Jordan Willis, 49ers, Blocked Punt, NY Jets Trade
Jordan Willis, San Francisco 49ers, Getty Images

Former New York Jet defender takes center stage for San Francisco 49ers

Trapped in the NFL’s longest active playoff drought, the New York Jets still managed to make a slight impact on the wild Divisional round weekend proceedings.

Former Jets defensive end Jordan Willis played a major role in the San Francisco 49ers’ shocking 13-10 victory over the top-seeded Green Bay Packers on Saturday night. Willis permanently placed momentum on San Francisco’s side by blocking Corey Bojorquez’s punt with just under five minutes remaining in regulation. Safety Talanoa Hufanga recovered the blocked boot six yards away from the end zone and took it the rest of the way to tie the game at 10.

Further special teams antics, namely three points from Robbie Gould, gave the 49ers the improbable win, advancing them to their fifth NFC Championship Game over the last 11 seasons. Jimmie Ward also blocked a Mason Crosby field goal shortly before the halftime break to keep Green Bay’s durable lead at 7-0.

For his efforts in securing San Francisco’s only touchdown of the day, Willis was awarded the game ball by 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. The team will face NFC West rivals, the Los Angeles Rams, on the road to compete for a berth in Super Bowl LVI next Sunday (6:30 p.m. ET, Fox).

Willis, who left the 49ers’ Wild Card victory in Dallas early with an ankle injury, originally entered the league as a third-round pick of another modern finalist, the Cincinnati Bengals, in 2017. He was released shortly before the opening of the 2019 season but was picked up by the Jets almost immediately after.

The Kansas State alum appeared in 11 games in green, amassing seven tackles and one sack while serving mostly as a depth defender and a special teams contributor.

Despite his relatively unsung tenure with the Jets, Willis was dealt to the 49ers as part of the team’s de facto fire sale in the midst of the brutal 2020 season, a process that also bid farewell to Le’Veon Bell, Steve McLendon, and Avery Williamson. McLendon went on to partake in Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl effort last season. San Francisco sent over a sixth-round pick for Willis, which the Jets later traded to Houston to obtain a single-season of defender Shaq Lawson.

In addition to the blocked punt, Willis was also credited for a subtle yet crucial move on the stifled field goal: he provided the necessary pressure on Green Bay blocker Dean Lowry, swatting down the lineman’s post arm that afforded Ward the opportunity to break through and block the kick.

Ward credited Willis for his assistance in that crucial juncture in a report from Kirk Larrabee of 49ers Webzone, which also featured sterling praise from Pro Bowl defender Nick Bosa.

“That might be illegal now, but he did his job,” Ward said. “He got great penetration.”

“I love Jordan. He’s an interesting dude,” Bosa added. “Not many people really understand who he is. It takes a little extra to get to know him. He’s quiet. But I love him. And he’s a really good player, and he’s showing it out there.”

Willis isn’t the only form of ex-Jets representation on the NFC finalists’ roster. Former rushing draft pick Trenton Cannon lingers on the team’s injured reserve while defensive back Doug Middleton resides on the practice squad.

On the other side, former starting safety Sharrod Neasman (who earned the first interception for the Jets’ secondary in a November loss to Buffalo) was recently added to the Rams’ practice squad while former Jets summer arm John Wolford serves as Matthew Stafford’s primary backup.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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Geoff Magliocchetti is a veteran football writer with years of credentialed experience with the Jets and Giants. Email:
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