses.

Head coach Adam Gase revealed on Monday afternoon that both running back Le’Veon Bell (hamstring) and linebacker Blake Cashman (groin) may miss significant time with injures. According to team reporter Eric Allen, Gase didn’t “want to put a timetable on them”, but projected that they could be out for at least “a couple weeks”.

The Jets (0-1) will face the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers next Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox) before hitting the road again to take on the Indianapolis Colts.

It marks the latest setback for Bell, whose Jets career continues to be a struggle since he inked a four-year, $52.5 million contract in 2019. He struggled in his first full season with the team, earning 16-game lows of 789 yards and three touchdowns. Sunday was more of a strive, as he only earned 14 yards on six carries before the injury kept him out of a majority of the second half. The Jets fell by a 27-17 final to the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park in their 2020 debut.

After the game, Gase expressed regret over keeping Bell in the game as long as he did.

“I’m mad at myself that I let him back in there in the second half,” Gase said. “He got grabbed and the way he planted and torqued, it looked really bad. I saw him grab his hamstring and he wouldn’t come out. When we came in at halftime, I let him go back in there. I was worried about it. Eventually, I was like, ‘I can’t put you in there. We can’t take a chance of getting more hurt than you already are.”

If Bell is out, the Jets will likely continue to use reserves Frank Gore and Josh Adams. Gore led the Jets with 24 rushing yards on six carries, while Adams scored the final touchdown of Sunday’s game, his first since 2018 as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Jets also have fourth-round pick and Florida rookie La’Mical Perine on their roster, but he missed Week 1’s game with an ankle injury.

Further injury woes have also come to the sophomore Cashman, who did an admirable job filling in for the injured C.J. Mosley last season before succumbing to an injury of his own. Cashman had one tackle against Buffalo prior to his departure.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags