Another timid offensive game plan fails the New York Jets. This time, it happened against the Chargers in the city of Los Angeles.
It’s almost as if an unidentified otherworldly being came down from the sky and zapped the New York Jets offensive coaching staff following their tough Monday Night Football loss to the New England Patriots. “Zapped,” as in completely wiping their memories clean after Joe Flacco‘s three-touchdown performance.
For the first time all season, Adam Gase’s offense put on its big-boy pants. Deep shots were taken early and furiously against a Bill Belichick defense mimicking the familiar pattern that features aggression—press on the outside with little-to-no over-the-top help.
Why not? It’s the look this Jets offense has been forced to contend with all season.
The winless Jets had finally figured it out. That was until their memories had been zapped.
New York came out against the Los Angeles Chargers—fresh off a groundbreaking performance against the Pats—with as timid a game plan as possible.
“We felt like in order to kind of take care of their rush, we felt like we really had to run the ball early,” Flacco told the media after his team’s 34-28 loss to the Chargers on Sunday. “They’re a defense that kind of spot drops and we felt like we could take some underneath guaranteed completions early on in the game, and that didn’t happen.”
The pass rush is the key here. Think back to the San Francisco 49ers game. Facing a good pass rush, Gase’s offense came out as conservative as can be. Sam Darnold played decent ball, but he was never afforded the opportunity to do real damage.
Gase becomes so involved in the opposition’s strength that it turns into a detriment for his unit. Awareness is fine and expected, but focusing on it to such a degree that it eventually becomes detrimental is the unit’s obvious contending ill.
To label the Jets’ offensive game plan “timid” against the Bolts would be to describe it favorably.
After the first drive that featured four excellent runs and ultimately ended in a La’Mical Perine score, the Jets furiously looked to the underneath game. Flacco was victimized with a pick-6 on the team’s second possession—a flat-slant combo to the field side that wasn’t read or executed properly.
The Jets then ran it for a yard with Frank Gore, lost a yard with the same wily vet and took a false start penalty courtesy of Mekhi Becton, only to go with a halfback screen to Ty Johnson on third-and-15.
The next drive showcased a Chris Herndon drop at 5-7 yards, a Perine mid-to-outside zone and a mesh concept on third-and-2 that nearly resulted in disaster (a near-Flacco fumble that was ruled an incompletion).
Where’s that high-flying action that now defines the NFL in the year 2020? Where’s that daredevil look that worked so well against Belichick?
It’d be one thing if Los Angeles played the Jets’ offense differently. Looking to take chunks against a soft 2-deep look equals idiocy, but these Bolts continued to roll with looks that dare over-the-top shots.
Then, these otherworldly beings swooped down from the sky at halftime. Suddenly, the Jets’ offense had regained its memory from a couple of weeks ago. The bomb show was about to commence.
“So, I think in the second half we just made the decision to kind of attack them and start to make it happen for ourselves,” Flacco added.
The first drive after halftime saw a different Jets offense take the field. Sure, they took advantage of some underneath stuff early in the drive, but the designs were drastically different.
Vertical routes were much more prevalent, something that allowed the underneath game to become an option. Flacco hit Crowder for 16 yards on a big third-and-13 a play prior to finding Perriman for a 49-yard touchdown.
As usual, the defense’s single-high safety paid no attention to the outside threat working against one-on-one coverage which is always an offensive delight in a league showcasing incredible defensive discrimination.
.@B_Perriman11 keeps ballin'.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) November 22, 2020
One-on-one matchups in the NFL are ripe for the picking—these days at least. It wasn’t like this two decades ago or even 10 years ago, for that matter.
Since the start of the league’s active offensive explosion that kicked off around 2008, each year has brought with it new schemes and ideas that take advantage of one-on-one looks. Never has it been more fruitful to take those shots. Usually, good things happen. If not a completion, a flag is thrown.
It’s taken Gase and his coaching staff too much time to figure this out. Granted, the squad was without its top three weapons for the majority of the season. Not having a Perriman or Mims work the sideline does alter strategies to an incredible degree. But to not use those guys within the framework of an aggressive offensive game plan against an aggressive defense is a modern-day football sin.
Deep shots ensued for the entirety of the second half. Young Mims got into the action in spades.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) November 22, 2020
After seeing just one target in the first half (no receptions), Mims finished with 71 yards on three grabs in the second. Every time Flacco looked his way, he was working against single-coverage with a shot to do damage.
The new-found fearless attitude led to 22 second-half points and a final possession featuring a shot to tie things up. And the final play—another one-on-one shot to Mims down the sideline and near the end zone—could have easily been coupled with a defensive pass interference call.
Realistically, as silly as it sounds, this new NFL mirrors that of a video game. Defenses oftentimes have no other choice but to dare offenses to beat them over-the-top—something the Jets know full-well.
Obviously, an offense can’t “throw the bomb” on every play. Establishing some semblance of a rushing attack is a positive, as is spreading the passing wealth across the field. But nothing works unless the offense first destroys the integrity of the defensive game plan first. It’s what happened against the Pats and what didn’t happen until the start of the third quarter against the Bolts.
Instead of a stringent pre-game plan, modern-day offenses must flow to what the defense is allowing early in the game.
“Yeah, we were trying to do that in the first half,” Gase said about taking deep shots. “I think we called a couple of plays, but the ball didn’t go down the field. They played a little softer on a couple of things. We talked about it. We said, ‘How can we get these guys the ball and let them go make some plays?’”
It’s been obvious Adam Gase hasn’t quite caught up to the new ways of this risk-taking yet rewarding league. The fact they entered this game so cautiously is something that can only be explained as otherworldly.
Nothing from the jump suggested the Chargers defense was ready to allow an underneath game. If anything, the Bolts continued the same theme the Jets offense has faced all season: one-on-one on the outside with very little over-the-top help, which is a perfect recipe for Mims and Perriman.
Imagine if the Jets had taken their Patriots attitude into the Chargers game (instead of turning it on at halftime). Their record would most likely be 1-9.